fashola-at-buhari-apc-meeting         With a population of about 170 million, Nigeria is currently facing the challenge of housing deficit, estimated at 17 million housing units. Over the years, the country has been suffering huge shortage and efforts by successive administrations to address the problem have not yielded the desired result.

However, in fulfilment of the campaign promises of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration appears determined to close the housing deficit gap by intervening directly in the sector. To this end, the Federal Government has proposed to spend N10 billion on the construction of housing estates for low-income earners in each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Mr Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, said that the present administration is leading the intervention in public housing because it presents an enormous opportunity for the economy to promote not only growth but also inclusion.

The Federal Government, Fashola said, would understudy the housing estate models of former President Shehu Shagari and Lateef Jakande, former governor of Lagos State, as part of efforts to develop affordable housing units for the masses, while building 40 blocks of houses in each state. “So for us, consistency is crucial; increase in annual spending is an imperative. We must change the budget for national housing from N1.8 billion in 2015 to something in the hundreds of billions of naira that matches our ambition,’’ he said.

Fashola believes that by the time the Federal Government invests N10 billion on housing alone in each of the 36 states and the FCT every year, it would make a lot of difference.

Experts in real estate are of the view that if the plan by the Buhari administration for the housing sector is sustained, it will reduce the country’s housing deficit. The Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) says the country’s housing deficit is on the increase due to poor funding of mortgage institutions. It is believed one of the factors responsible for the country’s inability to close its housing deficit is that commercial banks and insurance companies had defaulted in payment of their contributions to the National Housing Fund (NHF) for several years.

According to reports, since 1992, the financial institutions flouted the provisions of the NHF Act which compelled them to contribute to the Fund. Section 5 of the NHF Act provides that commercial banks are supposed to devote 10 per cent of their portfolio to the Fund. Insurance companies, on their part, are supposed to invest 20 per cent of their life insurance funds and 25 per cent of their non-life funds in the Fund. Section 11 provides that where the banks refuse to pay, the CBN is supposed to force the banks to contribute to the Fund at an interest rate of four per cent. This has not been complied with since 1992.

While applauding the plan of the Buhari administration, experts have urged the federal and state governments to create an enabling environment that would encourage the private sector to drive housing construction. Mr Makinde Ogunleye, a former chairman of the Nigeria Institute of Town Planners (NITP) Lagos branch, said that it was the sole responsibility of the government to provide accommodation for the people. The low income earners, he posited, do not have the fund to purchase land or develop building projects. He said that the housing deficit could still be tackled through private sector engagement since government alone could not provide the needed houses. ‘’ If the building construction industry is privatised, it will address the increasing demand for houses,” he said.

Mr Ayo Adejumo, former Executive Secretary, Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON) in Lagos, said government could acquire large hectares of land and give it to the private sector to develop. He added: “If infrastructural facilities such as road, water, electricity and credit facilities are available, the private sector will be able to supply adequate houses.”

Mr Ade Oshinubi, President, Association of Building Artisans of Nigeria (ASBAN), urged government to evolve a policy that would mandate corporate organisations to give mortgage loans to their workers. ‘’If all workers are able to own houses through their employers, it will go a long way to reduce the nation’s housing deficit,” he said.

By Pita Ochai

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