Stories by Maduka Nweke, [email protected] 08034207864
Housing for all was once a slogan of the Federal Government when the public was still not aware of the pranks government officials used such things for. The slogan once tied housing for all to year 2000 to be the magical year for its actualisation but, the ceiling has been moved to year 2020. Nonetheless, of all, there has never been any serious effort on the side of government to actualise that as the few estates built by government are bought over by the rich and powerful men in the society using their cronies. These eventually become high and out of reach to the common man. Beyond that, government has always been urged not to relent in its efforts but to rather flood the country with houses to ameliorate the sufferings of the people.
Taking a cursory look at major cities where population density is high including Lagos and Abuja can see that even as Abuja is developing, all the satellite towns around the capital territory are also experiencing housing deficits. Thus, despite efforts by government and private individuals to make business out of real estate in the area, inhabitants of the area still find accommodation a hydra-headed problem. This, therefore, failed to achieve the desired purpose. Challenges of housing deficits cannot go without including rapid urban-population growth, the misuse of housing funds, the adverse effects of increasing rents for low income groups, the deficiency of the housing loan system and the increase in luxury houses rather than social houses.
However, the real challenge for the government is to create an enabling environment for investment and to remove the impediments that hamper private sector development. These range from functioning labour, capital, and input markets through to an efficient and effective administration process, with emphasis on showing real progress, building on key successes in market where the private sector already has incentives to invest. Again, it is better if it is done by government as we had under the levels of governments in 1983 when the likes of Governor Lateef Kayode Jakande were in government. At the time, both federal and state governments saw estates as facilities to lift democratic dividends.
Similar approaches have been successful in other countries where in recognition of their acute housing deficits, governments made efforts towards becoming facilitators rather than hindrances to private sector. This could be done through joint consultative meetings and implementation of a range of incentives for investors.
The Roland Igbinoba House Pricing Indices (RI Indices) for Abuja covered 23 areas within the Federal Capital Territory. A cursory look at the constructed indices shows that the highest fluctuation in house prices, which has not helped those that need the houses, occurred in Abuja where in Jabi area, price index for five-bedroom houses in the first quarter of 2017 nosedived to a whopping 58 per cent from N112 million in the previous quarter to N47 million in the first two months of 2017. Jabi is a high brow area in Abuja and there seems to be a steady, albeit, marginal increase in the price of houses across all strata in Katampe and Kaura between Q2 2016 and Q1 2017. In Dakibiyu and Daura areas, there seems to be decrease in house prices across the three strata throughout Q2 2016 to Q1 2017. Although there are talks of price decrease in these areas, it is still not within the reach of the common man.
In Garki area, while there seems to be fluctuations in the prices of five-bedroom and three-bedroom houses, the indices show a consistent decrease in the price of four-bedroom houses through Q2 in 2016 and Q1 in 2017. In Asokoro area, there was a consistent rise in prices and that shows that those houses are not for the low income-earners going by the price tags. For that single reason, we may still be talking of housing deficits when the number of housing units yet unoccupied could go a long way in reducing the whole lot. Some people opine that it has remained so because government does not monitor the needs of the populace and therefore does not also know the strata of the society that need aid. It is not enough to be building houses that are not at the reach of those that need them. Such efforts may reduce such houses to mere white elephant projects and not occupied.
In Lagos Mainland, house prices vary across different sub-locations as some areas experience increase while others had a drop in their prices. Several areas in Lagos such as Agege, Ajah, Ibeju-Lekki and Isolo experienced gradual reduction in house prices throughout 2016, which extended to the first quarter of 2017.
In Agege, for instance, prices of three, four and five-bedroom houses fell by 8.6 per cent, 28.6 per cent and 9 per cent respectively between the last quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017. These areas are low-income areas where increase in cost of living as a result of hike in price of basic essential commodities is putting a strain on disposable income, had reduced the appetite for owning properties.
Prices in Ikoyi and Victoria Island still maintained an upward trend despite the recession. These areas are highbrow areas where most buildings are built with imported materials. The recent appreciation of the dollar against the naira would definitely drive the cost of building such houses up, and consequently, their high asking prices despite the recession.
Another perspective to the behaviour of house prices in these high brow areas is that most of the houses here are owned by extremely wealthy individuals who may not be in a rush to sell or rent them and thus unwilling to crash their prices even in the face of recession.