The Challenges Of Housing For The Low Income Earners
1.1 Background Of The Study
Housing has a central importance to quality of life with considerable economic, social, cultural and personal significance. Though a country’s national prosperity is usually measured in economic terms, increasing wealth is of diminished value unless all can share its benefits and if the growing wealth is not used to redress growing social deficiencies, one of which is housing (Erguden, 2001). Housing plays a huge role in revitalizing economic growth in any country, with shelter being among key indicators of development (Ireri, 2010).
The universal declaration of human rights gives one of the basic human rights as the right to a decent standard of living, central to which is the access to adequate housing (United Nations, The Human Rights – article 25, 1948). Housing as a basic human right demands that urban dwellers should have access to decent housing, defined as one that provides a foundation for, rather than being a barrier to, good physical and mental health, personal development and the fulfillment of life objectives (Seedhouse, 1986).
The focus of this research is housing for low income households or what is commonly known as affordable housing. Affordable housing is a term used to describe dwelling units whose total housing costs are deemed “affordable” to those that have a median income. A median income refers to the average pay scale level of the majority people in a population which is often low. Although the term “affordable housing” is often applied to rental housing that is within the financial means of those in the lower income ranges of a geographical area, the concept is applicable to both renters and purchasers in all income ranges. Low-income housing is aimed at individuals without enough income to provide adequate housing for themselves and/or their families. These families are usually unable to purchase a home because they fail to qualify for a mortgage.
Housing is a major problem in Nigeria especially in Makurdi. Millions of people are living in the sprawling slums and also in other informal settlements. Informal settlements and slums in Makurdi have continued to grow at an alarming rate in number as well as in population. Table 1.1 shows the growth in informal settlements in Makurdi between the year 2011 and 2015.
Table 1.1 Growth in Informal Settlements in Makurdi.
Year No. of informal settlements.
Population. % of urban population. 2011 36 167,000 33 2012 50 200,000 40 – 50 2013 78 789,991 55 2015 134 1,886,166 60
Source: Benue State Urban Archives, 2015.
“Informal settlements” is a generic and technical term that seeks to capture the many different features of those settlements that house many of the urban poor in developing countries. The name implies the dominant feature of such settlements is their informality – the fact that they develop outside the existing legal and regulatory framework. The informal settlements are sometimes called “unplanned” or “spontaneous” settlements, which is misleading, since many informal settlements are planned, albeit not in a conventional way, and are not all spontaneous (World Bank, 2003). Demand for housing far surpasses its supply in Nigeria, especially in urban areas that have for long suffered from poor planning, resulting in an increase in informal settlements with poor housing and little infrastructure services. The housing market in Nigeria has over the years faced a huge supply challenge for both government and private sector players. With availability of about 35,000 housing units in urban areas, the deficit remains huge from a growing demand of 150,000 units every year (Terkula, 2010).
Despite some attempts at achieving decent housing for Nigerians, Nigeria has, on the whole, failed to address the dire housing conditions of her population. The situation has been partially alleviated through the activities of the private sector housing developers, who have been a key supplier of housing, particularly in Makurdi (Benue State Urban Archives, 2009). In the year 2010, the private sector commenced construction of housing units worth Kshs. 9.8 billion and registered growth of 6.9% over the previous year (Statistical Abstract, 2008). But despite intensive overall private-sector activity, these private developers have mainly concentrated in the middle and upper segments of the market with relatively little focus on the low-income market. The low income house units currently constitutes less than 30% of the private development portfolio (Economic survey, 2010), yet this is the segment where the need is particularly acute.
In the past, the government took up the role of housing supplier by controlling planning, land allocation, and development and maintaining housing estates. The government has being charged with the responsibility of providing subsidized housing and implementing government housing policies and programmes through tenant purchase, mortgages, rental and rural housing loan schemes. The National Housing Corporation was formed as part of Nigeria’s post colonial housing policy, underscoring the importance of providing decent shelter for all urban workers in the country (Benue State Urban Archives, 2009).
NGO’s have come in to fill in the gap in the housing shortage especially for the low income households. Banks also introduced loans to enable building of infrastures especialy houses for rents and this NGO’s and private individuals are now engaged in a low cost housing development project for its members, and the public.
Other NGO’s involved in policy making and assisting developers in this sector include: National Urban Forum (Nigeria), African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD). These housing developers focusing on the low income market cannot adequately meet the needs of the market unless more players from the private sector join in.
There are five models of housing development for low income housing initiatives (World Bank, 2011):
Sites plus development plan and gradual implementation of services – settlements are planned and surveyed, lots allocated and occupied, and infrastructure gradually implemented.
Sites and services – mass production of serviced sites in large schemes for resettlement of urban squatters, usually in peripheral land in city outskirts and with basic starter housing units.
Comprehensive upgrading of existing settlements – wide range of improvements involving different types of infrastructure according to predefined area plan; this is integrated upgrading but undertaken in one go, usually in a two year time frame.
Development of new housing in new settlement – new infrastructure and housing units are built on empty land; or new housing units on available land in existing serviced areas.
Redevelopment of degraded existing structures – agreement reached with building landlords for building renovation.
The Rwanda government for example has adopted the model of developing new housing settlements for her population. They have initiated the Imidugudu project. Imidugudu is an 80 household settlement that was set up in 2002, to accommodate refugees who had returned mainly from Burundi. They are grouped settlements modeled along the lines of Israel’s Kibbutz. The model is being replicated in the whole of Rwanda to accommodate her population decently (Rwanda Report, 2010).
1.2 Statement Of The Problem
Provision of adequate, affordable and decent housing for low income households is clearly in short supply. The players in this industry are too few and there seems to be a minimal interest of other private sector housing developers to provide low income housing units. These private sector developers as by their success in the middle and high income housing markets, implies that they may have the capacity and skill set to supply the low-income housing required to alleviate, at least partly, the housing shortfall in the country (Benue State Urban Archives, 2009). But they have shied away from the low income market mainly because the profitability margins are lower as compared to housing developments for the other markets.
There are also many other factors affecting the supply of housing from private sector housing developers prominent of which is the cost of production and the opportunity cost to the developer’s finite funds in either providing middle income housing or high income segment housing or low income housing. The developers have to consider the rate of return to their investment and how fast they’ll realize this. But these are not the only factors affecting the supply of low income housing and the other factors should also be put into consideration. Provision of low cost housing to the increasing number of lower and middle income classes in the country has also been hugely affected by the cost of land and inadequate infrastructure (Terkula, 2010).
The problem that this research seeks to address is that of the shortage in housing supply for low income households and the challenges faced by both existing and potential developers in this market. Issues to be addressed in this research study include the factors affecting low income housing supply, the motivating factor to existing developers in venturing into this market and the housing models they have adopted in their projects.
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