By Hon. Moruf Akinderu-Fatai
Lagos State, as a major economic hub and commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, attracts a lot of people from various parts of the nation. Apart from rural urban drift, immigration from different neighboring nations also accounts for the ever swelling demography of the State. Providing adequate accommodation for the ever increasing number of dwellers of the State is indeed a challenge that has become a basis for a responsive housing policy from the State Government.
With the inception of the administration led by Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, there was a renewed vigor to add to the existing stock of homes in the State. As part of its deliberate policy and in pursuit of the T. H. E. M. E. S. agenda, the Lagos State Government made a resolve to consistently and constantly upscale the activities targeted at reducing the housing deficit in the State. This is being done by deliberately increasing the available housing stock in Lagos state through two basic strategies. The first game plan was to complete all ongoing housing projects inherited from past administrations in order to consolidate on the gains of the past and have a quick win which will translate to more dividends for the people within the first years of the administration. It is important to note that many of the projects had been set aside for over four years. Some had exceeded the project life span thereby requiring extensive modifications and variations. Suffice to say that, this plan was also to curtail the unwarranted wastage which would have resulted from continued abandonment of such housing projects. In this category, there were 15 housing schemes comprising over 4000 home units at various locations in the State at different levels of completion. Some of the scheme sites are Igando, Igbogbo, Sangotedo, Ajara, Egan-Igando, LASU main Campus, Iba, Sangotedo, Epe to mention a few.
The second ploy was to activate the Public Private Partnership schemes which were already in existence. There were over 30 private investors who were in joint partnership with the State in developing some housing schemes. The involvement of private sector in increasing the housing stock is quite crucial. It helps in reducing direct governmental expenditure thereby releasing more funds for bridging other infrastructural gaps. While government provides unencumbered land for these investors, the onus then lies on the partner to build according to given and agreed-upon specifications within a time limit. These developers entered into partnership, by a legal relationship with the State Government to build on government acquired land and upon completion give to the State government an agreed number of the housing units which commensurate with the cost of land and a percentage of the profit. Such projects are located at Idale in Badagry, Lekki, Ibeshe, Imota, Ilubinrin, Iponri and Ijora and so on.
It is should be noted that the Public Private Participation arrangement was fraught with a lot of challenges in the past. It was observed that prior to this current administration, the pace of project completion by many joint investors was usually very slow. However, when the present Administration assumed office, it became very clear and imperative to determine the status of the various Joint Ventures projects and institute more stringent monitoring apparatus to measure the level of compliance from time to time. In a manner of intervention, the present Government actively engaged the Joint Venture Partners more through joint technical meetings, enforcement of the much needed timelines for each stage of the work plans, supported them as much as possible to overcome challenges through vibrant inter-ministerial relationships and regular review of contractual agreements (if necessary) in the interest of the people whom we are serving.
The gains of the plans so far include the fact that already a total of 1576 homes have been completed as follows: 120 units at Courtland Luxury Villa Igbokushu and 132 units in Lekki Apartments (through the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation), 492 units in Alhaji Lateef Jakande Estate in Igando, 360 units at Lagos Homs Igbogbo llB, 252units at Lagos State Affordable Public Housing Scheme in Idale, Badadgry, 132 units at Iponri Housing Scheme and 92 units at Lekki Phase 2 scheme in Eti- Osa Local Government. In accordance with the expectation and the structure already established, the following yield is expected before the first quarter of 2021: 774 units from the 1188 homes under construction at LagosHOMS Sangotedo clusters in Eti – Osa LGA, 660 homes at Lagoshoms Odo Onosa /Ayandelu in Agbowa Local Council Development Area, Egan Igando Scheme with 630 homes out of which 270 will be delivered before the end of the year and LagosHOMS LASU in Lagos State University main Campus with 36units.
With the huge housing deficit in the State, the State government is still resolute on creating more innovative methods for supplying decent and affordable homes to the people of the State. Given the limited land mass of the State and the increased pressure on available lands for housing and other developmental ventures, the time is ripe for thinking outside the box. In the course of time, government is keen on evolving an inclusive strategy through which owners of old homesteads partner with government in terms of releasing old properties to government for vertical developments of blocks of homes. The land on which the homes are will be viewed as equity for the family concerned while government will partner in building high rise accommodation to serve as homes for more people. This is a strategy that will also result in urban renewal and regeneration of old homesteads.
We are greatly concerned about affordable housing for a large section of the people especially those in the low income bracket. Economic realities reveal that the purchasing power of many residents is weak hence pushing home ownership far beyond their dreams. This is being addressed through the reorganization of our informal sector which is where many of our people operate. We are actively driving cluster arrangements via Cooperatives to satisfy the yearnings of as many people as possible in this bracket. This group is accommodated through the Rent to Own Scheme which is our own unique way of increasing affordability. This scheme enables an allottee to pay only 5% as initial payment with the rest spread over a period of 10 years with a minimal interest of 6%.
Effective mortgage funding at reasonable interest rate to reduce the high cost of funding for housing is also part of our policy considerations. In addition, we are actively encouraging research into the use of local building materials to reduce cost of building. In this way, we solve the issue of affordability while also energizing the economy through reduced import cost.
A huge percentage roughly put at 85% of our people live in rented apartments. There is need for intervention since many spend over 40% of their income on rents which has to be paid annually in most cases. In this regard, we have the proposed HOME4MORE scheme targeted at young professionals with the aim of giving them a good start in life. We are in the process of working it out with various stakeholders in the Private sector including Contributory Pension Fund Administrators and other agencies of government. Through this platform, we will support competent private investors to have access to low-priced finance probably the Pension Contributory Funds so that they can build decent low cost accommodation in vertical construction for the young and upcoming professionals. More of the projects under this plan will be sited in the cosmopolitan areas to ensure proximity to work places. Part of the agreement with the Private Developers will include the clause that rents on these particular homes shall be moderated by Government and payable monthly or quarterly. We are also critically working on the Model Mortgage Foreclosure Law to further reduce the risk of housing development in the State.
Evidently the housing schemes that will evolve and originate from the present administration have taken into full cognizance the realities of the present day challenges such as unbridled immigration, increased governmental responsibility in other areas of development as well as low earning power of the people grossly affected by homelessness. Based on the T.H.E.M.E.S. Agenda in which the thrust is to transform the State into a 21st century economy that is comparable to others in the world, the housing development policies will be more robust and yet domesticated to our environment. While renewing the old rundown estates, the design of our new homes will be directed towards a more optimized usage of land which is very scarce in the state. Vertical buildings which will house more people will replace the lateral ones, drastically reducing the housing deficit. Innovative building technology based on increased local contents that could reduce time and cost of homes is being worked out and shall be the basis for partnerships with the private sector participants. Our new homes will also be wired to access the advantages of ease and comfort afforded by technology. New estates will also show enhanced sustainability and livability with easy access to all social facilities like recreation, education, transportation and health care.
All said and done, governmental policies in all sectors are being tailored towards a more integrated and fully incorporated synergy for the total benefit of the people. With this, location of housing schemes either in rural or urban part of the state will soon be inconsequential in making choice of homes especially with multimodal means of transportation embarked upon by the State Government. The dream is here, the will to perform and deliver is available. Together, the people, the private sector and Government can change the narrative for better.