Mass Housing Becoming More Elusive

Mass Housing Becoming More Elusive

So much is being bandied about in the public space on the question of affordable mass housing in the country, even when there are varying perspectives on what essentially the issue is. While many think there are grounds for optimism that we are making progress, others assert that the national housing stock as far as mass housing is concerned, is a far cry from expectation.

Another flank of the discourse is what constitutes affordable mass housing and whether or not decent housing should be a basic right for everybody in Nigeria. While we may not be versed in the legal nuances on the issue, one thing that cannot be glossed over is the fact that decent housing is necessary as a basic component of living in addition to food and clothing.

Many legal minds in the built environment are quick to point at Section 16(1)(d) of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic (As amended)under the Fundamental Objectives of State Policy which obliges the Nigerian State “To provide suitable and adequate shelter for all citizens”. Even though this provision is not actionable, it reinforces the call for a public sector driven mass housing provision in Nigeria. Housing being a right, entails that all strata of society, including the less privileged, the old, the disadvantaged and displaced should own or have access to decent, safe and sanitary accommodation at affordable prices or rental with secure tenure.

However, the reverse is the case because despite the policies, institutions and regulations which various Governments have put in place since independence; there is still a huge housing shortage for the poor majority. Multiple statistics put Nigeria’s housing deficit at 17 million. According to a World Bank report ,2016, bridging the 17 million national housing deficits will gulp at least N59.50 trillion. The question on the lips of many is: How did we get here? Nigeria’s housing problem is derived from a historical lack of focus on housing development.

We are aware that the Nigeria National Housing Policy defines ‘Housing’ as the process of providing functional shelter in a proper setting in a neighbourhood, supported by sustainable maintenance of the built environment for the day-to-day living and activities of individuals and families within the communities.

Existing Housing Situation in Nigeria Nigeria, like other developing countries, is saddled with uncontrollable growth of the urban population caused by lack of provision of infrastructural facilities and poor economic conditions in the rural areas. The proportion of the Nigerian population living in urban centres has increased phenomenally, from 7% in the 1930s, 10% in 1950, 20% in 1970, 27% in 1980 to 35% in 1990 ,Okupe, 2002.

Over 40% of Nigerians now live in urban centres of varying sizes. The incidence of this population in urban centres has created severe housing problems, resulting in overcrowding in inadequate dwellings, and in a situation in which 60% of Nigerians can be said to be “houseless persons” (Federal Government of Nigeria, 2004). Besides the incidence of overcrowding in the existing housing stock, rural-urban drift has occasioned the sprouting of makeshift dwellings or squatter settlements in cities that are devoid of minimum structural and normative quality. Majority of the houses are constructed with all sorts of refuse/second-hand materials in illegally occupied self -allocated land, they are badly maintained and lack the basic necessities of life like sanitary facilities, light, air and privacy. As evidenced by past research in housing studies, most urban centres in the country are characterised by high density buildings, acute sanitary problems, and pollution of air, surface water, noise and solid waste.

To mitigate the humongous deficit in the housing stock, there must be a political will by governments at all levels towards enunciating programmes that would integrate the people in house ownership schemes where they would contribute meagre sums over a long period of time.

The National Housing Fund in which the apex mortgage bank is handling appears to be far from achieving its fundamental purpose as various bottlenecks have been experienced by many would-be home-owners trying to access their services. We urge that the operations of the mortgage industry be reviewed by the relevant government organs, including at the highest level of legislation in order to make the system as effective as in other climes.

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Nigeria National Housing Policy