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‘Housing corporations suffering from underfunding, neglect’

By Victor Gbonegun
22 January 2018   |   4:21 am
The famous Abraham Manslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places shelter as a basic need of every human. In other words without shelter man is less bothered about social activities...

The famous Abraham Manslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places shelter as a basic need of every human. In other words without shelter man is less bothered about social activities, self-esteem or other offerings of the society. Sadly, what should have been a basic provision has become a luxury in Nigeria. To resolve the deficit in Nigeria’s housing sector, efforts to increase stocks are being curtailed by under-funding from state governments. In this interview with Victor Gbonegun, the National President of Association of Housing Corporations of Nigeria (AHCN), Mohammad Baba Adamu, spoke on issues mitigating efforts to reduce the housing deficits among others

AHCN has a mandate to increase availability of residential estates in Nigeria. How much of this mandate have you achieved, do the shortage of trained artisans in housing industry affected your mandate?
Our vision at AHCN is to ensure the increase and availability of dwelling houses across the country; we have been doing this over the years. Until recently, there is no doubt that the impacts of the Association were felt in all the states of the federation with its members setting the pace for real estate development especially in the state capitals. Most developments in most of these state capitals today were orchestrated by the state housing corporations after the creation of those states. The Nigeria real estate market has been challenged by myriad of problems in the last twenty years, which has slowed down the growth of the sector in contrast with what is obtainable in developed economies. Shortages of trained and experienced artisans/masons were not the main challenges of the housing sector and these have not affected our mandate. Housing Corporations all across Nigeria, as specialized organizations responsible for mass housing provision, are equipped with qualified human resources and experienced housing professionals with potential to engage in mass housing and most of our members have provision for training of artisans/mansions to execute our projects. The Association noted and recognized the challenges and dearth of artisans/masons in the housing sector and we have taken a proactive measure to arrest these issues as we are starting a practical training programme in March to train professionals that supervises artisans/masons on site to ensure quality delivery of houses. This, we believe, will help to arrest building collapse and guarantee quality housing production in the country. Looking at the current housing shortages in the country, we may not have done enough to address the shortages but we are not resting on our oars.

There has been political interference with activities of the agencies, which grossly in most cases affects on-going projects. How can this be curtailed in states?
Political interference with activities of most of our member organizations is a regular phenomenon that differs from one state to another. As an Association, we don’t have a firm control of what transpire in each of the states and this is because states government created state housing corporations and he who pays the piper dictates the tune. However, whenever there is interferences and politicking, projects suffer and this has been affecting many state housing agencies. As an Association, we have been trying our best to manage some of these situations and one of the ways we do this is by persuasion. When necessary, we visit governors to highlight the significance and benefits of using their housing corporations to execute their housing projects. Some of these governors do not really understand the importance of state housing corporations and what we do is to educate and so far it has been working.

AHCN has continued to decry usurpation of the statutory responsibility of housing corporations in building construction and development for the state by the ministry who are supposed to formulate policy and monitor its parastatals to ensure policy compliance and accomplish. What plans do AHCN have to arrest the situation? This still boils down to political interference. We have National Housing Policy that clearly highlights the statutory responsibility of housing corporations and ministry but unfortunately some state Chief Executives disregarded these provision. We have been working underground to see how we can influence and arrest this situation in some of the states where this situation is currently happening. However, we are planning to take this further to the Governors forum and the national assembly and it is hoped that our leaders will see reasons and dangers of such practice to the development of the housing sector

There have been concerns lately on the need to review laws establishing housing corporations and the need for their commercialization. Why these calls and what are the benefits?
Most housing corporations today are neglected and under-funded by state governments and because of the laws that established them, they are unable to source commercial funding without approval from their state governments. We are looking at a situation where housing corporations will be self-sustaining without absolute dependency on their state government before embarking on housing development, this, we believe will assist most redundant housing corporations to be active. The benefits are numerous, as it will help to provide adequate housing for the people and generate employment opportunities for many job seekers.

Housing Corporations across the country are not without any peculiar challenges. Do you think that States governments should establish appropriate agencies and utilize State Housing Corporations to execute the public housing programmes?
There is no doubt that state housing corporations are the best agencies in Nigeria today that can effectively execute the public housing programmes. This is the primary reason for the establishment of these corporations. Aside, housing corporations are structured in such a way that they are equipped with all professionals in the housing sector. Establishing parallel organizations to embark on housing provision and performing primary roles of housing corporations in a state where it exists is an unnecessary wastage and reckless duplication of government apparatus.

Withdrawal of some state governments from the National Housing Fund (NHF) contribution have put the Housing Corporation of such States at disadvantage in accessing funding from the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria.  How do you ensure Mortgage banks assist state housing corporations in disposing some of their housing units?
Mortgage has a prominent role in expanding housing market in Nigeria and the impact is yet to be felt by most Nigerians. Our mortgage system is evolving and very few people have benefitted in the mortgage funding of their housing. Ideally, mortgage banks are supposed to be working with housing corporations in creating mortgages for houses developed by housing corporations but this is not the case. The problem here is lack of database as reference for creation of mortgages for housing units. The Association is however embarking on educating Nigerians to embrace mortgages and one of the ways we hope to achieve this is through creation of off-takers data base for all Nigerians through which mortgages could be created for intending people to secure their desire houses. We are embarking on collation of off-takers database in all the states of the federation and use the data to pre-qualify intending home seekers for mortgages in houses to be developed by our member organizations in their states. With this development, we shall be working with various mortgage banks to qualify the people for mortgages.

Housing experts have overtime called for seed money for mortgage banks to ease housing delivery. What is the position of AHCN on this?
There is no doubt that housing finance has remained the greatest challenge in housing provision over the years. This, of course is affecting the sector both in the supply and demand chain. Developers could not access fund to mass produce housing; and the few available developer that dare all consequences to build are finding it difficult to sell because those who will buy are not empowered to pay out rightly with lump sum outside mortgage. The solution to this scenario lies in adequate injection of money into both supply and demand chain of the housing market. Funding mortgage banks with seed money will not be a bad idea if only such injected funds are not diverted.

Tell us about your membership drive and what benefits do members derive by joining the association?
Currently the Association has about fifty member organizations and it comprised; the federal and state housing agencies, mortgage institutions and private property developers. There are so many inherent opportunities in joining the Association as we serve as the ears and eyes of our members. We unite as a family to surmount challenges and assist one another to ensure increased availability of dwelling houses for the people. This unity is what has kept us floating over the years despite economic woes and uncertainty that characterized housing sector in time past.