Charity Simon, Abuja
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Wednesday, in Abuja outlined the roadmap of his Ministry to achieving a sustainable Housing delivery in the country saying the first key to the roadmap in housing was planning.
Fashola, who spoke at the 35th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Shelter Afrique in Abuja, said in order to meet the real demand of the majority of Nigerians in housing, it was not only necessary but expedient to embark on proper planning adding that it is the key to project completion, cost control and reduction in variation requests as well as financial calculations.
Noting that what the country now has as a National Housing Policy was only a Policy Statement and not a plan, the Minister declared, “We must never tire to explain the necessity and importance of proper planning. It is the key to successful execution, it is the key to project completion, it is the key to cost control and reduction in variation requests and financial calculations”.
“I acknowledge that there is, for example, a National Housing Policy of 2012. Some have chosen to call it a plan. To the extent that it is a broad statement of intent about providing housing, it is a policy statement”, the Minister said adding that his Ministry was currently developing the needed plan to make the housing policy a reality.
Elaborating further on the plans of his Ministry, Fashola, who explained that the plan requires “a clear understanding of who we want to provide housing for”, added, “I recognize that there are people who want land to build for themselves, there are also people who want town houses and duplexes, whether detached or semi-detached”, pointing out that this category of people were not in the majority.
According to him, “The people who we must focus on are those in the majority and those who are most vulnerable; the people who are in the bracket of those who graduated from University about five years ago and more. People who are in the income bracket of grade level 9 to 15 in the public service and their counterparts, taxi drivers, market men and women, farmers, artisans who earn the same range of income”.
Fashola said in order to capture the target population, the Ministry needed to conduct a survey to determine what they expect and what they could pay as well as evolve agreeable housing types, between two to four designs that have a broad, national cultural acceptance adding that there was need also to standardize the designs “so that we can then design moulds to accelerate the number that can be built”.
Also the plan requires the standardization of the size of doors, windows, toilet and bath fittings, lighting fittings and other accessories so that the small and medium enterprises could “respond to supply all the building materials, create diversification and jobs; and ensure that projects are completed with a steady supply of materials”.
Other requirements in his Ministry’s plans, the Minister said, include ensuring that the designs reflect behavioral patterns of Nigerians, such as adequate storage, and other lifestyle needs, that there is ready water supply, power supply, waste and sewage management and paying attention to the transport needs and land density prescriptions of the communities that are built.
The plans also include ensuring that the process of issuing legal title is in place and focus on post-construction maintenance to ensure that the houses remain in good condition after they have been sold to the owners.
Expressing pleasure that a lot of work has been done by staff of the Ministry towards concluding the plans, Fashola, who also acknowledged the voluntary contribution of some private sector to the initiatives, announced that 12 states have responded to the request for land adding that while more responses are awaited, the Ministry was taking the next step to survey the plots of land and develop layouts, preparatory to commencing development.
“In essence, the road to Nigeria’s housing challenge lies in meticulous planning and original thinking”, he said adding, “I am of the view that the solution to housing Africa’s urban low income population must proceed along the same basis by each African country”.
Recalling the recent Habitat III Summit hosted in Abuja in February 2016, Fashola pointed out that a major declaration about the need for Africans to take responsibility and be original in developing their own solutions was made in the Abuja declaration adding, “It is a document that I commend all of us”.
The Minister, who also recalled his meeting with the Managing Director of Shelter Afrique earlier in the year to review preparations for the ongoing Annual General Meeting, said one of the things he requested of him was that the Managing Director should furnish him with a report of the impact of Shelter Afrique’s initiative for his assessment adding that his request was based on his belief that the success of any project and the possibility of improving upon it depends on the ability to measure it.
According to the Minister, highlights of the report showed that between 2005 and 2010, Shelter Afrique in Nigeria had financed 23 initiatives with a total of $52,175,000(Approximately N10.435 BILLION) adding that of these initiatives, 15 represented lending for construction of housing projects, out of which the largest was for $7 million for 376 houses of different types, and 251 serviced plots, followed by 287 mixed housing units for a cooperative society, 55 housing units and 100 Service plots and the least was for 16 maisonettes.
“This is the intervention on the supply side of housing to provide houses. The remaining eight interventions were for mortgage financing to building societies, credit line for individual mortgages and related financing, on the demand side of housing, to provide finance”, he said.
According to him, the other parts of the report also showed a financing of $60,400,000 (Approximately N12.08 Billion) over the last three years in 10 interventions adding that out of these 10, seven were for housing construction, namely 287 units, 90 units, 15 floor commercial complex, 59 housing units, 300 housing units, 130 apartments and 44 housing units on the supply side.
“The remaining three interventions were for equity investment in the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) ($3M); and credit lines for on-lending for mortgage totaling $13 Million (N2.6 BILLION)”, he said adding, “Given the topic of this symposium, which is ‘Housing Africa’s Urban Low Income Population’, “I am mindful that Shelter Afrique is not the only interventionist in the market, but I think that if we use this as a case study and benchmark ourselves, we can improve our efforts by measuring our progress and trying new things”.
The Minister noted that over the years, Nigeria has embarked on a series of housing initiatives but not one of them has been pursued with consistency or any measurable sustainability adding, “In the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, we are convinced that these unsustainable efforts must change, and give way to a sustainable and well thought out initiative”.
“We are convinced that this change must be led by Government and subsequently driven by the private sector”, he said citing as example of a sustained housing initiative, the public housing initiative of the United Kingdom which, he said, was started by government in 1918 and as of 2014, 64.8 per cent of UK’s 53 million people are home owners.
Also citing the Singaporean initiative which was started by government in 1960, the Minister, who said it has provided housing for 80 per cent of its three million people, declared, “What is common to both models, is that there was a uniformity of design, a common target to house working class people, and not the elite, standardization of fittings like doors, windows, space, electrical and mechanical, and also a common concept of neighborhood”.
“The Shelter Afrique report which I disclosed to you does not share these characteristics. It shows funding for diverse initiatives such as service plots, commercial complex, apartments, and mixed housing”, he said adding that after the announcement that the present Government would be building houses, scores of proposals have been received from people with majority of them saying they want to build 10,000 units of housing.
Saying although he would love to see houses built in such large numbers, the Minister, however, noted that the Ministry’s interrogation of the proposals showed that none of the people who wanted to build 10,000 houses could show any evidence that they have previously built 500 houses to show their capacity.
“A sizable number of them are Road construction companies, and I am aware that the logistics for road construction are quite different from that for housing construction. Some of them want to build duplexes and I think we all agree that this is not where the demand of Africa’s urban low income lies”, he said adding that one of them who had signed a contract to deliver a 1,000 housing unit estate since around 2013 had run into difficulty after building 84 units.
Pointing out that many of the Public Private Partnership housing initiatives entered into have either stalled as a result of funding, lack of capacity, land disputes or court cases, Fashola, who noted that it was not the road to sustainability, declared, “Ladies and Gentlemen, a lot of money has passed through the African continent from oil, Agro- produce, mining, trade and other sources, but it is yet to deliver on the promise of prosperity that lies on the horizon”.
“I know that there is a high expectancy out there. But everything tells me that as desirous as speed is, for us to respond to people’s expectations, we must be careful not to build roads that go nowhere; instead, we must be meticulous, focused and dedicated to build a road to prosperity”, he said.