A new initiative by the Central Bank of Nigeria to strengthen mortgage financing in the country highlights the crisis in the country’s housing sector. Though short on details, the bank said it was collaborating with the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Corporation specifically to address challenges in delivering affordable housing in the country. Bridging the huge housing deficit requires a new multi-faceted approach by the three tiers of government.
The Deputy Governor, Financial Systems Stability of CBN, Aisha Ahmad, says the collaboration with NMRC targets effective mobilisation of credit for housing. Efforts to remove the constraints in the provision of cheaper homes would also be crystalised alongside the expected passage into law of the Model Mortgage and Foreclosure Bill. This seeks, among others, the dismantling of some of the administrative and legal constraints in achieving the goal of housing for all Nigerians, a target set by the government four decades ago but missed. Instead, the gap has widened.
From only a few million units short in the 1970s, the World Bank puts the current deficit at 17 million housing units. In contrast, faced with similar housing shortage in the wake of rapid urbanisation, South Africa delivered over three million housing units between 1994 and 2017 to fill the gap, establishing itself as a country with one of the world’s most ambitious housing programmes. Egypt, Africa’s third largest economy after Nigeria and South Africa, identified a national emergency situation when, by 2011, it had a deficit of 1.5 million housing units!
According to Ahmad, Nigeria currently has a stock of only 13 million housing units for a population variously put at between 180 million and 193 million, while eventual demand is estimated at between 38 million and 44 million units.
Apart from sheer incompetence, successive Nigerian governments miss their targets through wrong strategies and lack of the needed political will and strong regulation to see through good ones. A repeated blunder is the forlorn attempt by the Federal Government to build houses directly. Without unlimited funds and by the sheer magnitude of the logistics, this is ridiculous. A current plan to build 2,736 units across 33 states is typical: how can this redress the 17 million deficit? It is the states and the local governments that are better placed to do this. The United States city and county councils are constantly partnering private developers to provide affordable housing through regulations, policies and subsidies.