By Bertram Nwannekanma
To improve affordability for low and modest income Nigerians, stakeholders in the built environment have urged government at all levels to make housing a top priority.
The stakeholders, who spoke at the launch of a book “Affordable”, authored by the founder of Northcourt, a real estate advisory firm, Tayo Odunsi in Lagos, said there is need for a paradigm shift through critical thinking in making housing really a right and not a privilege.
According to them, government has never considered that housing has multiplier affect in the economy, hence its lethargy in the sector.
The current situation where housing is placed outside the first five top priority areas, they said, is appalling as it remains the most compelling index in the measuring the growth of the economy in developed countries like America and not oil.
Leading discussion on the subject at the event, which drew participations from government, regulators, mortgage bankers, developers, professionals, academicians, investors and the public, an Executive Director, Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC), Dr Chii Akporji said, government should be more open by showing a clarity of purpose and consistency in addressing housing as a right and not a privilege.
Dr Akporji, a lead reviewer of the book, extolled the author for bringing the issue of housing and its affordability to the fore.
According to her, government has not really stamp its feet on the issue because housing has made a mere political stunt and has not really tied it to improving the welfare of citizens.
Regretting that government has not been consistent in creating enabling environment to attract investment in housing because of policy summersault, Dr Akporji said there is need for consistent efforts to make housing investment to thrive.
She called for re-visitation of the nation’s mortgage system in order to make finance affordable to buyers.
Similarly, a developer and chief Executive officer, Nedcom Oaks, Dr Kennedy Okonkwo said there is need for a radical perspective on the part of all relevant stakeholders, especially in the area of making land available. He also wants better regulations and professional inputs in developing designs to reduce cost.
For the special adviser to Ogun state governor on housing and Managing Director of Ogun state Investment Corporation, Mr. Jide Odusolu, housing is so critical for economic development that it cannot be divorce because of its role in checking the economic indicator or determining economic growth.
He called for a partnership model that will guarantee a win-win scenario for all stakeholders based on willingness to sacrifice.
On his part, an investor and founder of Ventures Platform, Kola Aina, said real estate operators should embrace change and thinking out of the box on how to devolve their products for people uses.
He also called for more emphasis on rental, where people are to pay monthly saying the current yearly demand is not attuned to current realities and therefore not sustainable.
Contributing, the Head of Department of Estate Management, University of Lagos, and Prof. Modupe Omiran stressed the need for individuals to be empowered so as not to be seen unduly as the weakest person.
She lamented that government has not done enough to provide infrastructure, which made homeowners to be paying more than renters.
The chairman, Lagos State chapter, Nigeria Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Rogba Orimalade said there is lack of dynamism among professionals in the real estate sector and called creative leadership among them.
Beyond that, Orimalade wants a political will on the part of government to change the situation about housing stressing that the high interest in mortgage financing is affecting investment in housing and thereby impending affordable housing.
On his part, Lagos state commissioner for Housing Prince Gbolahan Lawal, said government cannot be just an umpire in the housing sector because it plays a critical role on both supply and demand side,
He noted that all over the world government’s investment in housing has gone down, because the conventional source of funds supply is simply inadequate because of emerging infrastructural demands in the urban development.
He stressed that Lagos state government understands its limitations and possibilities in determining what stage of the social and affordable housing value chain it will retain.
This, the commissioner said can be seen through various partnerships and avenues the government has explored and is seeking to explore.
According to him, the Rent to Own scheme introduced by the Akinwunmi Ambode administration is a modification from lessons learnt from the implementation of the mortgage scheme whereby the highest needers were excluded because of the requirement of a 30m percent equity contribution which most could not come up with.
On his speech, the author, Tayo Odunsi said the book launch was targeted at gathering people to share their thoughts on how to help them think differently on the issue of shelter, which is a fundamental right of individuals and the roles they should play.