By Ukpono Ukpong

Nigeria’s growing number of homeless people has been a cause for concern for many well-meaning Nigerians and international organizations alike.

These have been aggravated by the exploding population Nigeria is currently facing. Housing deficit, when left unabated, could lead to an increase in crime, an outbreak of diseases, unaffordable house prices as well as poor standards of living. It can also contribute to sexual and gender based violence when people are stuck with abusers in order to access shelter as witnessed during the covid-19 pandemic.

According to experts, affordable housing is a major key to reducing intergenerational poverty and increasing economic mobility.

Research has shown that increasing access to affordable housing is the most cost-effective strategy for reducing childhood poverty and increasing economic mobility.

Increasing access to affordable housing bolsters economic growth. Moreover, every naira invested to provide affordable housing helps to boost local economies by leveraging public and private resources to generate income including resident earnings and additional local tax revenue and supports job creation and retention.

Stanford economist, Raj Chetty found that children who moved to lower-poverty neighborhoods saw their earnings as adults increase by approximately 31%, an increased likelihood of living in better neighborhoods as adults, and a lowered likelihood of becoming a single parent.

Moreover, children living in stable, affordable homes are more likely to thrive in school and have greater opportunities to learn inside and outside the classroom.

If this research is anything to go by, then the puzzle of why poverty, stunted economic growth, increasing number of rape cases, increase in crime, an incessant outbreak of diseases, and a high number of teenage pregnancies which in most cases lead to single parenting, etc have turned Nigeria to her base is not far fetched.

Accordingly, the Nigerian government and some non-governmental organizations have initiated several interventions to bridge the housing deficit gap in the country.

For instance, the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Nigeria (REDAN), has initiated several programs designed to enhance housing delivery in Nigeria for the benefit of all Nigerians. One such laudable project is the Rural Urban Housing Initiative (RUHI 774).

REDAN is the principal agency and an umbrella body of the organized real estate sector (public and private) recognized by the federal government and saddled with the responsibility of facilitating the delivery of affordable mass housing in Nigeria.

RUHI 774 initiative is a National Housing Development Agenda aimed at supplying affordable and quality housing across the rural and urban areas of the country.

The scheme targets at least 100 housing units in each of the 774 local government areas of the country including the FCT.

This initiative has been applauded by many Nigerians, as it has provided them with an avenue to acquire quality houses at affordable rates.

According to records from the Federal Mortgage Bank, Nigeria is currently plagued with a deficit of about 28 million housing units.

The scheme is supported by two major financial institutions in the building industry that are REDAN’s strategic and reliable partners viz: Family Homes Funds Limited (FHFL) and Shelter Afrique.

In an interview with the REDAN President, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko, he revealed that currently, the Association through the help of the Ministry of Finance and Shelter Afrique has packaged about 6000 housing units (1000 each per geopolitical zone).

Speaking further on the issue of RUHI 774, he also disclosed that the portal has been opened and over 20,000 Nigerians who are home seekers have indicated interest and work has since commenced ensuring that they are all settled with an affordable and quality house.

“We are investors, we source money from all the financial institution that gives out money for construction. Already on the ground, we have over 5,800 hectares of land across the country for the provision of houses to Nigerians.

“We have also collaborated with so many institutions to help us provide these houses at ease. One such financial institution we are in collaboration with is shelter Afrique. A Pan African Bank, which Nigeria is part of the investors (part of the 44 member countries) and is investing not less than $8 million every year.

“It is on this basis that we engage them and they have agreed to provide us with 12,000 housing unit financing.

“We thank the Minister of Finance for giving a sort of waiver to Shelter Afrique for them to be able to provide affordable housing finance in Nigeria which we have packaged about 6000 housing units (1000 each per geopolitical zone).

“At the moment, we have opened a portal. I have printed out the forms. I’ve printed out 80,000 forms for free. We gave it out to Nigerians. Our target is paramilitary and civil servants. We have given these forms then free for them to fill out. Presently I have over 20,000 registered home seekers in our portal, what we do is that in any local government if we’re able to get 70 out of 100, we’ll start building because we are investors and we cannot start building where we don’t have the people who are willing to take it.”

While emphasizing the ability to provide the houses and the affordability, he disclosed that extra measures have been taken by the association which includes engaging the financial institutions to ensure its actualization.

Furthermore, he said that the Association has also engaged the building Materials Producers Association, which has all agreed to give a concessionary price to them based on their effort to build affordable houses for Nigerians.

“We build made-in-Nigeria houses. We don’t want to bring anything from outside, so we want to also industrialize the country through this project.”

According to Wamakko, the major design trust of the RUHI 774 scheme is anchored on the principle of affordability without compromising quality, taking into cognizance the social and economic status of the people living in the area.

Consequently, the target beneficiaries include low and medium-income civil/public servants, police and paramilitary personnel as well as employees in the private sector and any person with the capacity to pay.

Wamakko said that the selling price range of the houses comes in the form of, One Bedroom (1) Fully Detached, One Bedroom (1) Semi-Detached, One (1) Bedroom Block of flats, Two (2) Bedroom Fully Detached Bungalows, Two (2) Bedroom Semi Detached Bungalows, Two (2) Bedroom Block of Flats, Three (3) Bedroom Fully Detached Bungalows, Three (3) Bedroom Semi Detached Bungalows and Three (3) Bedroom Block of Flats, are determined by location and house type.

“Houses in rural areas go between N2.5 million and N6 million, Semi-urban areas go between N3 million and N9 million, Urban Areas, between N4 million and N10 million, while that of Cosmopolitan Areas such as Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja goes between N5 million and N13 million.

“Construction Finance payment structure includes; 30-50% at first instance, thereafter based on the value of work executed.

“Mortgage Loan for National Housing Fund (NHF) contributors to access mortgage facility of FMBN. Off-take finance from Family Homes Funds Limited. Direct Monthly Deduction from Salary source via their institutions/organizations’ paymaster by setting up an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) in favor of FHFL. Pension Commission/Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) in respect of Retirement Benefits, Instalment Payment through Financial Institutions and One Off Payment.”

Speaking on the repayment plans obtainable under the RUHI 774 Housing program, Wamakko said that the mortgage repayment plans are flexible with a low-interest rate of 6-9% and a tenor of between 20-25 years.

He said that the completion period for the houses is between six months to one year.

When asked about the secret behind the successful implementation of projects initiated by REDAN or its members, Wamakko said that it is standard procedure in the association that

Wamakko said that the secret behind its successes in delivering quality and affordable houses stems from the association’s uncompromised standard of procedure.

He said that the association goes the extra mile to ensure that its members deliver quality houses to all its clients as there are severe sanctions for those who are
found to have defaulted.

Speaking further, he said that REDAN ensures up to 100% refund to a client who presents genuine cases where their members defaulted.

According to him, some of the challenges faced by her members include a lack of funding and a bailout for the housing industry.

He said that in the coming years, the association would like to expand its net to accommodate more people from the informal sector.

Speaking with Mrs. Mary Uche, one of the beneficiaries who stay in one of the estates developed by REDAN, she expressed satisfaction with the entire process as well as the house she got.

Uche said “the process was seamless. It was too good to be true. When I told my colleagues about it, they were surprised and some of them have indicated interest after seeing my house.”

Also, Malam Bello Mustapha, a civil servant, said he was surprised when the keys to the house were handed over to him saying, “I am so excited that I now live in my own house. I don’t have to bother myself about rent anymore. The most surprising part is that the house is not just affordable but also of good quality.”

On her part, one of the prospective beneficiaries who want to be identified and Madam Helen said “seeing what is on the ground, I mean this that have gotten their houses, and the level of work going on at the site, I’m confident that they will deliver mine soonest”.

Other occupants who preferred not to disclose their identities, all testified how smooth and unbelievable the entire process was, even as some were not happy that some of their friends couldn’t benefit at the moment because they were in the informal sector.