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urban housing crisis in Nigeria

A Struggle for Shelter in an Urbanizing World

Caveat Emptor!…Buyer beware…this house is not for sale…beware of 419. These phrases are commonplace in Nigeria where buyers often times have less information about properties to be acquired. As far as shelter is concerned in Nigeria, it’s the survival of the fittest.

One of the critical challenges to sustainable development in the developing countries wherein Nigeria belongs is the lack of adequate shelter expressed in quantitative and qualitative terms. This problem has been necessitated by several factors, including persistent population increases, inadequate housing, and uncontrolled urban growth pattern resulting in “homelessness” among the vast majority of urban dwellers.

The need to ensure decent and affordable shelter to the people, particularly the urban poor, is therefore central to the achievement and improvement of both human living standards and societal development. This is where an investment in real estate offers a gold mine.

However, Nigeria is believed to have a scary scam culture in the real estate business wherefore the number of fake real estate agents surpasses the licensed agents; a situation which makes the real estate business not fully exploited yet. Investors fear to try and break the market having directly or indirectly experienced one property scam or the other.

In a country with a population of over 170 million people with about 17 million housing deficits, it is not unusual for properties to be disputed with solicitors having a field day.

We’ve seen instances where robbers break into houses when their owners are away for long periods of time, change the locks then produce multiple fake copies of deeds. This is after they’ve posed as agents, taking unsuspecting victims on a tour of their imaginary property and when the original owner comes back he discovers to his chagrin that his house had been sold out to half a dozen persons. Sometimes the property scam is even carried out in collaboration with the original owners or a relation.

This knotty misadventure sums up the dangers bedeviling the Nigerian real estate venture. In fact it was once reckoned that 24.4 million Nigerians will be homeless by 2015. Albeit, that prediction was a far cry from what we had that year.

If the soothsayers understood the enormity of the Nigerian situation, they would have aimed higher. As at the end of 2015, over 68 million Nigerians were either homeless or improperly housed. This is a far cry from the 24.4 million that was projected

Almost two years later, that number has skyrocketed.  It is believed that 108 million Nigerians are now technically homeless. But despite the square pegs in round holes the future is indeed bright in a market where 17 million homes are needed just to meet current demands.

There may be overriding challenges to overcome yet in diverse ways Nigerian remains the perfect storm for real estate investments with a teeming population, urbanization and a growing middle class

Properties in the Lagos Metropolis with a population of about 21 million people could be among the most expensive in the world with 2 bedroom flats costing more than 40 million naira in up-market areas.

However, with a budding population and a growing middle-class, the 100,000 houses built yearly is quite insufficient and definitely can’t serve us.

In smaller cities and rural areas a lack of information about land and regulation is a major stumbling block for real estate business; more so; poverty, lack of development and subsequently migration make investments in real estate a huge turn-off.

On the other hand, overly violent Islamist insurgents and ethnic disturbances have made the north of Nigeria unattractive and almost impossible for any form of real estate opportunities, despite huge unmet demands in big cities such as Kano and Kaduna.

Now, majority of Nigerians live in poverty in shanty towns and slums that constantly come under the radar of the government with demolitions happening with reckless abandon especially in a place like Lagos.

Others live in basic concrete block and Iron roofed houses they have built themselves, while more are living in the open, maybe in the wild, albeit building mass housing for the poor is not a popular investment.

The story may be getting out slowly but the facts are right and despite the enormous challenges, Nigeria remains a haven for real-estate investments and there is a goldmine yet untapped.


  1. Engr. Kayode Ogunbote

    It’s not all gloom and doom for Nigeria; if we have a population as high as 170million and what we have is just 17million housing deficit. That means it just about 10 per cent of the population that is not adequately sheltered. We have come a long way as a country and can only get better. That’s me speaking on an optimistic note.

    We need change in Nigeria!

    • Thanks for your observation Engr. Kayode. However the 17 million housing deficit doesn’t include the millions that are inadequately sheltered. Millions of Nigerians are living in places one should never call home, Places they only spend the night.

  2. The writer ended this piece on a good note. Regardless of the Nigerian situation, we have large opportunities in real estate.

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