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Why housing accessibility is very low in Nigeria, by Awonusi

By Kehinde Olatunji
24 January 2022   |   4:04 am
Without mincing words, I’ll say it’s very low for a nation with a population of over 213 million people. An Oct 2021 United Nation’s statistics indicated that the housing deficits in Nigeria is estimated at 22 million homes.

Awonusi

Abiola Awonusi is the Managing Consultant, Prodigio Avant Limited. He spoke to KEHINDE OLATUNJI on housing accessibility and what can be done to avert building collapse in the country.

As a stakeholder in the real estate sector, how would you rate the state of housing accessibility and development in Nigeria?
Without mincing words, I’ll say it’s very low for a nation with a population of over 213 million people. An Oct 2021 United Nation’s statistics indicated that the housing deficits in Nigeria is estimated at 22 million homes.

While describing this figure as alarming, it noted that in the next ten years, the number of Nigerians with no homes would have doubled if care is not taken.

The government needs to do more in the areas of accessibility and affordability of durable dwelling units for our growing population. The initiative of the Federal Ministry of Housing, which the Minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola, launched a portal recently, where Nigerians can apply online for houses is commendable.

This initiative allows Nigerians to apply for homes. (built and ongoing), even from the comfort of their office/ on the go, via mobile phone/computer, attach necessary documents, get pre-qualified and selected for any house type of their choice that fits their budget and income, without having to know anyone in Abuja.

The Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), Central Bank of Nigeria (BN), Primary Mortgage banks (PMBs), commercial banks and other stakeholders need to continue to work on policies and strategies for the availability of affordable mortgage, land and others to enable more homes to be built.

The National Assembly also need to look into the Land Use Act, which has indirectly hampered accessibility to land, even as they recently passed a Bill on Real Estate Regulatory Agency.

How impactful are government regulations and policies in proffering solution to housing deficit in the country?
Like I stated earlier, the government has made some concerted effort in proffering solutions to the housing deficits, but the impact has not trickled down.  More needs to be done particularly in the areas of mortgage, making it affordable and commensurate to the minimum wage. The present interest rate does not allow an average Nigerian access to loans, mortgages and other facilities.

We have the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company(NMRC), FMBN’s National Housing Fund (NHF), PMBs, CBN intervention and many more laudable programmes, policies and strategies of the government, but how well have they performed, how well have they delivered, how well have they impacted, these are areas the government needs to look into, we already have the platform, the process and what have you, but delivery on set goals are very key.

We all can’t leave it to the government, we as a people also need to act as checks/ appraisers of laws, policies and agencies in charge, so as to make the homes available.

What measures should private real estate firm take in bridging housing gap for an average person?
There can’t be the private sector without the public sector. The real estate sector like any other sector of the economy is actively monitored and regulated by the government. Like every other sector, the real estate sector needs enabling and conducive climate to be able to function and deliver well.

The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at an event held by Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority (LASRERA) in Lagos recently, talked about all land in Lagos going digital, as well as full excision on untitled land and how he will deal with anyone that tries to frustrate the effort of the government. This is very laudable, as Lagos is the business hub of Nigeria with a huge population and houses should be readily available.

Land in Abuja are almost without encumbrance, as it is fully digitalised and no one can come to claim even a foot out of your plot, while the case is not so in many other parts of the nation. The private sector should partner more with the gvernment on Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis, wherein the state makes the titled land available and the private sector develops and jointly sell same through affordable mortgage to the general public without bias.

The private sector should also invest more in the mass housing units, as good and viable the luxury homes look, the market is very untapped for the mass population. Partnership and synergy amongst the real estate firms can also help in cutting down cost of building.

What are the possible solutions in making housing more affordable?
First and foremost, I will say it’s the strong will of all that are directly or indirectly involved in the sector. It starts with accessibility to land, affordable building materials (cements, toiletries, aluminium, and labour). Encouraging and patronising of building material manufacturers, which also helps in providing more jobs and improve the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.

We also need to do more of durable mass housing projects like in the days of Jakande Estate, Gwarinpa Estate, Lugbe FHA, which will go a long way in mitigating the housing deficits.

Tax rebates and incentives can also be introduced by the government for developers that are into mass housing, so as to encourage more people going into it.

Developers fund/ loan by FMBN should be made more accessible and CBN should give interventions like they did for the banking and agriculture sector, as the ROI on real estate is undoubtedly the best.

In a highly competitive marketplace like that of real estate sector, what would you say is the uniqueness that differentiates brand from others?
I will say strategic management and leadership styles of the organisation plays a very key role in making the organisation to standout and above it’s competitors.

Besides the impact of the environment, government policies and all, what the organisation stands for also makes it to standout. It’s understanding of the need of the real estate market per-time, its products appeal, as well as location of the product, Return on Investment (ROI) to the investors and many more.

Why do you think are always collapsing building in the country?
This is an area of real estate that has given the sector a bad name. Even in the so-called technologically advanced countries, there are instances of collapses, but we need to localise our solutions.

Instances where foremen/ site managers are elevated as engineers overnight without the requisite knowledge, because of lack of proper monitoring, then collapses are bound to occur. The use of substandard materials or inappropriate aggregate mixture of materials can also lead to it. Proper geophysical surveys, topographic surveys and others need to be carried out to understand the soil structure, terrain and area where buildings are to be put up to avoid collapses.

The Lagos State Government, it’s ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, through it’s regulatory bodies and others are doing a good job in monitoring, but they cannot be at all sites in the state 24/7 all at once.

The state’s Commissioner for Physical Planning, Dr. Idris Salako, has been very proactive in curbing the menace of collapses and even having to be going to different sites around the state by himself on many occasions.

What more can a government do, we the citizenry also have a huge role of knowing our environment, monitoring and reporting when necessary without bias, so as to avoid any future collapse. Some developers cut corners, play the good boy part when regulators/ government agencies are around, but turnaround and do other things when not around.

It all boils down to people being responsible, whether someone is watching or not. We can’t afford to continue to cut corners all in the name of trying others to make gains at the expense of others lives.

What measures do you think government should put in place to avoid subsequent occurrence in the country?
I will still use Lagos State as a yardstick in answering this. Recently the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), introduced the stage approval permits for buildings, wherein you get approval for each stage of your construction, subsequent to your continuous meeting the conditions of your permit. This is a step in the right direction.

The practitioners like the town planners, architects, structural engineers, mechanical and others also need to continue to uphold the tenet of their professions and continue to discourage the sharp practices of some unscrupulous elements which at the end leads to collapses.

Everyone is eager to build a house and somehow just tell the architect to design, then use their own so-called street sense in building the house, which should not be encouraged. We all must be Pragmatic and proactive in the tackling of these collapse menace.