Nigeria’s housing sector is one of those bedeviled with a number of challenges. The sector seems not to have grown to the expected level as the country marks its 59th independence anniversary. TOPE SUNDAY writes.
The housing sector in Nigeria is one of the busiest and lucrative sectors. Despite this, some Nigerians are still homeless, while some are at the mercy of their landlords. Nigeria is said to have17 million housing deficits. Though this figure is controversial because some experts have argued for and against.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola had once described the figure as fallacy. However, some experts in the sector said the deficits are higher than the projected figure.
Government attempts to upgrade the sector
Over the years, the federal government has at various times tried different housing policies and programmes to address the housing problems in the country. Some of these policies are reflected in: Land Use Act, 1978 ,Mortgage Institutions Act, 1989, Federal Housing Authority Act, 1990, National Urban Development Policy, 1997, and Housing and Urban Development Policy, 2002.
Also, it among others, introduced the Nigerian Army Housing scheme, Nigerian Police Force Housing scheme, Nigerian Port Authority Housing scheme. But despite this, there still exists a huge housing deficit.
As the country marks its 59th anniversary of its independence, a number of challenges are identified which are obstacles to its progress.
Land use act
The Land Use Act of 1978 puts all land under the management of the government. The decree was to be advantageous for the country and its citizens with regulations to protect public interest as well as create efficiency of land use all over the country. Purchasing land in Nigeria today without acquiring Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) from the government puts you at a disadvantage since the land is not really yours.
This prevents access to loans or funding to develop such property. Asides the high cost of land acquisition, the cost of acquiring Certificate of Occupancy and the process involved seems to be very cumbersome and this poses a problem for housing development by individuals or real estate developers.
The process of documentation and property registration takes too long. This makes people cut corners and when due process is not followed, it becomes a problem to housing development.
There is also the problem of harassment from community boys during property development; a problem that can be eliminated if the main documentation process is adequately pursued.
High cost of building materials
The high cost of building materials and how it affects property development cannot be overstated. Most building materials are imported leading to their high cost.
The more expensive these materials are, the harder it is for low income earners to purchase them. This translates to incomplete structures, substandard houses and high cost of rent which are all contributing factors to the housing problems faced in Nigeria.
The old and new budgeting
As at the 2015, the annual budget for the Nigeria’s housing sector was N1.8bn, the amount Fashola described as paltry when he held his inaugural. According to the 2019 budget proposal, the sector annual budget has swelled up to N30.04bn. Similarly, the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), which was before the advent of the present regime was relatively relegated and abandoned, now has a 5-billion yearly budget.
2015 till date
Four years into the present administration, the available report indicates that the federal government is embarking on the National Housing Project in about 34 states of the federation. A similar report also reveals that the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) is constructing 1650 housing units for low-income earners in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
At a recent press briefing, towards the tale end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term, Fashola said his ministry (housing sector) had delivered on its promises, saying that there is no part of the country that the federal presence is not felt, adding that the pilot National Housing Programme which is second in the history of the nation has led to a nationwide housing construction currently at various stages of completion in 34 states of the federation, where landed properties were provided.
Aside from the building construction, the minister also disclosed that in four years, the ministry in its bid to tackle backlog of issuance of Consent and Certificates of Occupancy on Federal Government lands, explaining that a total of 1, 417 applications for Consent to Transfer Interest in land and 2000 Certificates of Occupancy were approved and signed.
“ There is also facilitation of access to housing, titled documents that the people can leverage credit, getting consent for further transactions to even buy a house. That was the bag-log that we met here. And as at the 13th of April, this year, we had signed 1417 consents, we have issued 2400 Cs of O. For many people that stark reality, some of these people had paid for their land since 1990 and they didn’t get their certificates’’.
“For the housing sector, our short term objectives were to get people back to work and currently, we are building in 34 states and concluding plans to start the second phase. The conversation before the inception of President Buhari government is that, there is no Federal Government presence in some states, but today, no state can say it has no Federal Government presence,” he said.
Assessing the housing sector performance in the country, an Abuja-based Real Estate expert, Mr Benjamin Onigbinde, said the federal government has fared well. He specifically, commended its National Housing Programme.
He said: “Over the years, government has been constituently reviewing the public housing programmes to bridge the gap in housing deficit in the country, most especially to allow for affordable housing. The policy components of the NHP includes the provision of Housing Fund to make it easy for low income earners to access housing facilities.
“The programme is a good concept but there is the need to promote awareness among the expected beneficiaries on the operation of the system.
“The Federal Mortgage Bank which is the operator of the fund recently undertook various digital transformation to make it easy for public to have access to information on the programme. I think more still need to be done to educate public on this DigitALL Initiative”.
According to the Real estate experts, some of the challenges that worked against the performance of the sectors in the previous years have not changed. They indentified them to include the delay in approval of the borrowing required to fund the housing programmes, bottleneck regarding the land documentation and development control; low awareness regarding the access to housing fund and Land Use Act of 1978.
The experts, however, recommended that effort must be made to improve the land documentation procedures, and called for the urgent review of the Land Use Act of 1978.
Also, they called on the government to partner with cooperative societies and real estate developers to provide housing infrastructure.
A building expert, Mr Daniel Adisa, who commended the government’s effort at upgrading the sector, said: “The federal government should ensure that the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Federal Mortgage Finance Limited (FMF), Urban Development Bank (UDB), and all other relevant agencies perform their roles effectively.
“The government should also make the process of registration and documentation of property less bureaucratic. Getting approval for building plans and acquiring Certificate of occupancy should be made easier for legit property owners”.