Fashola advocates attitudinal change to revamp real estate sector

Golfa Francis, Abuja

The Nigerian government has advocated for a change of unhelpful attitudes in the real estate sector in the country.

Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola made the call while speaking as a Special Guest at the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce Advocacy Business Roundtable in Lagos with the theme, “The Nigerian Real Estate Sector: A Reform Agenda”.

Mr Fashola also urged the real estate sector to be willing to accept home ownership responsibilities.

He said such responsibilities include payment of rates, levies and property taxes which would also serve as viable means to rebuild the nation’s economy.

”In order to enhance the enormous opportunities offered by the nation’s housing challenges to rebuild her economy, there must be willingness among Nigerians to change their attitudes towards such home ownership responsibilities,” Fashola, said.

”The willingness to change attitude towards the sector had become expedient in order to enhance the quality of life of the citizens as exemplified in economies where there is credit in the real estate sector,” the Minister explained.

He emphasised the need for landlords to embrace the attitude of rent collection weekly or monthly in arrears instead of yearly in advance while there should be easy access to low interest mortgage loans where the mortgage schemes exist.

Mr Fashola also Urged the Association of Estate Agents to look and see their own contribution to the access of real estate acquisition while landlords should step up to offer credit to Housing as their private sector contribution towards increasing access to housing and shelter by agreeing to collect rents monthly in arrears and not in multiples of yearly rent paid in advance.

On the part of tenants, the Minister said they must dutifully discharge their rent obligation when these credits are offered so that landlords don’t have to seek eviction orders in court.

Lawyers were asked to refrain from seeking injunctions against eviction and possession on behalf of debtor tenants.

“It is not an accident that the quality of life is better in economies where there is credit in the real estate sector by way of rent payment weekly or monthly in arrears instead of yearly in advance, and also where there is easy access to low interest mortgage loans”, Fashola reiterated.

Housing Delivery

In order to achieve real growth in the nation’s Housing Sector and solve its housing deficiency, the Minister said that the Private Sector must be fully involved in housing delivery in order to maintain consistency in both provision and maintenance of houses.

According to him, if Government alone is the provider of housing as the case is in the country, the supply and access would not be enough but that if Government starts, and allows private sector to play a more active role, supply will improve, opportunities for ownership and access will expand, and the country will achieve some consistency of housing provision.

The Minister cited the example of Lagos State Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme which his administration initiated and operated when he was Governor of the State.

“In the latter part of my tenure of service as Governor of Lagos, between 2014 and 2015, the State Government was able to deliver 200 homes monthly by mortgage to Lagosians and had put in place a programme of construction in about 20 sites across the state to sustain the monthly supply of the homes under the Lagos HOMS scheme,” the Minister recalled.

“200 homes a month may appear insufficient, but I do not recall any Government in Africa that made a commitment equal to that, not to talk of delivering on it. This is why I spoke of consistency. And this is why I spoke of the importance of private sector participation”, Fashola said.

Posing questions ranging from who could legitimately afford to own a home? Should Government provide a home for those who do not have jobs and therefore cannot pay? Or should Government provide a robust economy that provides jobs and leave people to seek their mortgages?, Fashola gave reasons why the Private Sector should be involved in the housing delivery.

“Most of us can recall the Jakande Housing Programme, the Shagari Housing Programme and the Gemade Housing Programme, all of which ran for only a few years, while those officers served. Let us ask ourselves which other housing programme we remember apart from Otedola’s Jubilee Scheme in a Government of very short tenure”, noting that the reason many of those schemes won’t be remembered was “not because they were not undertaken, it is because they did not continue; a lack of consistency,” Fashola reiterated.

Fashola also noted that housing delivery involved a long term plan and programme which, according to him, could only be successful if pursued consistently citing Britain and Singapore as examples where housing provision targets of 50,000 and 100,000 per annum were set respectively with the production of doors, steel, tiles, toilet ware and the other components.

Public Housing Programme

The Minister recalled that in 1918, after the First World War, Britain embarked on a national public housing programme which it has continued with till date adding that by 2018, that programme would have run for 100 years consistently.

He also noted that in Singapore, the Housing and Development Board was inaugurated in 1960 adding that between 1960 and 1965, they built 54, 430 homes; (Approximately 10,886 homes a year) and started with flats and did not start to build Executive condominiums until 1999 (39 years later).

Drawing attention to the cultural differences in housing in Nigeria, the Minister tasked the Chamber and other stakeholders in the housing sector to make input into the sector to help his Ministry arrive at an agreeable Housing Policy as it concludes work on the design and cost of the National Public Housing scheme billed to be made public later this year.