Housing is one of the most fundamental needs of the human race. Just like food and clothing, housing ranks among the three basic human needs; its availability is very crucial to the welfare of every human being. This is evident in Abraham Maslow’s hierachy of needs where housing happens to be among the psychological needs of which humans cannot do without.
The performance of the sector is one of the yardsticks by which the wealth of the nation is measured vis-a-vis the standards of living of the people in that country. In most developed economies, the housing sector is so important for the stimulation of economic growth.
However, in Nigeria, access to affordable housing has largely remained an unfulfiled dream to vast majority of the people, most especially middle and lower classes.
Over the years, problems ranging from ineffective housing finance system, low level professionalim, weak macro-economic environment, lack of mortgage, unfavourable housing policy, etc, have been affecting the smooth running of the sector.
The sector’s problem is derived from a historical lack of focus or housing development, says Roland Igbinabo, Founder of PISON Housing Company and former Managing Director, FHA Mortgage Bank Limited.
He advised that housing should be placed in the Ministry of Finance or Central Bank of Nigeria where experts in their various fields run the institution. These features, according to him, have strong effects of reducing the affordability of mortgages. Stressing that a volatile economy also affects the supply of funds and the types of mortgages offered by lenders. “In such an environment, lenders are concerned about liquidity risk and reluctant to offer long-term loans”, he added.
The Managing Director, High Point Global Reality Limited, Mrs Imaebong Usoroh, speaking in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, said lack of mortgage facilities is one of the major factors affecting Nigeria’s housing policy. She said this factor inhibits the income earners from becoming potential landlords.
“I think one of the greatest problems in Nigeria’s housing policy has to do with the mortgage policy. If you look at an average man in Nigeria, he cannot walk into any bank right now and get a mortgage to finance a home. Unlike what is obtained in advance countries, anybody with good credit can walk up to a bank even without a dime, and get 100 percent mortgage financing to buy a home. The credit facility can be spread for 30 years or more but in Nigeria, there is nothing like that. The only bank doing that in Nigeria is the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria through the National Housing Scheme. That is the only source you can go in and get money to buy a house”, she added.
Sadly, the proletarians seems to be the ones suffering from the unending problems in Nigeria’s housing sector. On the other hand, the bourgeoisises (rich) are not affected by the lingering problem as they have the wherewithal.
“Getting a mortgage to finance a house in Nigeria has now become a game of survival for the fittest as it is very difficult for a low income earner to get a mortgage to finance a house.”
This has become an issue of concern to many Nigerians who are of the opinion that government should make land accessible for the low income earners. Based on this, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Building Technology, Federal Polytechnic Bida, Niger State, Mr Shehu Mohammed Aminu, has called on the government to intervene by providing incentive and interest-free loans to low income earners that want to put up a house.
According to the property consultant, government should, as a matter of urgency, support the low income earners by offering a long term loan to lenders.
“The National Housing Fund needs to be proactive by making sure that funds are readily available to the end users”, he explained.
Similarly, a town planner, Abdullahi Aliyu, said government should revisit the Land Use Act of 1978 with a view to making lands legally accessible to the low income earners. He maintained that government should embark on housing policy for all local government as was done during Shagari’s administration between 1979 and 1983.
Nigeria, he said, has not been able to develop a viable and sustainable housing finance system because of lack of expertise and quality materials, access to fund, impartation of quacks into the housing sector and politicians’ selfish reason.
The role of housing sector in national development cannot be overestimated. It is the bedrock of the economy of most developed nations. The sector has the potential to generate employment, increase productivity, raise standard of living and alleviate poverty. This is because investment in the sector affects all facets of life through its multiplier effect on economic development through forward linkages to land, building, materials, tools, furniture and labour markets.
– Amaogechukwu writes from Federal Polytechnic Bida