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An Assessment of Housing Challenges in Nigeria

Various studies have identified a multiplicity of factors inhibiting effective housing development and delivery in Nigeria. This article assesses housing challenges in Nigeria

Housing (Shelter) is unarguably one of the basic necessities of man. It used to be ranked second after food in the hierarchy of man’s needs but recently it has been described as the first and most important of all rights.

Due to the importance attached to provision of housing and coupled with the fact that housing in all its ramifications is more than mere shelter since it embraces all social services and utilities that go to make a community or neighbourhood a livable environment, it has now become a right.

This position is reinforced by section 16(1)(d) of 1999 constitution under the Fundamental Objectives of State Policy which compels the Nigerian State “to provide suitable and adequate shelter for all citizens” Even though this provision is not actionable, it reinforces the call for public sector driven mass housing provision in Nigeria.

Housing being a right entails that all strata of a society including the less privileged members of the society, the old, the disadvantaged, the wondering psychotics should own or have access to decent, safe and sanitary housing accommodation at affordable disposal prices or rental with secure tenure.

Unfortunately the reverse is the case as in spite of the policies, institutions and regulations which various Nigerian Governments have put in place since independence; there is still dearth of housing for low income segment.

Housing is of supreme importance to man and one of the best indicators of a person’s standard of living and his place in society. However, at no point has it been adequately supplied either quantitatively or qualitatively.

Over time, the need for adequate shelter has continued to attract global attention especially in developing countries where the urbanization process has been growing at an alarming rate. The phenomenal rise in population, increase in number and size of most cities in the past decades have led to acute shortage of adequate dwelling units in many urban centres globally.

Consequently, in recent time, the issue of housing has formed part of the major discussion in several global summits. Nigeria, like other developing countries is saddled with uncontrollable growth of the urban population caused by lack of provision of infrastructural facilities and poor economic conditions in the rural areas.

The proportion of the Nigerian population living in urban centres has increased phenomenally from 7% in the 1930s, 10% in 1950, 20% in 1970, 27% in 1980 to 35% in 1990. Approximately, 50% of Nigerians now live in urban centres of varying sizes.

The incidence of this population in urban centres has created severe housing problems, resulting in overcrowding in inadequate dwellings, and leading to a situation where over 108 million Nigerians are technically homeless.

Besides the incidence of overcrowding in the existing housing stock, rural-urban drift has occasioned the sprouting of make shift dwellings or squatter settlements in cities that are devoid of minimum structural and normative quality.

Majority of the houses are constructed with all sorts of refuse/second-hand materials in illegally occupied self allocated land, they are badly maintained and lack the basic necessities of life like sanitary facilities, light, air and privacy.

As evidenced by past researches in housing studies, most urban centres in the country are characterized by high density buildings, acute sanitary problems, pollution of air, surface water, noise and solid wastes.

According to studies, an estimated 2.3 million urban dwelling units are substandard, only 33% of urban houses can be considered to be physically sound, and 44% and 19% require minor and major repairs respectively to bring them to normative and structural quality.

Unfortunately, despite all efforts of the Federal Government and various State Governments at achieving sustained housing delivery to the common people, existing realities indicate the goal is far from being achieved.

Cost of building houses is increasing every day and it is becoming increasingly difficult for an average civil servant to build or own a housela.

It is regrettable that inspite of the policies, institutions and regulations which various Nigerian Governments have put in place since independence, the task of instituting efficient, effective, affordable and sustainable housing delivery processes continues to challenge policy makers even as the problems of the housing sector worsens.

This has been attributed to multiplicity of factors which includes lack of secure access to land, high cost of construction, limited access to finance, bureaucratic procedures, high cost of land registration and titling, uncoordinated policies and implementation at Federal and State level, ownership rights under the Land Use Act, lack of critical infrastructure like roads, affordability gap, inefficient development control, youths harassment of developers, inelegant revocation and compensation process among others.

There is need for a holistic approach to housing development and delivery that will involve the Federal Government, the State Government and the private sector (both formal and informal).

Since the private sector has displayed greater flexibility and potential for housing production, government should provide the enabling environment for the private sector to provide safe, adequate and affordable housing for the citizens.

This is in line with the provisions of 2012 National Housing Policy.

Also, it is essential that the relevant government agencies and other stakeholders design appropriate strategies for effective housing delivery in the country.

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