By Martins Odeh
Abuja – The Federal Government has been urged to address the lingering housing deficit in the country by ensuring enabling laws and environment for the private estate firms to thrive.
Mr Emmanuel Osilama, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Nuel Osilama Global Investment Limited gave the advice in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja.
Osilama, an estate developer, said Mr Babatunde Fashola, the new Minister of Works and Housing must develop a workable template that would crash the present high cost of houses.
He explained that the government could realistically achieve the provision of affordable houses for all, if it worked in collaboration with the National Association of Real Estate Developers.
He said that no country had succeeded in housing its population without collaborative efforts with housing professionals and the banking sector.
According to him, shelter being a necessity of life like food and clothing must be addressed as quickly as possible for the citizens to have life.
Osilama said the first approach to liberalizing the sector was to review the Land Use Act 1978, which its operations had inhibited housing business in the country.
He said the Act had for many years made it difficult for private developers to easily access land from the overseeing authorities in states and the federal level.
Osilama was of the view that the Act placed so much powers on original owners of land, adding that these owners were at all time prepared to torment developers with astronomic compensation, which invariably would be transferred to unit cost of houses.
“If the law could be amended to make developers easily access estate land direct from the authorities instead of through land speculators as with present experience, the cost of building houses will crash significantly.
“If the cost of constructing houses crashes, you can be sure that the cost per housing unit will equally crash, thereby leading to more opportunities for people to have decent homes.
“Land Speculators are the major challenge of the sector because they are presently responsible for high cost of land. They have always insisted to make 1,000 per cent profit from land they may have bought cheaply from the government.
“Those of us operating in Abuja are suffering the most. In the FCT, the land you bought for N10 million could attract N20 million as payment for compensation.
“The inhibition of the Land Use Act is the power state governors weld. They have often used this power to destroy the sector as they appropriate land to their cronies and leaving out genuine developers.
“Also, the government should contemplate on establishing a Construction/Infrastructure Bank where developers can access secured loans as intervention measure to grow the industry.
“By doing this, the government must have set in motion the process of ensuring that the housing delivery chain was made easy and lucrative for citizens to acquire houses.
“As it stands at the moment, the country is outside of the pecking order of nations with coherent plans for their citizens to acquire houses either in mortgage or direct purchases.
“The Federal Government should also review that National Housing Scheme for workers. It could be made to work better. In fact, less than 15 per cent of the workforce has acquired house through the scheme and this is not encouraging.
“The best bet is for the government to shift attention from construction of houses to pure supervision and regulation. The private sector must be brought in to handle the process,’’ Osilama said.
He emphasized that the development of a template policy that mandated easy access to land, establishment of Construction/infrastructure bank and workable laws were the antidote to the challenges of the sector.
“I am aware of the high cost of building materials, but these materials can be sourced locally. We have cement, wood, water, stones and iron, so what is the problem?
“The government needs to create the enabling environment for the business as it is mandatory for citizens to be housed.
“It should not be viewed as a luxury to own a decent home, to achieve this; the government must remain on the driver’s seat to navigate the private developers through the vagaries of the industry,’’ Osilama said.
Osilama, however, said that his company was more than ever before prepared to crashing prices of house in the country.
“As a company, we are doing a lot to construct affordable houses for the ordinary Nigerians. We are working on a project called “Operation Affordable Houses’’.
“We are combining two technologies to reduce the values of houses in the country by 50 per cent.
“Apart from this, we have the one exclusively designed for federal legislators, especially those making their first appearance in the National Assembly.
“We are partnering with our bank to allow them access beautiful facility in Guzape area of the FCT without collateral and without equity contribution.
“They are only expected to domicile their salary accounts with the bank for installment deductions.
“In this package, we are offering one year free accommodation and those who may not need the accommodation would be offered money in its place,’’ Osilama said.