When you talk about social housing for the masses, the words that come to mind are cheap, affordable, non-profit driven, mass produced houses that could be occupied by low income earners, who may wish to save towards eventually buying such houses with time.
Considering the fact that Nigeria has a housing deficit of about 17 million units, any information that will help in providing cheap, affordable and non- profit driven social housing scheme for the general masses should be embraced.
In 2011, former minister for lands, housing and urban development, Ms. Ammal Pepple was forced to challenge the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria to explore ways of providing houses for the generality of Nigerians as a social scheme.
Beyond this however, the truth is that social housing is workable in the country if every stakeholders involved in the housing business face the realities of the time.
According to UN Human Development Report, 83.9% of Nigerians live below $2.00 a day, also 53.5% of Nigerians live below the poverty line. This implies that a lot of Nigerians cannot pay the market rent rates and other incidental expenses most landlords, who are pressed to get returns on their housing investments as soon as possible demand.
The solution to the housing challenges of the poor in our society really rests with the wealthy individuals and corporate bodies with humanitarian minds, concern groups, non- governmental organizations, housing ministries, religious bodies and government at the local, state and federal levels.
They all must work harmoniously together in order to realize this seemingly tall ambition. The capitalist private sector cannot do anything meaningful in this direction.
Wikipedia, the popular online free encyclopedia explains ‘Social housing’ as an umbrella term referring to rental housing which may be owned and managed by the state, by non-profit organizations, or by a combination of the two, usually with the aim of providing affordable housing.
It is said that in some countries, e.g. Brazil and Spain, qualifying families may own a social housing property rather than renting it.
Social housing can also be seen as a potential remedy to housing inequality.
In China, governments provide public houses called Lian Zu Fang, which means low rent houses to the citizens. These houses are built either by the government or private developers, who are given free lands to build upon.
Some other countries like Finland, Hong Kong, Austria, Singapore and others have their own unique blueprints for building social or public houses.
Back here in Nigeria, former civilian governor of Lagos state, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande built a number of housing estates for the people of the state when he was in government. The estates, scattered all over Lagos really help to alleviate the sufferings of people in the state, as far as accommodation was concerned.
Today, most residents of the Jakande Housing Estate scheme are grateful for the vision the former governor had in building those houses. I agree that the estates have their own challenges but my take in this instance is that half bread is better than none.
During the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon, when there was oil boom the then Federal Government of Nigeria also built houses for the masses. We are familiar with the Gowon Estate housing scheme, the Alhaji Shehu Shagari housing projects as well.
While some efforts since independence can be commended, more serious minded examples come from other hitherto third world countries, like we have in the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China).
The word ‘Minha Casa Minha Vida,’ which means My House, My Life was launched by the Brazilian government in March 2009 with a budget of R$36 billion (US$18 billion) to build 1 million homes. This was the first phase with the second phase coined Growth Acceleration Program (PAC – Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento) was announced in March 2010, which led to the construction of 2 million homes for low income earners, with monthly wage R$545.
These statistics, which are obtained on the internet, revealed that the Government of Brazil basically encourages the citizens to either rent or build houses strictly in accordance with their monthly income. This has a way of making people to cut their coat according to their sizes, which is a good blueprint for Nigeria to copy in the provision of social housing to the masses.
I have had to speak at various gathering on social housing in Nigeria, truth be told, we are still at the periphery, more meaningful approaches are still lacking but I commend recently emerging crusaders and I am joining the fold with all that I represent starting from within, our company, clients to the larger society.
We are going to be unearthing and developing a lot of indigenous ways of achieving this learning from the BRICs particularly and our society will be the better for it.