Affordable housing has to do with passion and humanity

HousingHousing is a basic human need and it has been rated by scholars in the real estate industry as the second most essential need of man after food. In other words, lack of housing is the second worst form of poverty known to man after the lack of food. In the same vein, housing is also said to be the single largest expenditure for most households. However, one-sixth of the world’s population live in the slum as many developing nations like Nigeria, and some developed nations, the vision of “Affordable Housing for All” remains an Utopian dream. That is, having a decent home and suitable living environment is quite a ‘big deal’ and so it is left for the ‘big boys’. Affordability of houses is an intransigent problem that most nations of the world have not come close to solving. It is one of greatest problem confronting economic growth and sustainable development of our nation.

Recently, at an inaugural lecture themed “Beyond bricks and mortar” by Professor Timothy Nubi, a lecturer in the Housing and Urban Regeneration Department of the University of Lagos, he noted alongside with other housing professors and scholars the urgency or emergency of the state of housing in the country while making emphasis on bridging the gap of the housing deficit in the country which is estimated at 17 million.

In corollary, the Executive Director of Shelter Origins, a non-profit organisation, Mr. Ezekiel Ojo recently said that government can drive affording housing by working with sincere developers. He added, “affordable houses have to do with passion, and has to do with humanity.” That is, he posited that if the government can work with developers that are passionate and humanity-driven, it is practically possible to have low-income houses in our major cities in our country like Abuja and most Lagos cities that have exaggerated house prices and high rate of value-for-money.

Accordingly, through a partnership, a group that comprise the company, MTN Foundation, Cisco International, Union Bank of Nigeria, American Embassy, Lafarge and individuals constructed over 500 houses to accommodate displaced individuals in FCT, Abuja at a cost of N1.1 million for a two-bed-room apartment including facilities, N1.3 million for a two-bed-room flat and N3.5 million for two-bed-room unit.
That is, it will cost the group, N550 million to provide 500 two-bed-room apartment including facilities, N650 million to provide 500 two-bed-room flat and N1.75 billion to provide 500 for two-bed-room unit. These figures would be appreciated bearing in mind that the country’s estimated housing deficit is put at 17 million in spite the billions of dollars that have gone into unaffording housing projects or programmes in the administrative dispensation of the past and present government.

Not long ago, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola while announcing that there would be changes in the policy direction of the President Buhari’s administration in the settlement sector said that at the commencement of the 2016 budget implementation, the federal government would spend N10 billion to build low-income housing in each of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. He also said that the budget of national housing must change from N1.8 billion to something in the hundreds of billions that matches the government ambition to bridge the housing deficit of the nation.

At present, about 60 per cent of the present population of over 176 million lack adequate housing in Nigeria. The slum population is put at 70 per cent with a higher annual growth rate of 4.55 per cent. Resultantly, there has been a widespread development of slums in our towns and cities across the country. As such, the cost at which the group delivered 500 houses is only achievable on the wings of passion and a strong humanity-drive for affordable housing.

However, the reason the teaming-up of the developers, private and public organisations with the third-sector or non-profit organisation is able to successfully attain this level of effective and reduced-cost may be hinged on the fact that the nature of operation of third sector organisations is that make use of funds and resources they do not earn as they are highly dependent on monetary and technical support provided by other national or international organisations (public sector, private and social enterprises) through cooperation agreements, grants, or service provision. As such, by condition of their being in business, they may have to dutifully and diligently manage cost as they are likely to get less than they bargained for; they may have to be ‘extra-accountable’ or prudent for every amount spent; they might have to be financial transparent to attract other donors and earn the integrity of existing donors, and they also have to practise what they preach- philanthropism and humanitarianism.

Generally, affordable housing is low-revenue generating asset because the investors must be ‘conscientiously’ or ‘philanthropically’ willing and committed to part away with a share of their investment projection or expectations in terms of returns or profit. In other words, some returns have to be let-go or forgone by the investors or developers to ease the buyers’ chance and access to own a home or increase their capacity to purchase a house. It is like ‘give-and-take’ (not a carrot-stick approach) where the developers or investors give for the buyer to take or have.

On this note, private sector operators who are ready to relax a part of their economic behaviour on one end to fasten their social behaviour on the other end have begun to key into the provision of mass housing. For example, a frontline manufacturer of polyurethane prefabricated building in Nigeria, Vitapur Nigeria Limited, who is seeking partnership with federal and state governments to construct mass houses at low and high speed. Likewise, private firm, B.A.M. Projects & Properties has promised to build and deliver 500 assorted affordable housing units in Federal Capital Territory.

Categorically, the intervention of sincere developers and partners of affordable housing will go a long way in hasting delivering of housing in spite of our bottleneck mortgage system and poor realisation of the goals and objectives of our National Housing Fund polices. It is equally advised that other developers, third-sectors organisation and profit organisation that carry out their humanitarian responsibilities in form of Corporate Social Responsibility to emulate some of the companies that have been used as examples here.

Individuals and organisations, as contributors or investors, are urged to drive affordable housing by trading off a part of their economic behaviour for a social part even though in our housing market, more developers are moving towards building of high-priced apartments (both for rent and sale) for economic reasons. That is, they are building houses with the hope of meeting up with an anticipated demand that has been foreseen for a time or period when the economy gets better. That is, the houses are built to fallow for a period before the economy is again supportive for the housing economy. The houses are built to also increase the supply of houses in order to create an up-thrust or bounce-back in the economy by an upward pull that will be generated by the supplied houses.

In corollary, it is only a government who is sincere (anti-corrupt), passionate and humanity-drive for affordable housing that can deliver the positive reality we are expectant to see in our country – considering the scary outlook of Nigerian economy viz-a-viz the international economy in terms of our crude oil price, dollar exchanged, Central Bank of Nigeria fluctuating policies, insecurity, political unrest. In other words, it is only a government who has the emphasized attributes and behaviour for affordable housing that can provide the enabling environment like favourable policy on land, finance, repositioning of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) and other Primary Mortgage Institution (PMI), affordable building materials, appropriate institutional frame-work, for instance, a legal frame-work like the Housing Act, sustainable construction workforce, infrastructures like road network, electricity, land, water, waste system and so on.

Previous government at the federal and state levels like Yar’ Adua, Obasanjo, Jakande and Shagari that have achieved a bold reference point in Nigeria’s affording housing history were able to do so because of the zeal and humanitarian attitude they used in driving our housing sector. As such, as made known by the Minster of Housing, the decision of the Buhari Administration to understudy Jakande and Shagari’s housing estates model to develop affordable housing units for the masses that would involve building 40 blocks in each state of the federation is commendable and in the right direction of attaining affordable housing.

Housing can only be a success when the third sectors effectively work with public and private organisations by stimulating and harnessing their passion and humanity-drive towards affordable housing. That is, the third sector can help in delivering affordable housing project as they are in the business of working hand-in-hand with public and private organisations while getting them to commit their social behaviour over their economic behaviour.

As such, with a combined effort that is built on sincerity, passion and charity from organisations and individuals, affordable housing is in view. It goes to say that the working together of both private and public real sectors and developers, investors (either private or public, individuals or organisations) and the government, on a passionate and humanitarian note can deliver affordable housing that will go a long way in offsetting our housing deficit as a country.

Conclusively, only by the adequate intervention and involvement of third sectors and the adoption of their social values in the housing sector can affordable housing see the light of the day in the lives of many Nigerians and the country as a whole.

• Adeyemi is a 2013 graduate in Estate Management, from the University of Lagos. adebiyiadeyemi@outlook.com



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