Challenges of housing in terms of quality and quantity appear to be the same all over the world. The needy have less access to housing while the less needy have greater chances of accessing housing. In Nigeria, housing is generally inadequate in the rural areas in terms of quality, while the major problem in urban areas is more of quantity, although quality is also an issue. The shortage of housing is one of the factors responsible for the poor environmental quality across Nigeria. In 1991, the national housing policy was promulgated in order to propose possible solutions to the housing problems in Nigeria. Twenty four years on, millions of Nigerians are still homeless while many others are living in indecent houses.
A Policy is a deliberate system of principles to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes. It is a statement of intent, and is implemented as a procedure or protocol. Policies are generally adopted by the board of or senior governance body within an organisation whereas procedures or protocols would be developed and adopted by senior executive officers. Policies can assist in both subjective and objective decision making. A policy is therefore a guide line provided by the government which is aimed at meeting the people’s housing needs through a set of appropriate strategies, which involves fiscal, institutional, legal and regulatory framework.
Housing policy on the other hand may be defined as government action to achieve housing objectives. These objectives could include the improvement of the quality of the housing stock of dwellings or dealing with homelessness. Another definition of housing policy would be government intervention in the housing field. The difference is that some interventions in the housing field may be directed at objectives outside the field. Examples could be the regulation of housing finance markets to influence activity in the national economy or restrictions on the amount paid in subsidy to low-income households to encourage incentives to work. Research shows that increasingly more housing policy is directed at economic objectives of efficiency in the national economy with the result that housing policy is increasingly becoming intervention in the housing field to achieve economic objectives
The major thrust of housing policy is to achieve some housing goals which universally manifest as to adequately house everybody in any given country in a good housing located in a good environment and at an affordable cost. Housing policies and housing programmes go in pari-passu as one is dependent upon the other; housing policy is to achieve a housing goal which is realizable through housing programmes. Housing is recognized world-wide as one of the basic necessities of life and a pre-requisite to survival of man.
While a house is a place which provides shelter, refuge, comfort, security, and dignity, it has fallen short of these in recent time and appears to be a mere definition. A house also provides the physical framework in which human, social, economic, and cultural resources are realized, enriched, and integrated.
In the traditional African setting, in particular, housing is, in fact, one of the greatly cherished material properties. This is because of the other functions that a house performs in the traditional society which includes the protection of family cohesion and values, taking care of the aged through the extended family system, and the protection of the ancestral values, among others.
Thus, the importance of providing adequate housing in any country cannot be overemphasized. In fact, the housing industry can be a stimulus to national economy
Nigeria National Housing Policy defines Housing as the process providing functional shelter in a proper setting in a neighbourhood supported by sustainable maintenance of the built environment for the day to day living and activities of individual and families within the communities.
The challenges of housing policies particularly in the developing countries for quite some time now has to do with the minimum shelter requirement which is to be met at an affordable price to the majority of the citizens. The inability of earlier policies and programmes to adequately resolve the backlog of housing problems in the country reveals the need for more pragmatic solutions and this formed the basis for a review of the 1991 National Housing Policy.
Given the importance of housing in the national economy, the federal government of Nigeria set up a 15 man committee on urban development and housing in 2001. One of the responsibilities of the committee was to articulate a new housing policy. The report of the committee as accepted by the federal government was published in government white paper on the report of the presidential committee on urban development and housing in the year 2002. This led to a new housing policy, which was subsequently published as draft national housing policy in January, 2004. The draft policy was subjected to critical comments and inputs across the different states of the federation and the New National Housing Policy published in the year 2006.
This policy came up with some transitionary strategies in which government made significant effort in partial disengagement into housing provision and encourage privately developed housing. Under the policy adjustment such as the amortization period which was 25years under the previous policy was jacked up to 30years, interest on NHF loans to PMI’s were scaled down from 5% to 4% while the lending rate to contributors was reduced to 6% from previous 9%. The new policy was aimed at removing the impediments to the realization of housing goal of the nation. The goal of the policy was to ensure that Nigerians own or have access to decent, safe and healthy housing and accommodation at affordable cost.
This goal is similar to that of the 1991 policy except that the fulfillment of the policy is not tied to a specific period. The scope of the policy objectives has also been widened to include some of the issues put under the 1991 policy strategies.
However the Housing sector is yet to weather the seemingly insurmountable storm that has plagued it for donkey years.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel yet?