The poor urban dwellers in Nigeria are made up of Low income earners or No income earners as the case may be. This article examines the variables that have relationship with the poor urban dwellers deriving residential housing satisfaction and attaining sustainable environmental quality in Nigeria, especially in urban cities of Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Warri, Calabar and Ibadan.
Though it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the citizens of a country have roofs over their heads, it is not enough to just have a place to call home. In fact, no place is really home if there is no form of satisfaction or comfort derived.
Generally, housing satisfaction is a concept with assigned prominent indicators used by many researchers and analysts as an evaluation measure of private and public sector building performance; as an indicator of residential mobility and as an evaluation of occupants’ perception of their residential environment and improvements in new projects.
In plain terms, residential housing satisfaction is a reflection of the degree to which the occupants of a dwelling unit feel that their housing helps them to achieve their goals. It is a measure of the degree to which housing (quality) performance is meeting the occupants expectation in terms of benefit and needs.
Nowadays, human elements perceive their areas of habitation as a shield to protect them from daily economic and social life stress. Thus, urban poor residential dwellings should be able to meet the socio economic and physiological needs of their residence. This can be achieved when adequate conception of housing moves beyond mere architectural design considerations to include environmental quality perception of surroundings.
Customer satisfaction is not only a matter related to the hand-out of a new completed building, but is a life-cycle issue which has to be taken into account already in the pre-construction phase.
The total dwelling place in which housing occupants live is the sum total of the physical and socio-cultural environment with the propensity to improve the welfare of its urban dwellers. This environment can maintain commitments, portray positive and responsible image and improve productivity of the dwellers.
Urban residential housing delivery in developing countries, particularly in Nigeria has become a subject of public discourse with regards to quality and quantity. It is believed that the bulk of this housing inadequacy is borne by the less privileged in the society. Available facts have it that elites in authority who formulate and implement housing policies were giving wrong impression that any type of housing will do because the urban poor just needs shelter.
Sustainable Environmental Quality
This is when an occupant of a dwelling unit derives satisfaction in terms of the totality of the quality of life in a given physical space. In physical planning, sustainable environmental quality can be achieved from a holistic point of view.
The sustainability attributes of measurement of environmental quality can be judged by the following: the threshold distance to move to access basic facilities; the availability of such facilities to support daily needs; the heterogeneous activities available to support and enhance common existence, the level of social strata economic mixed living and ecologically safe, healthy, planned and well laid out housing in terms of accessibility to efficient public transport to local food markets, place of work and other commercial and public facilities.
In housing literature, the concept of housing encompasses more than shelter to include access to social infrastructure that enhances livability indices in and around individual homes, shops, schools, open spaces, employment to physical infrastructure such as roads, water electricity, security, waste disposal and telecommunication.
Hence, either in design or occupation of a dwelling unit to achieve optimum satisfaction, the environmental quality should strike a balance with the three cardinal elements that ensure sustainability; balancing ecological and environmental protection, inclusiveness, integration and combination of a diversified social mix and egalitarian provision of economic opportunities for the poor and the rich alike.
In Nigerian urban areas, policy initiators of residential housing are of the opinion that any housing meets the satisfaction needs of the poor urban dwellers without due regards to environmental quality variables of the surroundings. This undoubtedly have influence on the various types of public residential houses developed for the poor urban dwellers.
Again, residential housing satisfaction goes beyond considering the technical quality of the components of the house to include how well the building and its environment have met the needs and expectations of its dwellers.
This implies that housing policy formulators in Nigeria need to review the old tenement structures and include normative housing needs (infrastructure and amenities such as the quality satisfaction attributes) of the urban poor that have been overlooked over the years to articulate the overall integrated housing development framework in Nigeria.
It is evident that the environmental quality requirements of poor urban dwellers have not being taken into consideration as no conscious effort has been made to understand the desires and needs of the urban poor housing consumer.
This situation has resulted in the urban poor occupying dilapidated, decrepit and derelict residential houses which translate to slum development, ghettos and urban blight.
The poor urban dwellers don’t just require anything (building) for residential purpose as mostly exemplified by public housing initiators. The public tenement housing providers should endeavour to ensure that infrastructural facilities and amenities are provided and maintained to forestall the development of shacks identifiable in slum areas of urban housing.
The Government through the Ministry of Housing should institute an effective housing policy initiative that caters for the needs and desires of the poor through a change and redirection from narrow and unsustainable housing conception and development to broad and sustainable housing initiatives which are rooted in consumer housing needs and desires to address the present colossal urban housing problems in Nigeria.