Golfa Francis, Abuja

Housing the world over is seen as one of the most important aspects of human life. The lack of it not only compromises development but exposes one to countless security threats and social mischiefs.

In the logic of this argument, homelessness leads to a structural violence of poverty, hopelessness and withdrawal. These effects are real, whether in Africa, Asia, Europe or America.

Without access to adequate shelter, people are bound to live in miserable conditions that compromise their general health and make them more susceptible to abject poverty, diseases, hunger, floods and psychological trauma, which ultimately often results in societal breakdown.

No meaningful government can afford to overlook the magnitude of inadequate housing, as its impact goes beyond the individual, family, cultural or religious background. It potentially, hampers socio-economic development.

Indeed, governments around the world understand the significance of providing adequate housing as a catalyst for development and as one of the primary requirements to sustainable livelihoods. It is for this reason that developing countries including Nigeria, are progressively advocating changes to the unhelpful attitudes in the housing sector, to rebuild their nation’s economy.

In order to achieve real growth in the nation’s housing sector and reduce its housing deficit, Nigeria has initiated a National Housing Policy, which will ensure the provision of adequate housing for citizens. Analysts and ordinary Nigerians have however, criticised the initiative as unrealistic, given its expansive scope.

The criticism of the policy led to a series of questions ranging from who could legitimately afford to own a home, whether Government should provide a home for the unemployed who cannot pay for their own homes and whether it is more prudent for Government to just provide a robust economy that creates jobs and allow people to seek their own individual mortgages.

These legitimate questions have been topics of discuss for years and the reality is that in the face of dwindling resources, government can not continue to be sole provider of housing. It needs support and collaboration from the private sector and other non-governmental organisations, if consistency and standards are to be sustained.

Among the strategies recommended are ensuring local manufacture and deployment of critical inputs such as laterite, cement, steel and iron rods for building and construction.

Essentially, construction engineers are also expected to deploy creativity, by adopting and adapting cheaper sustainable green technologies for constructions. Materials like bamboo, bricks, rocks and solar energy are cheaper and more readily available in the Nigerian environment. These must be developed for urgent deployment to the housing sector.

An example is often given of the Lagos State Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme, initiated by former Governor Babatunde Fashola, now Minister of Energy, Works and Housing. The public-private partnership scheme successfully delivered 200 homes every month and was paid for by beneficiaries through mortgages. By all standards, it was a landmark achievement by any government, any where in Africa.

The success recorded in Lagos state project lends credence to the argument that private sector participation is a bankable strategy for making affordable housing a national reality in Nigeria.

For its part, Government must provide the enabling environment to reduce production costs, encourage sector-wide standards, propel active private sector competition, foster accessibility to funds and improve the general opportunities for home ownership for all citizens. Housing is intrinsic to survival and most Nigerians have waited long enough for the fulfilment of this basic need.

By deploying the appropriate strategies to ensure affordable housing for all, this government will be actualising a pivotal agenda of the Change mantra and fulfilling one of the core aspirations of many Nigerians.