Those with interest in housing listened to President Muhammadu Buhari’s national broadcast last Tuesday anxiously hoping to hear how the housing sector has fared in the last three years. Much is expected because government had expressed commitment to bring about change in the housing sector.
In his third Democracy day address to Nigerians, President Buhari gave the scorecard of his government and his administration’s plans going forward. President Buhari said his administration recently conducted Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) Focus Labs in six key sectors of the economy namely: Trade and Investment, Agriculture, Transport, Processing, Power and Gas and Aviation.
He said these have yielded significant prospects for investments and job creation to the tune of US$ 22.5 billion with a potential for creating more than 500,000 jobs by 2020.
According to him, these investment generation initiatives are expected to increase capital inflows in the form of foreign direct investment expressing hope that the cumulative investments from this first phase of the Labs will hit US$39.2 billion by 2025.
ERGP launched in March, 2018 is expected to mobilise the private sector to invest toward economic recovery. Government therfore, organised ERGP Labs. This culminated in ERGP Focus Labs Open Day held on 15 May, 2018 in Abuja where Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said both policy makers and investors were brought together. However, it is said that government should not have lost sight of the fact that housing has the capacity to bring on board many private firms and individuals for the desired economic recovery and transformative growth.
It is housing sector that has that significant multiplier effect on the economy in terms of employment, raw materials utilisation and other materials that are very important in building project. Housing has capacity to create millions of new jobs in the construction sector. Indeed, the housing sector can stimulate growth of the economy thereby increasing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Those bothered with happenings in the housing sector therefore, expressed concern that housing was not listed in the six sectors covered in the Focus Labs. They believe that housing, with huge private sector base would do as much if not more than what some of the aforementioned sectors can do.
Like the stakeholders in the housing sector, Viewpoint Housing News is worried that housing is not among the premier sectors covered by the ERGP Focus Labs.
We therefore, appeal to government to review ERGP and include housing in the focus labs. By so doing, the encumbrances to providing decent accommodation, particularly to the low income earners will be better tackled.
Moreso, stakeholders in the housing sector, especially developers will see better, the need to partner with government in the journey toward not just housing development, but over all economic development.
We call on government to always include housing in all major policies where possible so its plan(s) for affordable housing can be manifest.
Government has expressed determination to build 2,75o housing units of different categories. If the private sector is to play a role, they must be made to see that government is ready to work with them. Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) is key partner in this regard. They should have been part of the ERGP Focus Labs. Their absence during the lab work and the Focus Lab Open Day is indication that housing has not taken the position it should in national programmes.
Apart from including housing in the ERGP Focus Labs, government should revisit previous policies on housing and tweak them where necessary.
For instance, the draft 2nd National Housing Policy of 2004 never got anywhere. Former Minister of Land, Housing and Urban Development Ms. Ama Pepple, on assumption of office set up a committee comprising all stakeholders for the review of the nation’s housing related policies. The committee completed its job and submitted its draft, while the Federal Executive Council, on June 20, 2012, approved the document as the National and Urban Development Policy for the nation. Yet, lack of political will and sustained commitment at all levels in the public and private sectors did not help the execution of this policy.
Because of the non or poor implementation of policies, government has not tackled hindrances to accessing land. There is high cost of fund, high cost of building materials and there are bottleneck procedures associated with planning approval and absence of virile mortgage system.
Finally, government should draw up a 20-year housing plan from 2019 to 2039 that will serve as a compass to all who are holding public offices. This will serve as guide to succeeding administrations, thereby checking constant failure of housing policies.