Real estate stakeholders have faulted the proposed tax imposition on all vacant houses across Nigeria, saying the move would amount to double losses to house owners and would make life difficult for accommodation seeking residents.
Recall that a United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Adequate Housing, Leilana Farha advised the Nigerian Government to start taxing vacant houses in the country.
Farha, who was on a 10-day fact-finding visit to Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano lamented the housing crises in the country, explaining that most residents in Nigeria’s ballooning informal settlements live without access to even the most basic services.
Reacting to Farha’s advice to the Nigerian government, a Lagos-based estate surveyor and valuer, Stephen Jagun, said it was wrong to categorise all vacant houses as proceeds of corruption, adding that not all vacant houses were products of stealing as Farha might have claimed.
Jagun, who is the Principal Partner, Stephen Jagun and Associates, blamed underdeveloped mortgage system in the country for the vacant houses, saying this deprived accommodation seekers the opportunity to access the houses.
To correct the anomaly, he urged government to fix the economy, provide employment, while revisiting the nation’s mortgage system.
Jagun maintained that if government imposes taxes on vacant houses, the poor would suffer more as they would be made to pay more rents for accommodation.
He, however, noted that many people built the houses to store value while others built for investment purposes.
“Many owners of these houses did not borrow to build so they are not in a hurry to reduce rent. There is no obligation to pay loans,” he added.
Another professional estate surveyor, Richard Olodu, stated that taxing vacant properties would amount to double punishment for property developers who borrowed money to develop the property.
Olodu stressed that the imposition of tax could discourage people from investing in property which has wider implications for the economy.
“They have to pay both interest and capital to the bank without any income yet from the development. Taxes are payable on income. Why will you tax a property owner for being unable to secure tenants for his property, which is not his fault but due to economic downturn?”