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How housing can aid economic growth -Fashola

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The Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Tuesday advocated a change of unhelpful attitudes in the real estate sector and willingness to accept home ownership responsibilities like payment of rates, levies and property taxes as some of the viable means to rebuild the nation’s economy through the real estate sector.

Fashola, who spoke as special guest of honour at the Oriental Hotel, Lekki Expessway venue of the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce Advocacy Business Roundtable, said in order to enhance the enormous opportunities offered by the nation’s housing challenges to rebuild her economy, there must be willingness among Nigerians to change their attitudes towards such home ownership responsibilities.

Represented at the Roundtable with the theme, “The Nigerian Real Estate Sector: A Reform Agenda”, by his Special Adviser on Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Abiodun Oki, Fashola said the willingness to change attitude towards the sector had become expedient in order to enhance the quality of life of the citizens as exemplified in economies where there is credit in the real estate sector.

According to the Minister, there is need for landlords to embrace the attitude of rent collection weekly or monthly in arrears instead of yearly in advance while there should be easy access to low interest mortgage loans where the mortgage schemes exist.

Urging the Association of Estate Agents to look in the mirror and see their own contribution to the access of real estate acquisition while landlords should step up to offer credit to Housing as their private sector contribution to increasing access to housing and shelter by agreeing to collect their rents monthly in arrears and not in multiples of yearly rent paid in advance, Fashola also focused on the responsibilities of tenants.

Tenants, the Minister said, must dutifully discharge their rent obligation when these credits are offered so that landlords don’t have to seek eviction orders in court while lawyers must refrain from seeking injunctions against eviction and possession on behalf of debtor tenants adding, “These are some of the habits I spoke of which we must consider, and change”.

“It is not an accident that the quality of life is better in economies where there is credit in the real estate sector by way of rent payment weekly or monthly in arrears instead of yearly in advance, and also where there is easy access to low interest mortgage loans”, he reiterated.

Promising, as Minister responsible for Housing, to confront the challenges facing the nation’s Housing Sector, the Minister said he was greatly inspired by the enormous opportunities in the sector adding, however, that the key to the opportunities lay in the identified attitude change.

He declared, “Our housing challenge offers an enormous opportunity to rebuild our economy, but we must answer serious questions honestly, change unhelpful attitudes, be willing to accept responsibilities that come with home ownership such as payment of rates, levies and property taxes, if we are desirous of seizing the opportunities”.

Fashola said in order to achieve real growth in the nation’s Housing Sector and solve her housing deficiency, the Private Sector must be fully involved in housing delivery in order to maintain consistency in both provision and maintenance of houses.

According to him, if Government alone is the provider of housing as has been the case in the country, the supply and access would not be enough adding that “if Government starts, and allows private sector to play a more active role, supply will improve, opportunities for ownership and access will expand, and then we can achieve some consistency of housing provision”.

“In this way, we can then be able to say that we are on our way to sustainable housing delivery”, the Minister said citing the example of Lagos State Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme which his administration initiated and operated when he was Governor of the State.

He recalled, “In the latter part of my tenure of service as Governor of Lagos, between March 2014 and April 2015, the State Government was able to deliver 200 homes every month by mortgage to Lagosians , and had put in place a programme of construction in about 20 sites across Lagos to sustain the monthly supply of 200 homes under the Lagos HOMS scheme”.

“200 homes a month may appear insufficient, but I do not recall any Government in Africa that made a commitment equal to that, not to talk of delivering on it. This is why I spoke of consistency. And this is why I spoke of the importance of private sector participation”, Fashola said.