One of the basic things of life that every human being desires to have most is shelter, but it is very unfortunate that the processes that are involved in housing and property development are very tasking and costly, which of course have accounted for its scarcity and rare affordability.
The quest of owning a house has given room to numerous housing programmes and projects at various tiers of government, and the private sector in terms of housing estates, and mortgage facilities where beneficiaries are made to pay back the cost of the house over a period of time.
This method has yielded result as some people have benefited from these projects and now own their houses, while the cost of the house is deducted from their salaries or they off-set the cost by instalmental payment spread over a period of time.
In 2010, various institutions launched various housing programmes aimed at giving opportunity to the general public to own their own homes, and at the same time make returns on their investment.
Some of these projects include the Pearl Estate launched at Ilupeju in Lagos by the Diamond Bank Estate firm which is being offered to the general public. Also in Lagos Alcove Estate was launched in the Alimoshi Local Government where various flats, ranging from two bedroom flats were offered for sale to the general public, at specific prices where terms of payments are spelt out accordingly.
In Rivers State, this housing challenge also compelled some organisations like Afribank and Diamond Bank to undertake various housing schemes within Port Harcourt.
Diamond Bank in 2010 undertook the construction of the Diamond Villa Estate which is currently on sale in the garden city, Port Harcourt, within the Ada George Road.
Various categories of houses are on offer ranging from 4-bedroom semi-detached house with one room boys quarter and three bedroom luxury flats with one room boys quarter and balconies
These properties are furnished in top class finishes, fixture, fittings and each accommodation affords expansive living and accommodation choice, with prices ranging from N50 million to N40 million and N35 million respectively.
Also, in Port Harcourt,, the Afribank Estate Company Limited in 2010 launched its Iriebe Garden City Estate, which is a 112-home master planned residential community, developed and managed by Afribank Estate Limited. It comprises a mixture of four and five detached houses.
This Iriebe Garden City project is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative of Rivers State Government Ministry of Housing and the Afribank Estate Company Limited, with various facilities and services available.
From all indications, it will be deduced that the various housing projects being undertaken by some of these institutions, whether through partnership or otherwise were targeted at the higher income earners, where most of them already have homes and are capable of acquiring more.
A middle or low income earner might not see reasons for him/her to pay as much as N40 million or N35 million for a four or three bedroom, whether detached or semi-detached house, not withstanding.
Solving housing problem in Nigeria, particularly in Port Harcourt will not be feasible if the middle and low income earners are not taken care of in the scheme of things, and this is because they form the bulk of the number of residents, that make demand on housing, and the bulk of them are in the public service.
The challenges of sourcing for funds or mortgage, land acquisition and other bottle-necks in terms of getting the necessary papers that confer the right of ownership or otherwise known as the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) have posed much problems to middle and low-income earners in the quest of owning a house.
No wonder why Mr Ogunsemowo Dele, an estate consultant, whose outfit is in-charge of the consultancy and handling the Diamond Villa Estate in Port Harcourt said that developers are interested in projects that will give them quick and higher return on investment.
According o Dele “Estate developers would like to undertake houses that they sell and recoup their money fast, and that is why they always go for the high income earners who they are sure will pay faster, rather than going for the lower income earners that will take much time to repay, with little gain”.
On his part, Benjamin Oti, the consultant of Ben Oti and Company, an estate surveyor and valuer firm, has said that government should take the responsibility of building one, two and three bedroom houses and sell to the public, so as to enable middle level income earners, especially those on salary grade levels 08-10 own a house, while the repayment be spread over 10 years to 15 years and be taken from their salaries, while those that can’t meet up with such be made to pay from their retirement benefits.
As part of effort to make the process of certificate acquisition faster in the housing and property ownership, the Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashiola recently in 2010 gave authority to commissioners to sign occupancy documents on behalf of government to fast tract speedy delivery of Certificate of Occupancy (C of O).
It has become obvious that there are issues on the provision or tackling of problem of housing that need proper and urgent government intervention.
Since private institutions are focused on the high income earners in the style of estate they develop, it now becomes necessary that government should bridge the gap in the provision of housing for middle and low income earners.
It has also become necessary for the Rivers State Government to look inward, to tackle some of these known problems that have hampered provision of housing needs in Port Harcourt, such as the mortgage institution and land acquisition cost and processes in 2011 and beyond.
Let it be a policy of the state government to undertake a certain number of housing schemes every year that will aim at meeting housing needs of public servants, especially those middle level income earners, and payment spread over 10-15 years of salaries deductions.
The role of mortgage institutions in this respect can not be overemphasised, and so, let the state have a vibrant primary mortgage institution, or make the PABOD Finance play proper role in this respect.
Let the year 2011 bring the desired transformation required to tackle housing needs in Rivers State, as government should take the bull by the horn to put in place the structures that can guarantee housing development in Rivers State, and the result will be over whelming over time.