For mass housing to be feasible, a lot of work needed to be done by the government at various levels, as well as the mega housing solutions providers.
It is not an over- statement that there is indeed an acute shortage of housing in Nigeria generally, and the seriousness of this could be seen in fast growing metropolis and mega cities like Port Harcourt and Lagos among others.
The high demand in housing has made the cost of building a home and house rent almost beyond the reach of some, while most workers spend at least 30 percent of their income in servicing their rents, particularly in the densely populated mega city like Port Harcourt.
Government at various levels and at different time had taken steps towards provision of affordable housing for its citizens, coupled with other efforts made by private investors, especially in the housing sector to address the problem, yet it has appeared that these efforts have actually not made visible marks in addressing housing problem.
There are key factors that have great impact on provision of affordable mass housing, and they include land, availability of building materials and access to fund.
Indeed, the quest to provide mass housing across the country in such an economy of ours where the banking sector has almost become anti-loaning institution would continue to be a mirage.
This is so because of certain conditionalities that every fund seeker must have to fulfil on the process of loan procurement, even when one has managed to secure acceptance from the bank.
Uneasy access to fund is further aggravated by the delay in the planned review of the 1978 land use act and the monster of substandard building materials that have flooded the market, which had been made visible in the several collapse of high rise building in Port Harcourt and other parts of Nigeria.
According to Mr. Anthony Owuye, a Mortgage Banker and the Managing Director of Personal Trust Savings, and Loan Limited “the only way for mass housing to be a reality would be for government to provide an enabling environment for developers to be able to function effectively and efficiently, and this will only take-off with the review of the Land Use Act which is still lying untouched at the floor of the National Assembly”.
He was of the opinion that the present cost of building materials and other indices in the construction industry would make mass housing a mirage, but however pointed out that mass housing was possible if the political will was there to make it happen.
The mortgage banker whose company is promoting Lake View Estate within the Amuwo-Odofin axis of Lagos also remarked that no developer would be willing to engage in the provision of mass housing, considering the cost of construction and the rate at which most developers obtain funds from banks to execute their projects.
In expressing optimism on the whole process, Owuye said that government could make the dream come true if it engages the services of professionals in the building and environment sector to assist in making things work.
Using the current era formular, he said that the provision of mass housing will be possible through the public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement, adding that government must be ready to provide an enabling environment for all concerned to work without hinderance.
Studies have revealed that in developed countries, mass housing had been made possible because of the enabling environment that was created for those in the construction industry to thrive.
No developer would want to turn down an offer to build mass housing so long as the environment for that was right and less cumbersome for him.
A recent World Bank survey has revealed that infrastructure neglect has remained the bane of growth of African economies. The survey disclosed that 24 nations of Africa including Nigeria suffer protracted infrastructural neglect.
However, things will turn around for good if priceless effort would be made by both government and private individuals in ensuring that bottlenecks to housing development are removed.
All hands must be on deck to ensue that the prices of building materials came down to a reasonable level. This would of course pave way for developers to embark on the construction of more houses, and affordable ones at that.
On their part, government at various levels should develop policies capable of encouraging investors in housing supply, so as to bridge the estimated housing deficit across the country, for which the land reform agenda will play a vital role.
As mortgage bankers and financiers play their role, and unless other corresponding measures are taken care of, the concept of affordable housing would continue to remain a dream which could take eternity to come true.