The federal and state governments may have abandoned the social housing scheme, which is part of strategies for the provision of houses for low-income earners due to high rate of inflation and construction costs.

The scheme provides a window of opportunity for governments at all levels to demonstrate their commitment to the provision of social housing as a social responsibility to the citizenry, thereby institutionalising an efficient, responsive and sustainable mechanism for housing delivery.

In the history of states, The Guardian gathered that only Lagos has built what could be called low-income/social housing estates, which was built in the 1980’s by former governor, the late Lateef Jakande. Findings further show that the estates spread across the state are still serving low-income earners.

The disappearance of social housing schemes had begun in 1984 after the exit of President Shehu Shagari, whom many development experts believed exhibited an ideal disposition to the provision of housing for the poor at a highly subsidised rate.

However, most of the housing units built by subsequent governments are profit-oriented and largely for middle-income, high income earners and mostly unaffordable to low-income earners.

According to the National Housing Policy document, the various housing policies and programmes of governments have been ill-managed and financed to the point where the targeted low-income segment of the population never benefited from the scheme.

Investigations revealed that the Nigerian urban housing market, primarily targets high income-earners and thus leaves a large number of the Nigerian population excluded from formal housing provision.

In general, low-income households face a number of barriers such as weak individual purchasing power; lack of access to housing finance; unavailable complementary goods, such as land, infrastructure and insufficient housing supply required to meet the actual demand of the urban poor.

Regrettably, many Nigerians are paying more rent than they could afford, and many are left without homes. The cost at which the government sells its property is as high as the cost of those developed by the private sector, who have become the most active providers of houses.

Currently, many Nigerians in urban areas live in slums or uncompleted buildings due to their inability to afford decent and adequate housing. Housing affordability is not guaranteed with most households now spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing, including utilities.

Nigeria’s population keeps increasing, estimated at between 185 to 201 million people with a growth rate of about 2.8 per cent per year merely compounds the situation. Estimates show that the national housing supply shortage ranges from 22 million housing units, while the nation needs about two million housing units yearly to meet the huge housing gap and currently, supply is less than 20,000 per year.

Despite the N200 billion facility set aside by the Federal Government for the social housing scheme by the previous administration, not much success has been recorded. The social housing scheme facility is one of the planned schemes under the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) prepared by the then Vice President Yemi Osinbajo-led Economic Sustainability Committee.

It was approved by the Federal Executive Council, supported by the Central Bank of Nigeria and targeted at providing 300,000 low-income houses, as well as creating 1.8 million jobs in the process.

The Family Homes Fund, the federal agency, was designated to implement the scheme in 20 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The states are Osun, Ogun, Enugu, Delta, Bauchi, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Plateau, Federal Capital Territory, Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Imo, Cross River, Sokoto, Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, Borno, and Yobe States.

Stakeholders said while social housing is a way out of the housing debacle, there was a need for intensive development of local building materials, creation of a viable mortgage finance structure, adequate access to cheap land to boost access to affordable housing for low and middle-income segments.

An Estate Surveyor and Valuer, Prof. Kemiki Adebowale, blamed the Nigerian economy for not being buoyant to accommodate social housing. He said when the state governments are struggling to pay salaries; it’s difficult to delve into social housing provision.

Adebowale, a former Head of Department, Estate Management and Valuation, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State said: “When you talk about social housing, we talk about providing housing for the people without adding profit. If you recall during the Shagari era in the 1980’s, we had social housing at that time because of the oil boom.

“That’s what led to the development of Shagari Estates and Federal housing estates in some state capitals. Thereafter, we had the creation of new states, but unfortunately when those new states were created; our economy began to nosedive.”

He suggested that the government improve infrastructural facilities like road, electricity, water and others across the country, as well as introduce site and services schemes to reduce the cost of providing infrastructure in housing developments.

Former chairman, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) Lagos branch, Adedotun Bamigbola, observed that the general attention by states has always been towards income generation rather than provision of social housing.

He said the resources coming from the Federal Government seem inadequate for maintenance of infrastructure.”In other climes, public officers pay for living in government houses, but it is a different case here. The government pays for everything and allowances are huge.

“That takes some huge funds away and that’s why our recurrent expenditure is higher than capital expenditure. The governments are left with little resources for capital expenditure”, Bamigbola said.

Bamigbola said many states are not enjoying substantial internally generated revenue, saying, “When the revenues are substantial, it means state’s services including land are commercialised, especially in Abuja and Lagos.

“When government services are commercialised, it becomes difficult to consider social housing provisions for the masses, whose incomes are low. The government claims it provides infrastructure as a contribution to the wellbeing of the people but forgetting that housing is a critical component that can’t be left out.”

Unfortunately, he said housing provision has been left for the private sector alone, explaining that whenever the government carries out its interventions, the political class and upper civil service class take advantage of them because the cost of developing the houses is higher than what low-income earners could afford.

He lamented the ‘cash and carry’ syndrome in the country, which does not allow social housing to thrive. “Social housing is all about the political will to do it. The places where you need social housing more are in the urban centres not in the outskirts; but the government is not thinking that way because they know the prices of land in urban centres are high,” Bamigbola added.

The Executive Secretary, Association of Housing Corporation of Nigeria (AHCN), Toye Eniola, said social housing is supposed to be the responsibility of the government, but all levels pay lip service to it.

Eniola said social housing needs long-term funding and the government needs to assist state’s housing corporations with long-term funding with tenure of 10 to 15 years at an interest rate that is not more than five per cent. “It goes beyond releasing money; there are ways by which they can create a conducive environment that will enhance the effectiveness of social housing, “he said.

But, he stated that the government is not willing to stand as guarantors for state’s housing corporations to access such loans, hence; the lack of social housing for Nigerians.