While decrying the risky conditions under which many Nigerians live health-wise, housing industry pundits at the conference say that these conditions are an affront to human dignity. The experts also said that situation has also become a source of social instability in the country and the African continent at large. Gathered for the 9th Abuja Housing Show last week at the Executive Hall of the International Conference Centre, Abuja to raise awareness on the critical nature of housing needs in the country, housing and construction experts took advantage of the unique platform created by the organisers to showcase their activities in the sector while looking deeply into the problems confronting housing delivery. In this report, Festus Adebayo scrutinizes the conference submissions which seek to deepen housing delivery process by expanding the country’s potential to cater for lower income families.
The Nigerian housing sector has generated a lot of attention, which has heightened public interest in the sector and has raised the hopes of homeownership. In charting the way forward, this year’s conference made a bold attempt to critically appraise existing policies with a view to remoulding and developing new ones in order to build enduring structures to enable faster housing delivery.
Bringing together key decision makers in the public and private sectors as well as multi-national corporations, the 2015 Abuja Housing Show & Housing Development Awards addressed the challenges facing the real estate industry by formulating growth strategies. The real estate operatives who participated in the summit have opined that priority areas in the sector should concentrate on site and services that will create more infrastructures like access roads, electricity, water, security, and school among other things.
Reacting to the issue of homeownership in the country, these operators were also unanimous when they said that the factor militating against it is mortgage finance. The expectations of conference participants revolve around evolving strategies toward surmounting past and present challenges in an effort to make housing accessible and affordable to the different strata of the nation’s population. In appreciating the challenges, industry pundits stressed the need to liberalise the environment in terms of land ownership, management and administration, such that all transactions in land matters will be simple, easy and achievable within a time frame that in a business sense will be seen to be cost-effective.
The Conference brought together professionals from the real estate and allied sectors across the African continent and made bold attempts to solve the numerous problems that had bedevilled the nation’s housing and construction industry by developing enduring solutions.
Dealing with housing issues
While delivering the opening address, Barrister Festus Adebayo, the promoter and organizer of the Abuja Housing Show and Housing Development Awards, outlined the evolution of the Summit as he highlighted the challenges bedevilling efforts in the housing sector and emphasized the need for stakeholders to continue discussions and dialogues as well as sharing experience on innovative ways to dealing with housing issues which is the most complex among development issues that we face as a nation. “The premise on which the theme of the 9th Abuja Housing Show was formed was based on the need to get the new administration in Nigeria to prioritize the housing sector in its agenda. Therefore, it is expected that government would make use of the proceedings from this event to move the housing sector forward,” Adebayo said.
In his brief keynote address, His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, represented by Senator Osita Izunazo, declared that land acquisition and funding are the most pressing issues affecting housing provision in Nigeria today. He articulated that issues of housing are pivot to the agenda of the current administration.
Also, Mr. George Ossi, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, in his goodwill message, noted that among the initiatives the ministry has undertaken in meeting the demand of housing are the development of roadmap for the sector, which, among others, intends to promote national building standards in collaboration with private developers to enhance the implementation of government’s housing visions.
Engineer John Chukwu, Permanent Secretary, Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), in his goodwill message underscored that challenges in the housing sector, for example overcrowding in the urban areas, mount pressure on existing infrastructure in the FCT, hence undermine efforts of the FCTA in providing housing for the population of the FCT.
Mrs. Anastasia Daniel-Nwaobia, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, represented by Mr. Daniel Tifatu, in her goodwill message, recognized that as a non-tradable sector, the housing sector has tremendous multiplier effects on the broader economy in terms of job and wealth creation through private residential investments and consumption spending on housing services, and economic and social inclusion.
Access to affordable housing
Taking a closer look at the need to facilitate broader access to affordable housing finance for Nigerians, Professor Charles Inyangete, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC), encapsulated and emphasized the bottlenecks in the delivery of affordable housing. Among these are complex land registration and titling; high and volatile interest rates; short tenor of mortgages; lengthy and complicated foreclosures; high building costs; and absence of mortgage insurance. He further highlighted the efforts and initiatives of the NMRC in stimulating investment in the mortgage market and delivering affordable housing in general, which include the adoption of Uniform Underwriting Standard; introduction of Model Mortgage Foreclosure Law (which is on-going); first issue of bond in the capital market (which is currently being finalized); and other on-going mortgage relief packages that intend to tackle, among others, challenges relating to down payment required of prospective homeowners and high interest rates.
Also, Captain Idris Wada, Executive Governor of Kogi State, represented by the Honourable Commissioner for Lands and Urban Housing, Mr. Stephen Mayaki, noted that Kogi state government over the years has provided enabling environment for private sector participation in the housing and construction sector through investments in infrastructure projects such as housing, roads, power, education, and health. “Kogi State Government has partnered with the private sector as well as the FMBN to deliver housing for public servants in the state,” he said.
Removing foreclosure bottlenecks
Miss Chiamaka Nwokolo, a real estate finance expert with Dunn Lorren Merrifield encapsulated the essence of the Model Mortgage and Foreclosure Law (MMFL) while underscoring the provisions of the MMFL which are intended to strengthen the mortgage processes and procedures. Among the innovations embedded in the MMFL include streamlining the whole process of mortgage registration and titling, such that we have a synchronized process for land titling and mortgage registration; and the concept of double consent which aims to tackle the bottlenecks posed by Governor’s Consent; empowering Chief Judge of high court of each state to designate special court to deal with mortgage issues; building investors and lenders confidence, which is believed will strengthen with the knowledge that foreclosure process and procedure are clearly identified and defined.
Sharing the experiences of Lafarge in assisting developing countries provide solutions to the challenges of delivering affordable housing to their citizen, Mr. Guillaume Roux, Managing Director of Lafarge, pointed out similar solutions, particularly the success story in Mumbai, India are being replicated in Nigeria, for example in Kano where Lafarge partners with the state government and other private entities of like minds to increase the speed of housing development. “Providing access to finance to low-income earners though is necessary, but not satisfactory, hence lack of housing market information is a big issue among consumers that government and other stakeholders need to pay attention to. Affordability of housing and durable solutions to housing needs are country specific, hence require support from multinational organizations,” Roux said.
Provision of sovereign guarantee
Architect Eucharia Alozie, Head, Public Private Partnership (PPP), Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development noted that people at the low segment of the housing market bear the brunt of the severe challenges inherent in the housing sector, hence government should provide sovereign guarantee for example at three levels, such as real estate developers level, local government/community level, and commercial banks level to help alleviate this burden. She articulated roles that government and private sector industry players can play in providing access to finance to low-income groups. These include government creating enabling environment via regulatory and legislative means for private sector participation, using public-private-participation mechanism; and private sector assisting the government in providing technical efficiency in developing new mortgage loans targeted to low segment of the market.
During the special sessions for building products presentation and artisan-based training, housing sector operatives were also urged to pay special attention to training and re-training of different levels of skills needed for housing production, particularly at the artisanal level as lack of institutional capacity, scarcity of housing market information, insufficient calibre of technical and artisan-based skills, among others, has created a veritable crisis in the Nigerian housing sector, “Special attention should be placed on training and re-training of different levels of skills for housing production, especially at the artisan-based level,” industry operatives unanimously agreed.
Sustained investment in social housing
But stakeholders in the industry, while waiting for the social housing action plan to be rolled out, have continued to make submissions that the agenda of the current administration in the housing and urban development sector can be driven majorly with the social housing initiative. To this end, Social Housing Advocacy Group (SHAG), a non-governmental Organisation (NGO) in Nigeria, declared its support for sustained investment in mass housing in the country owing to the critical state of the housing sector. The group also affirmed that housing sector contributes between 30 and 70 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GPD) in other developed economies and the case of Nigeria cannot be different if the country is to achieve the objectives set in the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) for housing.
Architect Nya-Etok Ezekiel, Chairman of SHAG, said that a sustained investment in social housing will facilitate the realisation of housing objectives of the Mohammadu Buhari Administration. Nya-Etok, as part of efforts to boost housing stock in the country, said that there is need to continue to champion the realisation of strategic national objective of mass housing delivery where the low or no income groups will be specific targets.
Redefining social housing as not just for the poor and less privileged but for non income, low and medium income earners of the nation’s workforce, Nya-Etok said the concept of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) in the provision of mass housing delivery is elitist and cannot meet the yearnings of the average civil servant or the lowly paid in the society.
“I strongly recommended a Social Housing Stimulus Plan for the purpose of delivering new homes. The Federal Government must set effective machineries in motion with a view to delivering both cost-effective and quality social housing programme which will significantly increase the supply of social housing across the country and provide accommodation to many disadvantaged Nigerians with low or zero income,” Nya-Etok said.