Kingsley U.N Chikwendu
Housing is an essential that a society cannot do without, it is a prime necessity for man. It serves as a solace where he can rest his head and recharge, re-energize, think creatively on how to develop himself and his surroundings. Proper mental rest hinges on good housing.
Relating shelter to the recent pandemic that disrupted global activities, Covid-19, adequate housing is a primary human need that is essentially crucial for survival, should a natural or artificial hazard arise.
Adequate housing brings an aura of security; it makes a man have a sense of dignity. Housing carries with it a feeling of personal safety from environmental or climatic hazards. A home is a place where we set out from every morning and return at the base of the day.
We live in a world today where personal or group interest easily supersedes love for humanity or human dignity or human value and as such, we have had some reoccurring problems in the society or global world that were artificially created. The most difficult of disasters are the natural ones.
However, it is wise to note that the best or earlier one prepares for the future, an excellent adaptation or result one will get. Plans are hinged on having the time to prepare for an unforeseen or unimaginable negative event so as not to suffer the consequences that may come.
This brings us to the issue of housing and the recent Covid-19 outbreak that ravaged the world. One of the basic amenities that are priorities to man is affordable housing, it affected the society as a result of coronavirus pandemic. As it spread astronomically throughout the globe, it led to calls by heads of governments globally to declare a stay-at-home order, with all economic activities locked down.
Citizens were forced to remain in their homes, some of these homes were either good or bad, good in the sense of the rich and high income earners in the city or urban areas and bad in the sense of the low income earners in slum areas. They were asked to adhere to social distancing rules.
Now, let’s ask ourselves this, a low income earner that has a family of eight and living in a single room, how can such persons in that room adhere to social distancing rules? And we have such families living under the shelter of a single room in millions.
Prior to the outbreak of the virus, not many would have thought of the huge importance that proper affordable housing carries. Even in reality, it is a prime necessity for man but, corruption and bad governance have relegated that important role that housing plays for the growth of the society.
Had past and present governments invested heavily on housing for the common man on the street or rural or slum areas, it is possible that the recorded cases and casualties would not severely be the case. If the Nigerian governing authorities had ensured that the right to good affordable shelter, a basic necessity is ensured, many would not have lost the homes they were managing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some could not afford to pay or fulfill their rent obligations because they were laid off by their employees who may have had to downsize their workforce. A disruption to the shelter of a family have a damning, huge and significant impact on their ability to meet other basic needs.
The hurriedly arranged economic assistance like the Economic Sustainability Plan for the construction of 300,000 housing units by the Nigerian government, announced in response to the virus exposed the lack of good planning on the part of government authorities. Millions of poor Nigerians living in slums observed the lockdown in poor living environments, found it difficult to survive with little or no palliatives to help pull them through.
No time is late to kick start a new adventure, it is not late for the government to start to key into the provision of more housing, affordable shelters to avert possible harsh consequences of likely natural or artificial disasters in the future.
If the government can complete the already planned construction of 300,000 housing units, even do more housing after that, even after, it could be a solution to the long awaited dream for low income earners to own their homes. Many of these low income earners lack innovative ways of owning homes. For a large proportion of them, the best strategy to owning a home is to begin by getting a plot of land first.
The government should come in with assured policies that can bring affordable housing to the reach of these low income earners. The government need to make this a necessity because, the level of poverty in the country is such that some of the low income earners cannot even procure a plot of land, let alone having the resources to mount structures on it.