Stories by Maduka Nweke,
[email protected] 08034207864, 08118879331
Low cost housing refers to estates developed by governments for low income earners. Governments use the low cost housing as incentive to civil servants, as often, majority of civil servants are housed in particular estates built for departments or ministries. This is done mostly when such ministries have buses that convey workers to and from the office.
In most cases, the government reduces the prices of these houses where they are bungalows or flats to enable the workers buy and own them. This explains why they are called low cost housing. Presently, however, corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of the nation and has eroded every facility enjoyed by workers during colonial and post-colonial era.
While decent housing is important for every individual and nation, housing crisis remains one of the global problems with grave and rising challenge facing both urban and rural residents, particularly in most developing nations. Thus, despite a number of potential, social and religious initiatives taken in the past in some of these developing countries, a great proportion of their population still live in substandard and poor houses and in deplorable, unsanitary residential environments.
In Nigeria, though housing provision by the government commenced before the country got its political independence from Great Britain on October 1, 1960, the housing problems still remain intractable as many rural and urban populations in the country do not have access to decent, safe and affordable housing. The housing delivery strategy in the country is, therefore, a classical example of politics of many words but little action.
That explains why Nigeria’s housing needs have been high as a result of population growth, which has averaged 3 per cent per annum; rapid urbanisation due to rural-urban migration; high cost of building materials; ineffective and insincere housing policies, among others. Nigeria’s drive toward “housing for all”, as contained in the National Housing Policy (NHP), which aims at providing affordable housing for all, has so far been what it is – all on paper and no serious effort, deliberately or otherwise, at implementation and continues to be an illusion and a frustration to the larger population.
Successive efforts to meet every set target have failed as housing deficit now stands at over 19 million units in Nigeria, according to experts. The target date for accomplishing the “housing for all” goal earlier slated for 2000 has been discarded as a new target date, 2020, that is almost around with little or nothing to ensure actualisation.
As with almost every other developmental sector in Nigeria, the outlay on housing has been rather low and does not seem to get the priority it demands. Most urban dwellers in Nigeria today live in dilapidated houses lacking basic amenities, sanitary conditions or running water. In fact, most urban areas are the worse for wear as far as infrastructure and housing are concerned, and this is mostly due to the country’s notorious maintenance culture or lack of it. Estimates show that Nigeria needs an average of two million housing units per year, not only to replenish decaying housing stock, but also to meet rising demand going by postulations of housing experts.
However, because each time governments build low cost houses for the public, the same authorities monopolise them thereby defeating the whopping sum plunged into the project. It therefore became another hive for corruption that attracts public condemnation.
But be that as it may, credit is usually given to former Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, who exemplified the low cost housing by building a number of estates that are still harbouring a large population of Lagosians today. Although successive governments in the state have made a lot of businesses out of the estates to the extent that the legacy bequeathed to Lagosians are no longer what they were meant to be, the benefits of that feat cannot be taken away. These days, government will build what it terms affordable housing only to go behind and buy them out and resell to the public at exorbitant prices. This problem took away the housing glut for people in the area.
The problem of unavailability of affordable housing in Nigeria is further exacerbated by the constraints imposed by the Land Use Act, a moribund and repressive Act that hinders mortgage financing and creates enormous obstacles to private sector involvement in the housing industry, which has constrained the transfer of titles and made mortgage finance extremely difficult. As a result of the Land Use Act, obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy (popularly known as C of O) has become a big time avenue for large scale corruption. Ask anybody in Nigeria today, and they will tell you that it is impossible to attempt to legally obtain a C of O for a land you have just bought, without bribing several officials in the states’ Ministries of Lands and Housing, often with huge amounts of money.
With the system in use today, it becomes easy to discover that the rapid rate of urbanisation in Nigeria is not matched by a corresponding development in technological, industrial and economic growth, which is why there is enormous urban housing poverty in the country. The result of this is the rapid deterioration of housing in urban centres and phenomenal increase in housing needs arising from shortages in housing units. The rate of expansion of public infrastructure and services is low compared to the increase in the population of urban centres, which results in great strain on the facilities and near collapse in many places. Increase in the quantity of dwelling units too, does not match the population explosion resulting in severe overcrowding in existing units, the growth of squatter settlements in the cities, and the emergence of slums.
Olotuah (2010) affirmed that the housing environments in urban centres are severely degraded owing to poor public services and the decay of building structures themselves. Urban planning, therefore, hasn’t been properly coordinated in the circumstance, which has given rise to illegal structures sprouting up in the cities. This has resulted in a situation in which 60 per cent of Nigerians can be said to be “houseless persons” (FGN, 2004).