This article attempts to examine the problem and challenges of public housing delivery in Nigeria. It highlights the nature and dimension of Nigeria’s housing problems.
Housing is one of the three basic needs of mankind and it is the most important for the physical survival of man after the provision of food.
Adequate housing contributes to the attainment of physical and moral health of a nation and stimulates the social stability, the work efficiency and the development of the individuals. It is also one of the best indicators of a person’s standard of living and of his place in the society.
Housing, both in units or multiple forms is a significant component of the physical form and structure of a community, while the human and family contents of the house is part of the very spirit of life and prosperity of the society.
Public housing delivery in Nigeria or basically, the housing sector in Nigeria is primarily that of a crisis situation, manifesting and expressing itself in quantitative and qualitative forms. Lack of comfort and rudimentary infrastructure, congestion, unhygienic conditions, high densities and absence of organization make for ghastly experiences shared by the vast majority of the urban population.
The spatial product of this problem is not only in the rapid emergence and deployment of slums and squatters of various typologies but in the proliferation of these settlements in the metropolitan suburb
The discussion and debates on the Nigeria housing situation have always been anchored on the need for continuous state intervention through public housing delivery in solving the crisis. Public housing delivery in Nigeria is not only a social and environmental necessity but also a political and economic approach necessary to support social peace and stable development in the nations of the world.
Many renowned scholars of urban science (castells, Burgess, Hall, Turner, Abu-Lughod, Mabogunje and so on) as well as distinguished regional and international organization (United Nations Habitat, World Society of Ekistics, the World Bank etc.) concerned with urbanisation and housing at global levels, have long expressed immense anxieties over the alarming nature and dimensions of the housing problems in the nations of the developing world.
Highly recognised among the most crucial corollaries of unplanned and dependent urbanisation is the urban housing crisis pervading the primary and large regional secondary cities of the fast and medium developing categories of the third world nations (Lagos, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo, Mexico City, Cairo, New Delhi, Karachi etc.).
This crisis situation in its integrated form has surpassed the terrains of the social sphere, reproducing itself in the economic, political and environmental processes of these nations of the third world, Nigeria is not an exemption.
The problem of housing delivery is worldwide and it is of a recurring nature. In fact, it is doubtful if any nation of the world can satisfactorily meet its housing requirements. In Nigeria, most people live in poor quality housing and in unsanitary environments.
This problem of inadequate housing has been compounded by the rapid rates of urbanization and economic growth. Housing difficulties is more serious for the low income groups where problems have been complicated by rapid growth, inflated real estate values, speculative activity, influx of poor immigrants and lack of planning.
One can also site the increasingly significant shifts in the form and design of housing from the rooming form to flat and single family house forms as a factor responsible for acute shortage of housing for the low income groups.
The problem of inadequate housing is experienced in both urban and rural areas in Nigeria.
One important lesson we might get from our experiences in the public housing sector thus far is that, the Federal Government should not engage in direct housing construction. Studies have shown that individuals build better and cheaper houses and at faster rate than the government agencies.
We should borrow a leaf from the U.S.A. where the Federal Government is responsible for policy formulation and provision of funds for research and matching grants to the states. The Nigerian Federal Government should adopt this stance too.
Another lesson is that the government should encourage the use of local building material for construction so as to reduce building cost. This has been successfully done in counties like Tanzania, and Sweden.
Entrepreneurs wishing to go into the production of building material should be encouraged through tax relief and incentives.
Government should promote alternative strategies for house construction. For example, the government might acquire land; lay them out and service them with basic infrastructures before making them available for sale to individuals needing them.