To reduce the shortage in affordable housing, the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI), Nigeria Chapter, has advised the Federal Government to implement its various housing development programmes, which will provide shelter for Nigerians.

The association, also expressed worries over urban population in the country, which rose from a comparatively size of about 10.36 million in 1970 to a whopping 109.62 million in 2021, lamenting that the growth is not matched headlong with same rate of growth in infrastructure and affordable housing, especially for low and medium income earners.

FIABCI President, Mr. Gladstone Opara, who spoke at at an event to mark the World Habitat Day said Nigeria had made laws and proposed several housing programmes, such as the National Housing Policy (NHP) and Family Homes Fund (FHF) since independence that would have helped to give relief if they were judiciously implemented.

Unfortunately, he said many other programmes have never lived up to expectation and they have literally been abandoned.

“In 1991, the government seemed to have realised the need to provide safe, comfortable, attractive, functional, affordable and identifiable shelter within a neighbourhood, supported by continuous maintenance of the built environment. So, the same year, the National Housing Policy was birthed.”

Apart from encouraging piecemeal developments by individuals and private developers, the NHP was targeted mainly towards providing mass housing to the tune of 1,000,000 housing units yearly spread round the country. The Federal Government inaugurated the Family Homes Fund, as part of the (2017-2020) Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERCG).

“This was targeted at boosting financing in the construction sector so as to be able to achieve construction of 2,700 housing units in the short term and about 10,000 units in 2020 with the creation of about 105,000 yearly. Unfortunately, all the above and many other programmes have never lived up to expectation and they have literally been abandoned.”

The FIABCI president, therefore, advised government to revive these seemingly dead programmes because the inaction may make the already bad situation irredeemable in future.

He further noted that for the third time in one year, the Monetary Policy Rate was jerked up by the Central Bank of Nigeria, initially from 13.5 per cent in May to 14 per cent in July and 15.5 per cent in September 2022. All these, he stated, mean further tightening of the hold on interest rates, which affects property development negatively.

He added: “We advise government and property developers should consider provision of shelter for all as a social responsibility and not for economic gain alone as it is right now. The COVID- 19 saga has very much helped to underpin the need for shelter as a protective tool for all.

The fact that those who did not have roof over their heads still constituted public risk to all during the lockdown periods corroborates the need for priority attention to be given to human shelter with less consideration for the economic gains. Government should embark on social housing, which is one of the proposals in the NHP.”

According to him, all strata of economic status of the populace should be considered in the provision of housing, warning that the current arrangement does not give security to the poor, weak and vulnerable in society.

The FIABCI boss explained: “A situation where a shelter provider borrows funds at more than 30 per cent interest rate will force prices of properties to skyrocket and further deny the poor access to affordable shelter.

“There is need for the government to wedge into this matter and ensure easily affordable mortgages for property development or arrange the construction of low cost houses. The ease of doing business should be encouraged by removing all bureaucratic bottlenecks in land acquisitions and registration and procurement of credit facilities for real estate developments.”

He argued that rapid urbanisation should be matched with rapid provision of infrastructure like good roads and expanded transportation network, water, security and good sanitation to avoid forcing the environment to turn to slums as has been experienced in several cities in Nigeria.

“Town planning and environmental rules must be adhered to by all and sundry and strictly enforced. Green and smart developments should be encouraged to reduce carbon emissions and its dangerous effect on the ozone layer. Rapid urbanisation is supposed to be a blessing and a confirmation of positive growth to a society,” Opara said.