The President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led administration is perfecting plans to launch a new housing initiative targeting low-income earners, the underprivileged, and vulnerable Nigerians residing in shanties and slums throughout the country.

The initiative known as the National Social Housing Fund is to see that basic shelter is provided for this class of Nigerians, possibly, at zero cost to them because, according to Ahmed Dangiwa, Minister of Housing and Urban Development, “if you say someone is vulnerable or underprivileged and has no income, you don’t need to demand for anything from him.”

“We have already carved out a framework to establish that National Social Housing Fund; it’s being undertaken,” Dangiwa, who spoke in an interview monitored in Lagos, said, adding that a consultant who is looking into it has been engaged by the ministry.

The consultant will soon make a presentation to the ministry having been asked to come up with a framework to establish the Housing Fund in addition to telling the government how it is going to source the funding.

The minister believes, however, that funding for the initiative can be sourced from various avenues. “We intend to find a way of getting donors from agencies or donations from individual Nigerians. If you take 20 million Nigerians; if they can donate N3,000 monthly for 10 months; that’s 30,000 each from 20 million Nigerians, we are going to have N600 billion. That N600 billion will build 100 houses in 774 local governments at the cost of N8 million Naira per unit,” he said.

For him, it’s a matter of will on the part of the government to do that, noting, “You think it’s difficult but it may not be difficult for you, for me, or for other individuals. N3,000 monthly for 10 months, by the time we get the aggregate of N30,000 for a minimum of 20 million Nigerians who are able to do that in order to cater for a certain category of people who don’t have their home, that will give you N600billion and that’s for 777, 400 Nigerians.”

Dangiwa disclosed that the designs and costing of the project have been done. They are only waiting for the consultant to finish his work, pointing out that the donation by individual Nigerians is just one out of many other ways to fund the project.

He affirmed that many houses in the federal capital territory are empty because either the rents are too high or the selling price is way up there and people can’t afford it. Some people are, however, squatting or occupying some of these houses illegally.

He noted that the empty houses belong to developers or rich men who built and left them empty, adding that such owners cannot bring down the cost of those houses and, because they are unoccupied, the government is losing the tenement rate that the owners would have paid.

“We have set up a committee to investigate those empty houses, identify the owners so that they will start charging them tenement rates in order to entice them to go back and then give them out at a minimum amount that Nigerians cannot afford.

“You cannot build houses without knowing whom you are building them for. If you build for the high income, identify them before you finish so that some revenue will be coming into the government purse,” he advised, revealing that the committee has started working and will soon give its report.

He revealed further that the ministry was not going to work in isolation of FCTA, advising that the property owners should either sell them to be put to use or they should rent them out. “We are charging for those empty houses that are deliberately left empty by their owners,” he said.

Source: Business Day