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As Nigerians witness yet another political epoch in the nation’s chequered history, one of the critical sectors that they want the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to make very impressive impact is the housing sub-sector of the nation’s economy.

While, housing has been universally accepted as the second most important human need for human survival and essential component to the advancement of the quality of life of the citizenry, infrastructural development holds the key to economic growth of any nation.

Unfortunately, after over five decades of self rule, successive governments in the country have tinkered with the idea of providing shelter for the citizenry to no avail.

The determination of the present administration to make a difference may have informed the choice of the erstwhile governor of Lagos State Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola as the present minister of Power, Works and Housing.

It is an indisputable fact that Fashola, now a super minister carried out housing revolution in Lagos, partnering with the private sector , even as he inaugurated the Lagos Mortgage Board to manage the housing estates owned by the government including the Lagos-HOMS.

Beyond housing his era as Lagos State helmsman witnessed high tempo of construction activities, the number of transformational projects conceived and delivered in Lagos under his watch will forever earn him a place in the hearts of many Lagosians.

The questions angling in the minds of Nigerians both at home and in the Diaspora are numerous. For instance they want to be sure whether the Lagos template work of housing delivery and infrastructural development will work at the Federal level, given its compound structure and high stakes? If it works, will the vexed issue of affordability that made Fashola’s critics to tag his programmes as elitist not come up?

Will the poor and middle class be able to purchase Fashola built houses? Like he normally argues that there are no low cost cement and iron rods for reinforcement will he embark on building of low cost mass housing for the lower middle class and the poor in Nigeria?

What about the buoyancy of the country’s economy that determines project delivery ability of the government and purchasing power of the consumers?

In the face of Nigeria’s current market prices, inflation rate, interest rates and foreign exchange rate professionals like Engineer Afolabi Adedeji, the managing director Ethical Business and Management Association(EBAM) believe that the new minister will justify the confidence reposed in him by both President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigerians if the Professional Bodies are allowed to play their roles.

“ By providing inexpensive prototype designs for mass housing and raising a Volunteer Corps of indigenous Professionals (Engineers, Architects, Builders, Quantity Surveyors, etc) that will supervise these Mass Housing Projects at nominal rates of compensation.

“To make the dream of “Housing for all Nigerians” realizable, concrete steps should be taken to provide affordable, low interest mortgage finance to as many people as are interested in having it. To stimulate the development and foster the growth of the local Building Materials Industry, a Policy may be enforced of granting mortgage loans for the procurement of only Homes constructed from Local Building Materials.

“Tax Holidays and Government Subsidies should also be considered for deserving Producers and Distributors of Local building materials as well as low interest loans guaranteed by the government.

“Deliberate efforts should be made and policies enunciated/implemented to re-attract local skills and talent to Building Trades and Crafts. Likewise, at the higher level of Engineers, Architects end Technologists, ideas should be generated on how some of our very brilliant professional colleagues who are now Chartered Accountants & Bankers (with ACA and/or AIB), Currency Traders, etc. may be encouraged to return to their original professional calling that they have ‘abandoned’ because of what I will call ‘Nairanomics’ and ‘Bellynomics’, even though they find Engineering and Architecture more intellectually fulfilling and rewarding in a non-financial way.”

The Chief Executive Officer, Realty Point Limited Mr. Debo Adejana noted that mass housing has remained elusive in Nigeria because of numerous reasons.

“For instance, let us start from the issue of land because we cannot do without it. Whatever you want to do in the area of housing is based on land. Take a look at our land tenure system what you discover is a bundle of problem. The country’s tenure and land acquisition and allocation system need to be drastically restructured and this is why I believe that the clamour for scraping of Land Use Act out of the constitution is a right step in the right direction. Apart from that the cost of buying land is just too high. It is not encouraging housing development in the country.

“From there we come to the issue of finance. Housing is a capital intensive venture. Federal Government must create effective structures for sustainable mortgage finance. The Nigerian mortgage market is still underdeveloped both at the level of the mortgage product available to the citizens and at the level of mortgage funding instruments .

“To me we don’t even have any mortgage system because a mortgage system has two keys aspects. The first one is the issue of interest rate. A situation where you are given a housing loan and you are required to pay 25 percent is not mortgage. If care is not taken you are going to lose that house to the financiers at the end of the day.

“So the interest rate of the country’s mortgage system must be such that it is within what can be paid. People would prefer a single digit interest rate. Any mortgage loan payable within three years or five years as obtainable in the country right now ceases to be mortgage.

“We also have the high cost of building materials, high cost of hiring professional to carry out the building production process. All these factors come together to defeat the issue of affordability.”

For the chief executive officer, Knight Frank, Albert Orizu,” There is need for mass housing, the new government should look into part of suggestions being made by professionals on how to revive the nation’s housing sector, especially providing affordable housing for the masses or low-income and medium income segment of the society.

Source: Leadership Newspaper


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