REMARKS BY THE MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE FEDERAL HOUSING AUTHORITY, SENATOR ‘GBENGA B. ASHAFA, AT THE AVALON DAILY POLICY DIALOGUE ON HOUSING THEMED “HOME OWNERSHIP FOR YOUNG AND HARDWORKING NIGERIANS” – JUNE 25, 2021
The organizers of this policy dialogue have achieved a first in terms of making sure that an event that dwells solely on issues surrounding the housing needs of young people is held, albeit online. I commend The Avalon Daily and The Avalon Radio for putting this event together because it features a healthy mix of government and non-government speakers who, as compatriots, will hold each other accountable for everything discussed on this platform.
My remarks will dwell on key issues surrounding the theme of this program: Home ownership for young and hardworking Nigerians. As a stakeholder in Nigeria’s housing sector, by virtue of my role as the Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority, I will examine this theme in a manner that is realistic and reflective of the peculiarities of our country.
As we proceed, we would all agree that whether for the young or old, the concept of home ownership is aspirational. Home ownership is also generally regarded as a safe haven and a source of investment and security.
The logic of housing availability follows the economic principles of supply and demand. The problem of rural-urban migration has led to over-population in our major cities and should serve as a motivation for developers to commit to the development of cost-efficient apartment blocks that can be sold in chunks and pieces to a generation of young Nigerians who desire home ownership.
Let us deconstruct affordability once and for all, since it is a hot-button issue that is always at the top of the list of factors preventing young people from owning homes. Beyond the small number of people who will inherit homes from their parents or grandparents, a larger number of young people will have to buy their own homes. This is the reality in a lot of places, I presume.
According to UN-HABITAT (2011), affordable housing is defined as “housing which is adequate in quality and location and does not cost so much that it prohibits its occupants from meeting other basic living costs or threatens their enjoyment of basic human rights.”
Let us take the plight of young people in commercial cities into consideration. In Lagos and Abuja, for instance, housing is comparable to quality of life. Will a young person living in the suburbs of Lagos and Abuja agree that housing is “affordable” if it is situated far from economic opportunities?
If the government or private developers make low-cost mass housing available in suburbs and far-flung areas for young people, would it be fair to say that the houses are affordable if these same young people are experiencing longer commute times to work? Would it be regarded as affordable housing if the distance between the house and the city centre is so far that a young person cannot take a job due to distance?
I ask these questions in order to set the tone for today’s webinar, knowing fully well that we are all stake holders and policy makers in the housing industry. We need to also consider these questions and how they will influence any proposed interventions and solutions we will proffer today. Bringing affordable housing closer to economic opportunities or in-fact accommodating it in structural design is one of the ways we will benefit the younger generation.
For us at the Federal Housing Authority, we have repositioned ourselves to adopt a bridge model whereby we leverage on the availability of land in some of the fast growing satellite towns while also maximizing space structurally wherever we find land in the city centers. We will continue to ensure that housing units provided under our mandate are delivered at cost-friendly prices in order for them to remain affordable to many Nigerians.
We must therefore continue to explore cheaper and durable ways to build for the future. We must think affordability, functionality and smart in order to ensure that these houses are suitable enough for shelter and smart enough to double as the business spaces, taking into cognizance the future of work.
Solutions and Recommendations
- In recognizing the gift of choice and freedom to choose, young people must be given healthy options. Whilst not everyone may be interested in owning homes, we must do more to offer options to those who really need it and can afford it. As a quick win and low-hanging fruit, home ownership models such as rent-to-own and shared ownership are a good place to start.
- Mortgage in Nigeria has to be radically popularized and made accessible. We need to de-emphasize one-off payments for real estate solutions. Young people should avail themselves of the options provided by the National Housing Fund through the Federal Mortgage Bank as well as Primary Mortgage Banks.
- Stakeholders in the financial services sector should develop new and better ways of helping young people to build their creditworthiness. This should then be integrated into a mortgage adoption framework that allows for more inclusion of people who are employed but earn lower salaries. In the same vein, the financial services sector specialized funding packages should be made available to developers at single digits interest rates in order to bring down the overhead factored into the unit cost per house developed.
- Employers should consider supporting their staff to meet housing costs through bonded loans, welfare subsidies or shared mortgage payments.
- The federal government can commit to the provision of tax incentives, grants or waivers for private real estate developers to develop specific types of properties in selected areas which will be made available to credit-worthy young people.
There is no magic wand to solve the problems surrounding home ownership for young and hardworking Nigerians. However, they can be adequately tacked through a combination of sound policy, strong political will and the effective collaboration of all stakeholders.
Like I said at a housing-related event I attended in 2020, “we need each other if any intervention or policy is to have significant impact in the real estate sector.” We can talk as much as we want, but if proposed recommendations and solutions do not address both housing supply and demand challenges, we will fail.
Thank you for listening.