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Exploring innovative strategies in tackling housing challenges

By Femi Adekoya
22 October 2015   |   4:03 am
There is no doubt that inadequate housing has been an ongoing global challenge for many years. With no end in sight to the rate at which the world’s population is growing, deploying innovative intervention programmes remain important.
Mrs Adepeju Adebajo

Mrs Adepeju Adebajo

There is no doubt that inadequate housing has been an ongoing global challenge for many years. With no end in sight to the rate at which the world’s population is growing, deploying innovative intervention programmes remain important.

For Nigeria, bridging the 17 million housing deficit gaps require more than policy pronouncement. However, Lafarge Africa Plc’s efforts in providing mass and affordable housing solutions seem commendable.

The United Nations Habitat, while championing the cause for inclusive, sustainable and adequate housing for all, stated that by 2030, about three billion people, or about 40 per cent of the world’s population, will need proper housing and access to basic infrastructure and services such as water and sanitation systems. This translates into the need to complete 96,150 housing units per day with serviced and documented land from now till 2030.

In many developing economies, land supply is often limited by inadequate governance systems and human resource deficiencies, as well as by institutions and regulations which are either obsolete or lacking in capacity, or are poorly informed.

Though rapid urbanization places remarkable strain on housing and serviced land, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), in its observation, noted that over 50 percent of the world’s population now lives in cities, even though such cities continue to grapple with measures to meet the growing demand as well as ensuring that the living conditions of such population is decent.

With increasing urbanization and the world population on constant rise, IFC added that housing markets in developing countries are facing substantial challenges, struggling to keep up with the growing demand. Irrespective of the clime, there is a united movement on the need for every human being, regardless of their socio-economic status, to have access to a decent and healthy living condition.

While there is no single panacea that will eradicate poverty worldwide, there are innovative ways, however, to improve the living conditions of low-income people by making their built environment affordable and sustainable.

To address these gaps, Lafarge Africa while underscoring its actions through its mission statement, ‘Building Better Cities throughout the World by Providing Innovative Solutions’ may have begun to make this mission a reality by reducing housing deficit estimated to be 17 million through sustainable development plans and investment in low-cost and mass housing units across the country.

Specifically, Lafarge Africa Plc recently unveiled a partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Agence Francaise de development (AFD) on measures to aid provision of affordable houses for Nigerians.

Hitherto, Lafarge Africa had unveiled its mass housing development plans in Nigeria, starting with N1.3 billion low-cost housing scheme for 3,500 low-income earners across the country; partnership with Federal Government for construction of mass, affordable housing in Abuja and the construction of all-expenses housing units for 1,000 villagers in Ogun state.

In 2013, Lafarge Africa Plc entered into a tripartite agreement with the French Development Agency (AFD) and LAPO Microfinance Bank to finance the construction of low-cost housing tagged, Ile Irorun for 3,500 low-income earners to the tune of N1.3 billion, targeting at first, 400 low-income earners in Sagamu and Abeokuta, Ogun state under the pilot scheme.

At a housing micro finance academy held in Lagos recently, Chief Executive Officer, Aggregate and Concrete, Lafarge Africa Plc, Loren Zanin said: “The challenge of providing access to housing for low-income earners has special importance to Lafarge. We see this not only as a challenge of our times, but also as an opportunity which is fully aligned and central to our strategic objectives.

“Providing access to financing to low income families is obviously not enough. We discovered that a major problem for the low income home owners was the lack of knowledge on how to design and build a house properly. This is why we provide housing microloans borrowers with free technical assistance to help them throughout the construction project, from the preparation of the drawings, to the optimization of the bill of quantities, to the supervision of their job site.

“In line with this, we have built a 14-member team of construction technical assistants intervening everywhere the programme exists. The end result is a significant improvement in the quality and safety of the construction”.

Similarly, Managing Director, Lafarge Africa (WAPCO Operations), Mrs Adepeju Adebajo, reiterated the company’s resolve to constantly engage stakeholders on the need to adopt sustainable solutions unveiled by Lafarge.

According to her, Lafarge Africa Plc will continuously strive to create more value for customers and end-users by providing them with the highest quality products and solutions

General Manager, Independent Power Projects, Lafarge Africa Plc, Lanre Opakunle, explained that the company continues to create new markets with its sustainable and affordable housing projects, adding that financing options for the affordable housing projects have been made easier with partnerships with a microfinance institution.

“Lafarge’s Easy Home scheme is being implemented in partnership with LAPO Microfinance Bank to provide housing microloans borrowers with free technical assistance to help them throughout the construction project.

“Over the last five decades, Lafarge’s footprints are visible in the area of development of sustainable legacy through iconic buildings and infrastructure. We hope to sustain this legacy through the provision of decent, affordable and sustainable housing no matter the income level of Nigerians under our affordable housing scheme”, Opakunle added.

On her part, the Country Manager of IFC, Eme Essien Lore, said: “Available statistics shows Nigeria has a housing deficit of about 17 million units and to meet up, the housing sector has to produce over 700,000 units of housing every year. Unfortunately, in Nigeria today, the formal sector is only churning out about 1,000 units a year.

“So, we need 700,000 units but the formal sector is only building 1,000 units per year. The most prolific developers in Nigeria can only churn out about 400 units a year; contrast that with developers in Latin America and East Asia who are able to build 5,000 – 10,000 units a year. So we have a real problem in Nigeria when it comes to trying to address housing challenge.

“The partnership we have with LafargeHolcim has the objective to provide housing finance product offerings with the provision of technical assistance for construction and construction materials. I really like the term, housing microfinance, and I hope it becomes a household term in the banking community in Nigeria.

“This partnership will enable market players to provide consumers with the financial tools that they need given their particular circumstance.

“Most importantly, this enables us to target the informal market. Most of the statistics we’ve been talking about are focused on the formal market. This initiative will help us address the opportunity in the informal housing market. This cooperation is an important element of IFC’s strategy for finance and I’m personally excited about it because it will have a direct impact on people’s lives”.

The United Nations Habitat observes that slums are a clear manifestation of a poorly planned and managed urban sector and, in particular, a malfunctioning housing sector. This, Lafarge Africa hopes to address under its affordable housing project.