In a country where only few houses are home-worthy, it shouldn’t be hard to tell a quality housing. However because of our constant exposure to economic hardship and poverty our idea of quality housing may have been compromised. So when a Nigerian says he lives in a house of high quality; a house that lives up to expectations and the right standards for a home both internally and externally he might as well have settled for societal standards and not necessarily what is obtainable in most parts of the world especially in developed countries.
That brings us to this question; what makes a quality housing project? How can you identify a good house that is of immense quality. Over the years some public housing scheme have been condemned for failing to deliver public space, walkable street layouts or adequately sized rooms. Some complain about aesthetics while others have to deal with the affordability of such housing scheme. However a housing scheme on the long run becomes part of the landscape and the heritage of the nation. Issues of taste or wider debates between those favouring vernacular styles and proponents of more modernist approaches are not relevant to the central issue of good quality housing.
The real question that should pose a challenge to consumers, the Government and the housing industry
generally is whether the product, both the individual house and the wider neighbourhood, is fit for purpose. In the real sense, have the government met the standards in the provision of quality housing projects with specific reference to the masses? The reasons for this malady are complex, deep-rooted and the result of the interaction between Government policy, the housing and land markets and the structure of the development industry.
The government’s target and insight for providing good quality housing has been completely narrowed down to serve a small group of Nigerians.
Having said that, it is essential that we address all it entails before we can say a housing project is of good quality
It is considered that good quality, sustainable housing development should be:
1. Socially and environmentally appropriate
The type of accommodation, support services and amenities provided should be appropriate to the needs of the people to be accommodated. The mix of dwelling type, size and tenure should support sound social, environmental and economic sustainability policy objectives for the area and promote the development of appropriately integrated play and recreation spaces.
2. Architecturally appropriate
The scheme should provide a pleasant living environment, which is aesthetically pleasing and human in scale. The scheme design solution should understand and respond appropriately to its context so that the development will enhance the neighbourhood and respect its cultural heritage.
3. Accessible and adaptable
There should be ease of access and circulation for all residents, including people with impaired mobility, enabling them to move as freely as possible within and through the development, to gain access to buildings and to use the services and amenities provided. Dwellings should be capable of adaptation to meet changing needs of residents during the course of their lifetime.
4. Safe, secure and healthy
The scheme should be a safe and healthy place in which to live. It should be possible for pedestrians and motorists to move within and through the area with reasonable ease and in safety. Provision for vehicular circulation, including access for service vehicles, should not compromise these objectives.
The scheme should be capable of being built, managed and maintained at reasonable cost, having regard to the nature of the development and putting the average income of the masses in perspective.
The best available construction techniques should be used and key elements of construction should have a service life in the order of sixty years without the need for abnormal repair or replacement works.
7. Resource efficient
Efficient use should be made of land, infrastructure and energy. The location should be convenient to transport, services and amenities. Design and orientation of dwellings should take account of site topography so as to control negative wind effects and optimise the benefits of sunlight, daylight and solar gain; optimum use should be made of renewable sources of energy, the use of scarce natural resources in the construction, maintenance and management of the dwellings should be minimised.
Next is the issue of homelessness which even needs more attention than providing good quality housing.
There has been a dearth of housing to accommodate the teeming population of Lagosians in a country with an estimated housing deficit of 17 million with Lagos solely accounting for 5 million deficits.
The continuous growth of Lagos in geometric proportion is a major contributing factor to homelessness, even the provision of urban infrastructure and housing to meet this demand has done little to ameliorate the situation.
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 multiplication of slums, prompting some to find solace on and around the sea, swamps and canals in deplorable states.
That’s the lagos they know, the home fate ceded to them.
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