• FG completes 2,249 units in 34 states, FCT in five years
• AHCN proposes an affordable housing development fund

These are not the best of times for the federal and state housing agencies, as supervisory ministries have taken over their duties, especially in the execution of estate projects.

The development has left workers in agencies or corporations idle for more than four years. While some agencies are forced to team up with the private sector under Public Private Partnership (PPP) to deliver houses, others are bemoaning their faith and are currently redundant.

At the inception of the current administration in 2015, the Federal Government promised to develop two million new homes in the first year and one million yearly thereafter, with a pledge to establish a vibrant mortgage system with a single interest rate to drive home ownership.

An assessment of the performance by the Association of Housing Corporations of Nigeria (AHCN) to their promises clearly depicts abysmal failure and insensitivity to the housing needs of the people, while state governments’ responses to the provision of affordable housing within the last year were nothing to write home about.

Specifically, 13 state corporations have their activities taken over by the ministries. They include Adamawa, Anambra, Bayelsa, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Ogun, Plateau, Rivers and Sokoto States.

Another 14 agencies that had been redundant are in Abia, Benue, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo, Kogi, Kwara, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Osun, Oyo and Zamfara.

Housing corporations were created as government agencies to execute public housing programme and undertake the development of housing estates by acquiring, developing, holding, managing, selling, leasing or letting any property movable or unmovable in their respective states within the overall framework of the national housing policy.

However, at the federal level, the government had completed the construction of 2,249 housing units in 34 states and FCT in the last five years out of the 4,694 housing units construction undertaken during the period.

The Federal Ministry of Works and Housing completed and commissioned only 1,487 housing units this year with 519 units through the PPP model and 968 units under the National Housing Programme (NHP). States that benefitted from the NHP delivered directly by the ministry include Delta (68 units), Nasarawa (76 units), Kaduna (80 units), Kogi (76 units), Osun (68 units), Sokoto (80 units), Imo (68 units), Kano (76 units), Niger (80 units), Edo (68 units), Jigawa (76 units), Taraba (76 units) and Gombe (76 units).

Similarly, the Family Homes Funds Limited boosted the National Social Housing Programme by investing over N19.9 billion across six states, for the development of 2,754 homes for low-income families, in partnership with the respective state governments, private developers and a Women Housing Society in Kaduna.

The 2,754 homes, which are spread across the states of Akwa Ibom (650 units); Enugu (250 units); Kebbi (620 units); Zamfara (600 units); Kano (500 units); and Kaduna (134 units) will enable low-income families to own their own homes to be completed by April 2023.

AHCN President/Chairman of Council, Dr Victor Onukwugha, said both federal and most state ministries of housing are now duly involved in direct housing construction.

“Social housing is no longer on the agenda of virtually all the state governors and those that have little interest would rather embark on PPP than use their state housing corporations to execute their housing projects,” he said.

He said the idea of federal and state ministries’ involvement in direct construction should be discontinued, henceforth, while state housing agencies should be saddled with the implementation of government policy of housing provision.

“Ministries both at the federal and state levels have no business in direct construction. Usurpation of the statutory responsibilities of housing agencies in housing construction and development (which has become a norm) for federal and state governments by ministries is purely an unnecessary duplication of duty, which will in the long run cause distraction, needless rivalry, unfair competition and sheer wastages and repetition of efforts and resources.

“Incessant building collapse, improper planning of our cities, charlatanism, usage of fake building materials among others are some of the consequences of distraction arising from this usurpation and participation of ministry in direct construction,” he said.

Onukwugha in a document known as the ‘State of the Nation’s Housing Address,’ stressed that the federal and state levels have done very little over the years to respond to social housing and address the increasing housing deficit, “It is therefore worrisome that we have continued to move in a circle without notable improvement in addressing housing shortage and deficits across the country.

“Housing ministries should strictly reduce their activities to policy formulation and monitor statutory parastatals to ensure policy compliance and accomplishment.

“The Ministry of Housing both at the federal and state level should concentrate on providing the enabling environment and supervision for the housing agency to fulfil its statutory mandates. Therefore, the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and state housing agencies should be repositioned to spearhead the provision of social housing.”

To address the question of availability and affordability of the lower segment of society, he urged the government to come up with a deliberate policy to encourage private developers to engage in low-income housing through attractive tax rebates and incentives.

One such incentive, the AHCN president suggested, is a specially crafted housing finance from commercial banks backed and supported by appropriate laws that will regulate the process both on the supply and demand sides at a single-digit interest rate.

With the rising instability in the foreign exchange market, the association recommended the use of local building materials, to be encouraged and promoted to arouse acceptability by the public, who have developed apathy for its usage.

“There are different components of local materials that have been developed that could be used to bring down the cost of development for the low-income. These materials should be strictly regulated with the creation of appropriate standards of quality to prevent the production of sub-standard materials in the market.

“Government should therefore be at the forefront of promoting these materials to service the needs of the low-income group. Importation of building materials that are readily available locally should be discouraged through high taxes,” Onukwugha said.

The association also called for the establishment and creation of a special development fund under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Intervention Fund for state housing corporations and FHA for rental and affordable mass housing provision.

Under the proposed scheme, the state governments will provide landed property and infrastructural facilities through state housing corporations for such construction as their social responsibility to the people.

To ensure a continuous flow of funds into rental housing, the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria Mortgage Refinancing Company and FHFL will be co-opted into the administration of the proposed special fund to service both the demand and supply end of the rental housing.

A government policy that will also mandate commercial banks to set aside a certain percentage of their funds for lending to low-income real estate development at a single-digit interest rate is also suggested.