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Cautious optimism for housing as parties unfold manifestos

By Victor Gbonegun
14 November 2022   |   5:32 am
With political parties gradually unfolding their manifestos, industry experts have raised the need to scrutinise pledges on housing.

Lagos State government’s newly completed twin three-storey development in Surulere, Lagos

Experts push for realistic agenda, policy shift

With political parties gradually unfolding their manifestos, industry experts have raised the need to scrutinise pledges on housing.  

They are also concerned that parties often don’t follow their proposals or even honour them when in power, adding that policies relating to the economy, taxation and investment impact the industry.
   
The Guardian investigations revealed that Nigeria’s housing crisis has worsened due to unfavourable government policies and an unstable investment environment, difficulties in acquiring land for affordable housing and bureaucracy associated with obtaining building approvals and land titles.
    
The experts said these factors have contributed to the escalating cost of building materials. They equally noted that over-dependence on imported building materials, unstable and exchange rate policies and corruption in the implementation of affordable housing schemes have had their effect on the sector.

    
At the inception of the current administration in 2015, the Federal Government promised to develop two million new homes in the first year and one million yearly, thereafter, with a pledge to establish a vibrant mortgage system with a single interest rate to drive home ownership and others.
 
Regrettably, the majority of these promises have not been fulfilled a few months before the end of the administration. The Federal government had only completed the construction of 2,249 housing units in 34 states and FCT in the last five years out of the 4,694 housing units constructed during the period.
  
The Federal Ministry of Works and Housing completed and commissioned only 1,487 housing units this year with 519 units through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model and 968 units under the National Housing Programme (NHP).
    
The impact of the Family Homes Funds Limited is yet to be felt, despite investing over N19.9 billion across six states, for the development of 2,754 homes for low-income families, through its partnership with the respective state governments, private developers and a Women Housing Society in Kaduna.
 
  
Besides, the cost of the housing units is far beyond the affordability gap of most Nigerians as a one-bedroom flat is as high as N7.1 million. This is against the promise of making housing more accessible to Nigerians. Many private housing developers are not encouraged to engage in low-income housing through attractive tax rebates and incentives.     
   
Specifically, as the 2023 elections approach, major political parties have highlighted housing programmes and agendas they intend to execute for Nigerians, but stakeholders are worried about how these agendas could be pursued due to the inability of previous and outgoing governments to fulfil promises made to citizens.
    
For instance, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), in its manifesto, said it would ensure easy access to land by all Nigerians and provide easily transferable property rights by revamping land registries and creating a uniform platform for a nationally interoperable system.
   
The party also plans to embark on land reforms to reduce transaction time for property transfers, improve access to credit and increase transparency in land transactions and promote the use of local materials for affordable housing.
   
The party said it would equally provide affordable housing as well as build more inclusive communities, comprising a mix of different income brackets guided by equity and inclusiveness.
   
It said: “The party will provide digital information on street names and house numbers for a national database, embrace village and urban renewal programmes, encourage private-public partnership in housing development, intensify efforts to popularise the use of local raw materials and review the Land Use Act (LUA), to make the acquisition of land cheaper for developers so that the cost of houses could be affordable.”
 
The party also pledged to encourage private operators, and local and state governments to produce houses, as well as give grants for those developing site and services schemes; encourage research into the development of local inputs for the production of cheaper houses and strengthen mortgage institutions.
   
The African Action Congress Party (AAC) promised to bridge the housing deficit by building affordable units at an average cost of N2 million each across the country. It also pledged to ensure a mortgage tenure of 20 years at no more than a 10 per cent rate to subscribers, including average yearly payments for the N2 million units at about N211, 000 to N235, 000 per year, depending on whether a 10 per cent deposit is provided or not.
     
The AAC also said the $3.64 billion value land of for construction would be provided as seed investment by the government and also used to capitalise an investment fund that all Nigerians could invest in, among others.
  
In their 80-page manifesto, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is proposing to work in conjunction with the National Assembly and state governments to review and revise the LUA, and streamline and rationalise the land conveyance processes.
  
The party equally promised to lower costs, remove delays associated with housing development and promote more efficient use of land. It also promised efficient allocation, which would bolster the housing industry and lower costs for investors and subscribers.
     
It pledged to address the housing deficit, ensure greater cohesion and efficiency by merging agencies into a new, more competent body, grant low-interest rate mortgages directly, guarantee qualified mortgages issued by banks and purchase mortgages from private banks.
 
   
“Working with the state government, we will provide credit and incentives to developers of housing projects that set aside a significant portion of their project for affordable housing. With the support of state and local governments, we aim to establish and implement a new social housing policy whose objective is to provide pathways for the poorest Nigeria to climb onto the housing ladder.
   
“We will establish a coherent Federal programme to provide eligible and meritorious civil servants with federal payments guarantees for a fixed rate, long-term mortgage for their homes,” the party said.
   
Experts believe that the interventions were far below expectations and not different from political manifestos released years earlier.
 
The Executive Secretary, of the Association of Housing Corporations of Nigeria (AHCN), Adetoye Eniola, said parties should tell Nigerians how they intend to carry out their proposed reforms and processes of execution of their housing programmes.
 
    
He emphasised that anything outside this is another journey of political deceit. “Talk is cheap and anybody can come up to say l will do this, l will do that, but how? This is where the work is. Before we can hold any party responsible for failure to deliver on their mandate, we all need a new orientation to speak out with mass action against any mediocrity in governance.
  
“We have been deceived enough and it is time to begin to question people in authority when they fail to do the right things at the right time. It is not about whether we will do this or that for housing, it is about how you intend to make a functional difference from what we had experienced in the past,” he said.
  
According to him, there is a need for strong advocacy for change and strict departure from the usual way of following government policies passively whether they are performing or not.
  
Eniola said: “We should not only hold the party responsible but also individuals in government from day one of the electioneering campaign to the day governance commences.”
 
 
For him, the Buhari administration failed woefully with their obligation in the housing sector, having promised to build at least one million houses every year at the inception of the administration but could not deliver even up to 50,000 units seven years down the line.
 
He observed that most of the agenda listed in the political parties’ manifestos are the challenges that had confronted the sector for years, which seems to defy all solutions.
   
“Not that we don’t have eggheads that can face and solve these problems but the political class are not just committed to housing and care less about the welfare of the poor and providing housing for the vulnerable in society,” he said.
   
The President of, Real Estate Developers Association (REDAN), Dr. Aliyu Oroji Wamakko, recalled that the current APC-led government promised to deliver one million housing units every year but they are still battling with 3, 700, which they could not finish.
  
Wamakko said issues in the sector demand people who could provide enabling environment and policy shift for private developers to ameliorate the housing deficit in the country.
     
The REDAN president said the governments at all levels should provide funds to the private developers to implement the provision of a housing budget at a single-digit interest, while the developers build affordable housing, create employment, and pay interest and taxes to the government in return.
  
He said: “The manifestos of some of the parties don’t meet our expectations because it is not the responsibility of the government to build houses but provide an enabling environment for the private sector. Nigeria is not a socialist country but a capitalist government.
   
“We cannot go to the commercial banks and take housing loans at 28 or 30 per cent and expect to deliver affordable housing. Apart from the insurgency and banditry, flooding devastated many cities and Nigeria is already occupying 40 per cent of all Africa’s continent’s housing deficit.
      
“The APC government has good intentions but those in the driving seat for housing haven’t done much to ameliorate the housing deficit. The prices of houses they built are high and not for low-income earners. You go to Niger state and build a one-bedroom flat, which will be sold for N7.2 million. Who can afford that? Who can afford a two-bedroom for N17.5 million? These are not realistic. The private sector must be included in the scheme,” he added.
   
The immediate past president, of the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Mr. Kunle Awobodu, said political parties’ intentions should be realistic, especially in tackling the housing crisis in the country.
  
The current political actors, he said, need to study the factors that prevented the present administration from achieving 20 per cent of what they had promised for the housing sector.
 
Awobodu said a major concern in the housing sector was that when government builds houses, allocations are given to those that don’t need them. 

He emphasised that mortgages must be prioritised in political parties programmes, adding that the government should provide houses with affordable mortgages to ensure that those who need the houses get them. 
 
He explained that the location of houses should not be based on sentiments, but sited in urban centres. For him, if a housing scheme or an estate is sited in a place that is remote and difficult for the working class to access, they will find it difficult to subscribe to it due to transportation problems. 
 
He said: “There is a need to examine what made the present government derail in their goals. Funding is critical; they need to look at the budget regarding how much has been allocated for the housing sector.
 
“How much fund was mobilised? This will help to ascertain if the government should be involved in the direct provision of houses or if it should be left to the private sector, while the government sources funds to support them.
   
“We must also realise that those in the private sector are driven by profit interest. So, we cannot discourage the government from direct involvement in the provision of houses.”