Decent and affordable housing is one of the basic needs of individuals, family and the community at large. In this piece, we look at the problems associated with housing delivery in Lagos. Despite her huge potentials, why do you think housing shortage persists in Lagos?
As a pre-requisite to the survival of man, housing ranks second only to food. Housing as a unit of the environment has a profound influence on the health, social behaviour, satisfaction and general welfare of the community at large.
It reflects the cultural, social and economic value of the society as it is the best physical and historical evidence of civilization in a country. The importance of housing in every life of human being and in national economy in general is enormous.
Housing problem in Africa especially in Nigeria is not only limited to quantities but also qualities of the available housing units.
The rate of urbanization in Nigeria especially in her most populous and industrialized state, Lagos has been on the increase in the last two decades. The proportion of the country’s population living in urban centres has increased phenomenally over the years.
While only 7% of Nigerians lived in urban centres in the 1930s, and 10% in 1950s, over 60% of Nigerians now live in urban centers of varying sizes. The incidence of this population in urban centers has created severe housing problems, resulting in overcrowding in inadequate dwellings, and as led to a situation in which more than 60% of Nigerians can be said to be homeless. T
This ugly trend has created a lot of pressure on social services and infrastructure such as transportation, electricity, water supply, health services, housing, etc.
The statistics of homelessness is the best we deserve; currently many Lagosians cannot afford a decent home, while nearly half of Nigeria’s population live in urban and semi-urban areas, with majority living in slums and substandard accommodation.
Despite the significance of housing, adequate supply has remained a mirage to all carder of the society in Nigeria. The situation is very peculiar to Lagos where population grow at exponential rate and rapid urbanization becoming a norm.
Also in metropolitan Lagos, discrepancy in housing need and supply is high.
In view of the difficulties experienced in the housing sector, it is clear that Nigerian government and other players in the housing delivery are not treading the same path other countries tread in meeting up the housing needs.
The production of housing in Nigeria is primarily the function of the private market; approximately 90% of urban housing is produced by private developers but has the Nigerian government made their work easy?
The problem of qualitative housing has been a concern for both the government and individuals. Appreciating these problems, both public and private sector developers make efforts through various activities to bridge the gap between housing supply and demand, but the cost of building materials, deficiency of housing finance arrangement, stringent loan conditions from mortgage banks, government policies and most importantly geometric increase in land value have been responsible for shortage of housing in Lagos.
A study of housing situation in Nigeria put existing housing stock at 23 per 1000 inhabitant. Housing deficit is put at 17-18 million houses. Land Value and rents, on the other hand, have grown ahead of general inflation.
Making matters worse, the composition of land for sale and rent on the market has been inexorably shifting towards very expensive home. This is basically due to inadequate funds for housing within the existing spatial structure.
Although the rapid growth witnessed by Lagos state has been a boost to its economy, the city of excellence has also had to grapple with an array of environmental challenges arising from its growth which could be described as astonishing.
Some of the environmental challenges the state has to grapple with include; overcrowding and unplanned human settlement; sprawl development arising from rapid population growth; poor sanitation in slums / blighted communities and increase in the number of settlements requiring regeneration / renewal, the low lying terrain of Lagos and its implication on storm water management and flooding control; threats to and abuse of wetlands arising from human activities; pollution of surface and underground water bodies; as well as land and the atmosphere pollution arising from domestic, commercial and industrial activities.
Ways of ameliorating these problem vary from attitudinal change and re – orientation among key-players / stakeholders
While the growth of the population in the metropolitan Lagos has assumed a geometrical proportion, the provision of urban infrastructure and housing to meet this demand is not at commensurate level. This has resulted in acute shortage of housing to the teeming population with Lagos alone accounting for about 5 million deficit representing 31% of the estimated national housing deficit of 18 million.
The extent of the housing shortage in Lagos is enormous. The inadequacies are far-reaching and the deficit is both quantitative and qualitative; even those households with shelter are often subjected to inhabiting woefully deficient structures as demonstrated in the proliferation of slums.
The urban poor, who are dominant in Lagos, are transforming the city to meet their needs, often in conflict with official laws and plans. They reside in the slums and squatter settlements scattered around the city and are predominantly engaged in informal economic activities which encompass a wide range of small-scale, largely self-employment activities.
60% of residents are tenants and have to pay rent as high as 50-70% of their monthly income since most of the existing accommodations are provided by private landlords.
The concentration of housing and income levels has stratified the metropolis into various neighborhoods of low-income/high density, medium income/medium density and high income/low density.
The informal private sector in Lagos comprising people of different income background have resorted to self-help housing strategy. People in this sector have taken the risk of buying untitled land from informal market dominated by a cabal popularly referred to as “Omo-Onile’’.
After the purchase of the land, majority of these people will take it upon themselves to construct their own roads, providing water and extending electricity for kilometers to provide a roof over their head.
Over 90% of housing supply in Lagos is from this sector with the resultant effects of lack of standardization and distorted urban planning system.
At the bottom of housing fiasco in Lagos lies the problem of land accessibility, stunted financial and mortgage system, exorbitant prices of building materials and disproportional capacity building in the sector.
Land value has been described as the fulcrum of all types of development in any society, the constrain posed by its inaccessibility in Lagos has reduced the provision of affordable housing for Lagos residents, about 70% of whom live below the poverty line.
Housing finance and mortgage system in Lagos cannot be totally alienated from what is obtainable in Nigeria. Generally, there is no credit or finance structure available to the low-income groups for land, housing and basic services in Nigeria.
The only window for all Nigerians to access financial facility for land, housing and basic services is the National Housing Fund (NHF) established in 1992.The finance structure is such that neither the builder nor the consumer can readily obtain finance for housing due to the stringent conditions attached to mortgage loan and high interest rates at the commercial market.
Out of the estimated 10.7 million existing housing units in the country, statistics have shown that about 88% are self-built with little or no mortgage attachment. Since 1986, the prices of building materials have been on the upward trend with significant effect on the poor families’ home construction.
Price of cement which is a basic component of housing construction in Nigeria is also on the increase. Housing problems appear intractable to the government. In the absence of any significant affordable housing strategy by the state government, citizens have continued to explore different approaches to accommodate themselves.
In the opinion of the government, these approaches are in gross violation of town planning principles and mega city status of Lagos state, hence the response has been forceful eviction and demolition of self-developed homes
If Lagos State were to develop efficient strategies to encourage the private sector to develop just 1 million quality housing units in quality housing estates at market prices of about N16.5 Million each and then adopt good property tax models as in the developed countries, then a unified property tax rate of 2.5% per annum for the new housing units will yield N412.50 Billion per annum to the State/Local Governments.
The government need to promote policies that will enhance reduction in the cost of building material and place much emphasis on accessibility to land. This could be achieved by promoting laws that will enhance easy accessibility to land for mass housing production.
There is need to also strengthen the mortgage institutions and expand the resource base of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) and initiate programmes that will encourage individuals to show interest in this sector.
Housing provision in a city such as Lagos provides greater challenge to any government just like what is being experience in most urban cities of the world like Tokyo, New York, Bombay, Sao Paolo, Beijing, Cairo and most urbanized nations of the world.
This therefore calls for more emphasis on housing sector since it plays great role in nation building.