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Tenement buildings in Lagos

TENEMENT BUILDING: The popular ‘FACE ME I FACE YOU’ house

A lot of people get confused when they come across a term like ‘Tenement Building’, little do they know that it is the most common building you can find in many places in Lagos. Among the regular folks who live in those kind of buildings, or who have lived in them before, it is known as Face Me I Face You and for many others who can easily recount their unpleasant experiences living in those kind of building, they rather term it ‘Face Me I Slap You’.

This article is however not for those who are familiar with the building, but for those who do not know what it is, or how it came to exist in the first place.

Tenement Buildings have lasted for a very long time, arguably since the days when Africans moved away from building huts. The buildings were initially to occupy large families with many wives and children, and as time evolved, when those children grew up and sought greener pastures to other places, the rooms were vacant. In order to kill boredom, the Landlord (father of the house) decided to bring in other people who needed homes, in exchange for a token (rent) which is paid monthly.

This soon became a lucrative means of making money, and other people began to emulate this form of buildings, and making money from it. This traditional tenement building has evolved over the years, and whilst the traditional tenement building will remain the focus for this article, it is important to note that the more modern forms of tenement buildings come in shapes of building multiple flats, bungalows and terraces – and renting them out for a fee.

The following are features of tenement building:

Cheap to build, and cheap to let out
The rooms are built facing each other in two rows, one to the left & the other to the right
The number of rooms on the left hand side equals the number of rooms on the right hand side
Average of 8-12 rooms per house
Common kitchen for all tenants, in some cases you find two.
Common toilet/bathroom for all tenants, in some cases there are two.
Many families occupy the building
Each family or tenant occupies one room or two
Tens of children from different families in the compound
Tenants share common area for recreation and other things
There is little or no privacy
Backbiting, fighting are a common feature.

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Emerging landlords in developing estates in highbrow areas are already shying away from this kind of buildings. Regardless, they still build houses with intention to have one or two tenants. This is to emphasize that tenement buildings will always exist, although at a higher price and with greater convenience for the tenant. But this traditional tenement buildings are still needed in the society, at least to house the low-income citizenry, who still form a greater part of the society.

What do you think? To be totally banished or encouraged?

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