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Affordable Housing For All

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CHIKA OKEKE writes on steps taken by agencies under the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to provide affordable housing for Nigerians.

The provision of affordable housing to Nigerians is the responsibility of government at all levels, though assisted by the private sector.

However, the inability of workers to own low-cost housing in line with globally accepted standard had been  a source of concerns to successive governments.

But so many factors including policy somersault, population growth, bureaucracies in land acquisition, delay in issuing governor’s consent, greed and corruption in the sector, among others, have contributed to making it difficult for workers to own decent accomodation. With an annual population growth rate of 3.5 per cent, Nigeria needs additional one million housing units annually to reduce the deficit by 2033.

The deficit, pegged at between 17 to 20 million housing units would cost the federal government more than N6 trillion to bridge the gap. Housing plays a critical role in human development as shelter has been identified as the second most basic need of man aside food and clothing.

To bolster housing development, the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), being the two agencies under the Ministry of Housing recently embarked on series of housing projects.

The FHA commenced the preparation for Abuja Mass housing project, Zuba in the second half of 2017 following the release of N5 billion from the federal government.

All technical documentations were done and the first phase of the awards were carried out in February 2018 through selective tendering process while subsequent awards were done through open tendering process.

The Zuba project was initially planned for 16 units of three bedroom block of eight flats, 25 units of two bedroom block of eight flats, 10 units of one bedroom block of 16 flats and five units of three bedroom block of terrace duplex of 4 units, with a total of 508 housing units.

The project tagged, ‘Affordable Nationwide Housing Project’ which is the pilot scheme, kick- started in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) at the Zuba site, Katsina and Ibadan with plans for it to be replicated in other states upon completion of the first phase.

The Kwali mass housing site is another project undertaken by FHA to boost affordable housing. Sited at Lambata, behind federal government college Kwali, it is a 305 hectares of land given to FHA under the Abuja mass housing programme. It comprises of 12 blocks of I bedroom flat (192) and 8 blocks of 2 bedroom flat (64).

Contracts were awarded for the development of phase 1 of the land in May 2018 but due to conflicts in payment of compensation and poor weather conditions like rainfall, the project was relocated to Zuba as approved by FHA board.

With the relocation of 256 units from Kwali site, the Abuja project, expected to roll out 764 houses for off-takers comprising of civil servants and informal sectors has gulped the sum of N6.62 billion already.

Also, the FMBN in partnership with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (NUC), and Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) commenced the construction of 1,400 affordable housing units for workers nationwide last year. 

The Nasarawa and Kogi housing sites were the first of the fourteen locations to be used as the pilot phase of the programme, with 200 housing units expected to be constructed in each of the six geopolitical zones in addition to Lagos and Abuja.

The housing scheme is a product of strategic collaboration between FMBN and labour unions towards addressing the housing needs of its members estimated at 3.75 million units.

The house types captured proven social housing models, comprising of one bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, with prices ranging from N3.1 million to N8.3 million.

Also, the bank has expended N2.8 billion in the construction of 985 housing units in Enugu State for Nigerian workers contributing to the National Housing Fund (NHF) under the National Affordable Housing Delivery Programme (NAHDEP).

During the inspection of Zuba project, managing director of FHA, Prof. Mohammed Al-Amin noted that 30 FHA staff were working at the site even as over 10, 000 people such as welders, suppliers, bricklayers and food vendors were employed as support staff.

He disclosed that the agency has already profiled 46 sites for the affordable nationwide housing project and would deploy resources to the new sites after the pilot scheme. The project which is almost 80 percent completed is surrounded by the Zuba Model Market, FCT College of Education and Zuba Spare Parts Market.

According to him, “That is why we chose this location in Zuba for these houses; it is not in Maitaima, Asokoro or Jabi rather, we decided to take the project to the outskirt of FCT to build for some specific Nigerians who must have these houses.”

The managing director hinted that the agency is building another mass housing project in Bwari to enable low income earners who could not afford the luxury of owning homes in the central business district or hinterland acquire the homes.

The FHA boss promised that the authority would take necessary steps to ensure that the genuine off-takers access the houses without hitches by encouraging groups to form housing cooperatives.

“Forming cooperatives does not only mean getting land and building the houses but there are certain things we consider during the allocation”, he said, assuring that FHA would do better in terms of the finishing especially in the toilet and rooms to enable them come up with better cost for the houses.

Al-Amin vowed that the authority would build affordable housing across the local government in state capitals, upon completion of the pilot project.

The minister of power, works and housing, Babatunde Fashola lauded the agency for not compromising on the quality and standard of building materials used at the site, saying that the houses would meet the generally global standard of public housing in terms of its fittings and finishing when completed.

“We are trying to get what fits the pocket of ordinary Nigerians and the federal government is very determined on the housing projects because it will be efficient but not luxurious”, he said.

He described the project as the kind of designs found in Council flats in England but enjoined FHA to work on the cost of the prices and give him feedback. The minister suggested that reducing the quantity of tiles in the toilets and kitchen from the upper area might likely reduce the cost of the houses.

Fashola reiterated the commitment of the federal government in the provision of affordable housing as the construction ecosystem for mass employment and economic prosperity in the country.

He disclosed that one other  way government would ensure that low income earners benefited in the current housing schemes is by introducing ‘rent-to-own scheme’.

The minister expected that the off-takers would acquire the houses through mortgage, saying that federal government has reduced the equity contribution of the mortgage system to boost affordability.

Fashola said that people, who would take up the houses, were expected to equally have Mortgage finance from the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN).

According to him, “If you have mortgage finance from FMBN and you are working for the next 20 years, N10 million will be affordable for you if you pay monthly deductions over your career and the house is already yours because you contributed”.

On the progress of work at the National Housing Programme (NHP) site in the other states, he stated that large number of the buildings has been completed.

He maintained that because of the type of infrastructure needed at the sites that heavy mortar, concrete castings likewise the payment gap that it would take some time to finish the condominium.

Cross section of support staff and skilled workers at the FHA site also commended federal government for improving their livelihood through the project.

A man who identified himself as Engr. Kunle pointed out that the project assisted many unemployed people like masons, carpenters and iron benders to return to work.

Jacob Danladi, a security man working with one of the contractors at the site appreciated the APC- led federal government for initiating the project even as he sought the continuation of the project.

Another artisan, a tiler who gave his name as Peter said that he has been able to feed his family through the project, and pleaded with government to initiate more projects. A food vendor at the site, Rosemary, described the project as people-oriented as it created employment opportunities for many families.

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