POOR funding of the housing sector by the government has, for long, been touted as the major challenge bedevilling the housing sector.
The government has, for years, been accused of handling the issue of reducing housing deficit with kid gloves. Thus with a meagre 0.114 per cent budgetary allocation for housing in the 2014 Appropriation Bill, it is believed that the government has, again, shown why mass housing shortage continues to be in existence in the country.
It is no longer news that the 2014 budget has been presented to the National Assembly, but the details of what is allotted to each sector is still generating ripples.
While understandably, security is one of the sectors with the highest allocations, many industry players in the housing sector are still at a loss as to why Lands and Housing again got one of the lowest allocations.
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, while reeling out the 2014 Budget worth N4.91tr, last week, had revealed that Lands and Housing would be allotted N5.6bn, representing about 0.114 per cent of the entire budget.
While eyebrows have been raised about this rather meagre allocation, it will suffice to say that allocation of ‘chicken feed’ to housing seems to have been the hallmark of budget presentations in Nigeria in recent years.
It will be recalled that the 2013 budget had an allocation of 0.54 per cent for housing, which was allotted N26.49bn from a total budget of N4.92tr; while almost similarly in 2012, the sector was allocated N24.9bn out of a total budget of N4.75tr (0.52 per cent).
Housing experts have, overtime, expressed the notion that poor budgetary allocation to housing, as done by the government in recent years, can only mean that the government has only been paying lip service to the development of the housing sector which is generally believed to be suffering from underfunding.
When sharing his view on such budgetary allocations, the immediate past Chairman of the Lagos State branch of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Mr Olusola Fatoki, in a recent interview with Property and Environment, affirmed that not much could be done with all budgets presented in the country. He, however, insisted that much progress could only be made if emphasis was placed on creating an enabling environment for housing development.
“Presentation of budgets is not the main issue, but implementation. Things will pick up positively if the government can back its talk with action,” Mr Fatoki opined, while adding that, “If there is a good mortgage system and plans are put in place, they will go a long way in providing housing units to numerous citizens.”
“Housing can generate a lot of revenue and employment to the economy, and since the government has the mind of generating thousands of jobs, housing, if well harnessed, can create a platform for this to be achieved,” he argued.
Quite similarly, an ex-national president of the NIESV, Mr Bode Adediji, also opined that emphasis should always be placed on creating and implementing policies that would make it easy for people across all classes, to become house owners without them having to face mountains to climb.
One of the ways this can be done, according to him, is for the government to increase people’s ability to have access to land.
“The government must realise that finance is not really the key issue in housing development; rather, it is creating an enabling environment whereby people have access to land; where people are not confronted with bureaucracy, in terms of application for certificate of occupancy, filing for town planning approval, etc. Government must take a holistic view to ensure that people who have resources to go into the business and housing construction are not in any way discouraged,” he opined.