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Regional News of Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Source: www.thisdaylive.com

No data to support 17m, 22m housing deficit claim - Fashola

Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works and Housing

The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola has said Nigeria does not have housing deficit of 17 million or 22 million homes, adding that there was no proven data to support that claim.

The minister stated this in his keynote address at the Concrete Ideas webinar organised by Lafarge Africa Plc., recently. The theme was ‘New Solutions to Nigeria’s Urban Housing’.

Fashola said he had approached the subject critically, stating that one of the things he was confronted with on resumption as minister of housing, was the talk about 17 million housing deficit which was credited to the World Bank.

“I invited the country manager for World Bank and said this is credited to you and he said no we have no hand in it and we know nothing about it. And then somebody said it was the African Development Bank and I called the country representative, and he said we know nothing about it.”

He then called the Director General of the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics and was told there was no data about people who need homes in Nigeria, but that there was data about the number of households (families in Nigeria), which is 35 million households.

So, he asked where the figure 17 million emanated from and the DG said if the analysis of that huge deficit exists then it means half of Nigeria is homeless. The DG then promised to collect data on this in future.

The minister said he then went to the Planning Commission that does census and told them the next census should include home ownership and home rental census, “because we can’t solve a problem that we cannot measure.

“And I kept digging and found where 17 million deficit claim came from- it came from my ministry (Works and Housing) in 2012. There was a policy document and in the preface, somebody just put if there. I’ve called my predecessor on this desk and she said there was no data to support it.

“Quote me, Nigeria does not have a 17-million or a 22-million housing deficit. Two interesting things are that in 2017 when our household survey was 35 million, the housing deficit was 17 million, that is 48.57 per cent of the household number. Now, there is an updated household survey that puts Nigeria’s household at 45, and you know the interesting thing, the housing deficit has followed it to 22 million which is being quoted and it is also 48 per cent. People are just adding up.”

The minister said the theme of the webinar was ideal by saying ‘New Solutions to Nigeria’s Urban Housing’. “It is an urban problem; it is not a rural problem. We don’t know the number, but it is an urban problem. So, in most of Nigerian rural areas, they don’t have housing challenges. In fact, many of the people sweating for an apartment in the city of Lagos, Aba, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, probably have a 4-bedroom or 5-bedroom bungalow in their village that are empty, unused, and therefore Lafarge is leading us in the right direction.”

Fashola said housing problem arose with rapid urbanisation. “So, there is demand and supply issue. Now, even in those urban centres, and I’ve travelled to all of Nigerian states by road, there are empty houses, unused houses, unoccupied houses.

“Before we begin to build, the question is have we optimised the ones we have? Why do you have a shortage when you have unused assets?” Let’s begin to think, do we have a 22-million housing demand? Because it is a business and if Lafarge is ready to build 22 million houses, then who will buy them?”

On his vision for urban housing in the country, the minister said land is a very crucial component in housing development but that it is controlled by the states and not by the federal government.

According to him, “Even if all the states government are building, as many of them are, housing is a commodity, so it is something that the private sector can leverage their entrepreneurial skills to deliver,” stating that “in the last four years, the footprint of real estate developers is increasing.”

He said government could strengthen that space by using its monetary and physical policy muscles to make it even more prolific to play in by bringing down the interest rates for lending and borrowing, and longer tenure financing.

He said he is having this discussion with the Minister of Finance Budget and Economic Planning.

He also stated that all the states houses of assembly and the states’ Attorneys General “must rise up to intervene on behalf of their residents by way of rent control,” stating that housing ought to be discussed in terms of ownership and rental.

He said, “Before you get to the ownership ladder, you get to the rental ladder first. But where you have people asking citizens to pay three years’ rent in advance from salaries earned monthly, there is a mismatch and housing can never be affordable.”

Another strategy he discussed with Lafarge was that there was need to change the building method to fit prevailing demand. For instance, people no longer demand 4-bedroom or 5-bedroom houses because they require small spaces and most use showers and not bathtubs. He advised that proper survey be done before developing a house for it to fit demand.

Fashola advised real estate developers to take into consideration a post-COVID world where people may want to do business remotely from their homes, even in their rural communities if they have broadband/internet.

He said post-COVID scenario is a defining barometer to determine whether rural-urban migration will continue. “Are we going to get to what it was like before COVID? What if we don’t need offices anymore, at least not at the rate highrise buildings were springing up, and we can do a lot of businesses from home. We have to rethink our investment in real estate. If I can talk to you from my village because I have broadband, then why should I come to the city and be struggling for a house? It is going to affect how other businesses are arranged. Urbanisation, in my view, is what encourage the development of highrise clusters and it has also affected how we feed during work hours, fast food, deliveries around urban conurbations. Is this going to continue? So, as we plan to invest, let’s think what does the future look like?

He also expressed his views about urbanisation and urban regeneration, saying there was a fine line between urban regeneration and gentrification. “Partnerships are instructive here and the private sector has a big role to play and it should be driven by data, science and to understand what the market says.”

He said in the last one year, a national policy has been developed to increase the use of cement and stone in the built industry, especially for roads, and “as a result of that our ministry was challenged and we have responded to government by developing a real design manual for concrete roads, which we have shared with all the states of the federation and the FCT at the National Council for Works last year.

“We are increasing the footprint of concrete roads in the country slowly but surely- the Apapa-Oworonsoki road, Obajana-Kaba road, Bodo-Bonny with NLNG, there is room for more concrete roads in the country and there is a design manual to guide everybody.”

The minister stated that the nation was in “interesting and challenging times, especially in the built industry” where a lot of initiatives were taking place.

He said, for instance, there is the Highway Development Management Initiative (HDMI), which is “the largest concession of public road ever undertaken on the continent of Africa.”

He commended Lafarge for concrete ideas, saying since its inauguration in 2020, it has gone on smoothly.

The Concrete Ideas webinar of Lafarge Africa, now in its third edition, began in October 2020. Present at the recent webinar, which was converged by Lafarge Africa Plc., included the company’s Chairman, Prince Adebode Adefioye; the Country Chief Executive Officer, Khaled El Dokani; and Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, Director, Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainable Development, Lafarge Africa.

The Panelists were, Dr. Ayo Tariba; Bldr. Kunle Awobodu; Amaka Nwokolo; and Jumoke Adegunle. The webinar was moderated by Arit Okpo.

The Chairman of Lafarge Africa gave the theme a thumb-up, saying “all industry players need to work in synergy to reverse the impending urban housing challenges.”

Adefioye noted that some recommendations from the two previous Concrete Ideas webinar were being implemented by the government in its policies, such as the implementation of the highway development management initiative (HDMI), by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, to attract the participation of the private sector in the development of infrastructure segment.

Also, the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) has mandated professional bodies in the built environment to develop a manual that will complement the Nigeria Industry Standard on cement (NIS 4441 of 2003), which was part of the recommendations in the second session, he said, and that recommendations from the series were being put together as blueprint in the sector.

The Country Chief Executive Officer, Khaled El Dokani thanked the minister for the valuable challenge and inspiration that he brings to the discussion.

Khaled El Dokani said the commitment of the federal government’s agencies towards encouraging private sector involvement in critical policy formulation cannot be overemphasised.

He called on all key stakeholders within the sector to work together to find solution to Nigeria’s urban housing initiatives, adding that Holcim was a leader in the construction industry.

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