Shelter is both a basic human right, and a necessity in Nigeria and the idea of affordable housing to cater to this need is practical and viable but the road to achieving it is fraught with lots of challenges.
Housing is one of the basic needs of man because of his desire for security, privacy and protection from negative impacts of the environment; housing is more than just a shelter. In the social life of every Nigerian, the ability to own a home boosts one’s status in the society.
Housing plays a vital part in improving human health as well as the social and economic welfare of the society. However, despite the efforts made by the government to tackle the issue of housing availability, the cost of building in Nigeria keeps rising. This is as a result of several factors, especially the high cost of building materials.
One of these areas of priority that have always attracted the attention of the people is the housing sector.
The housing sector has constantly been one of those sectors that receives higher allocation yearly, yet it has remain one of the under developed sector of the economy. This is because successive government paid little attention to various housing schemes most especially those that concern the low income earners. Hence, the goal of making housing affordable and accessible has only become an imagination or others would call an illusion.
Some real estate professionals will say the term ‘affordable’ is relative and has to do with your level in the society strata. However, is there really affordable housing in Nigeria?
CHALLENGES OF AFFORDABLE HOUSES IN NIGERIA
The majority of Nigerians believe that expensive materials are quality materials. In an effort to keep up with the latest design techniques, expensive materials and other furnishing components are used in constructing homes, which upon completion, are rarely affordable. Materials which can be produced or manufactured locally are imported at a higher price, either as a result of high taste, or because there’s no confidence in some of the locally produced materials. These materials include marble, granite, stainless steel, exotic ceiling and roofing materials, massive columns with ornaments and cornices, bullet proof windows and doors.
Another issue that prevents the use of locally manufactured building materials in the construction of mass low cost housing is the limited durability of locally produced materials leading to either high maintenance costs or short lived structures. Mud or wooden houses are prone to attacks by termites, are susceptible to catching fire and rain degradation, and suffer excessive dryness during the harmattan.
The low and middle income earners, are the most affected by the high cost of construction in Nigeria. Due to affordability they live in densely populated or informal ‘slum’ areas.
Recommended solutions to reduce the cost of housing construction:
1. The construction of future housing projects should be based on locally manufactured and quality construction materials.
2. Promotion of our locally manufactured materials that are of a high quality, low cost, energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
3. The Federal Government with State Governments should embark on more large scale housing programmes and encourage the use of tested local materials.
4. Intensive research should be carried out in schools and research institutes on more ways to improve the quality of our local building materials.
5. Vacant houses in central urban areas can be converted to multi-residential flats, for rent.
The high cost of building has negative implications on the building industry, for example project abandonment, a drop in building construction and quality materials, and the inability to secure finance for projects. However, an application of the proffered solutions would reduce investment risks for contractors, obtain clear and effective strategies on how to reduce prices of building cost and generally, boost the viability and development of the industry.
On a final note, the Vice President, Yemi Osibajo has reiterated that the ministry of power, works and housing are collaborating with the Central Bank of Nigeria and Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria and other stakeholders to provide housing in the country, especially housing for low income earners.
He added that the present administration was currently constructing mass and affordable housing across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT through the National Housing Scheme.