The importance of housing stretches beyond just a basic need for survival. It is a tool for societal regulation and a means of protection from danger and diseases. Essentially, the situation of housing in any clime has a multiplier effect on all other sectors. All individuals that constitute the labour force of any country definitely live in a house, and this crystallizes how the quality and quantity of the available housing stock within a country impacts on, not only the well-being of the people, but also the strength and development of such economy.
Bearing in mind this imperative maxim, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Infrastructure, Imeh Okon says the Federal government will continue to prioritize the development of the housing sector in the country.
Okon stated this while featuring as guest panellist at a webinar recently hosted by the Housing Development Advocacy Network, HDAN with the theme: Housing as a governance tool and legislative response to poverty and disease control.
According to her, some of the ways through which the government has prioritized the housing sector is seen in the different policies being implemented with respect to different areas of housing.
“A policy that we have put on the ground, brought up initiatives and programs like the Family Homes Funds and this platform, The Housing Development Advocacy Network (HDAN), has discussed severally, on the benefits of Family Homes Funds. That is one programme the country is so proud of. It will help social housing, affordable housing and also create opportunities for young people across Nigeria.
“We know the CBN intervention, in the housing sector, which brought out NMRC. You can see all that we are trying to do on the foreclosure law- all the reforms we are trying to achieve in the titling sector, so we prioritize housing, because we see the potentials, in the housing sector” she said.
She further that although the construction and real estate sector contributes about 3% to the nation’s GDP, there is more potential in the sector that could be utilized for mass housing development in other to improve the sector’s contribution to the GDP.
“Traditionally, construction and the real estate sector has over the years been very central to economies of most countries especially the developed ones, so we see the construction industry contributing about 30 to 70% to the GDP. Unfortunately in clime like ours, the last check I did was in quarter 3 of 2019, where we see that construction and real estate contributed about 3% to the GDP. So there is potential in that sector. So it’s only logical for any government to prioritize construction through mass housing development in other to improve the contribution to GDP”
The Senior Special Assistant also explained that government is working on a mass housing programme to meet the needs of Nigerians, while also stating that there is the need to improve on the nation’s existing housing policies and also formulate new policies that can improve the nation’s response in combating pandemics.
“Right now under the chairmanship of the Vice President, they are currently coming up with a program on Mass housing, in one of the reports, for economic sustainability, so the pointers are there, that the government knows the importance of housing to the sector.
“While we are implementing policies, we also have to sit back and see how has covid-19 impacted or how will it impact, these policies we have on ground or currently implementing. And if I take you back, several months ago, when the world had to adapt, our lifestyle to climate change, for me I feel covid-19 and climate change are synonymous, but is just that covid-19 is more deadly, but if you check climate change, through flooding and all, people’s lives are also lost.
“We have to come to the realization, that any investment we do, in infrastructure we have to climate-proof, in the sense that, the money I put to building a power plant, if there is a climate-related issue, will that power plant be resilient to the condition?
“For me this covid-19 situation, has brought us to the table, where we are going to also have this kind of thought- Are we going to Covid-proof our policies? Do we have to start looking at all the policies we have on the table, to put them to test? How far would they survive the proofing in terms of covid-19? How many of our policies can survive?” she stated.
She however pointed out that the covid-19 pandemic could be a blessing in disguise for the housing sector, as it presents government the opportunity to rethink the nation’s urban development policies and review them.
“Now is a good time to look at the roadmap for the urban and development policy. Is it properly structured? Can we expose it now to communities? Can we engage the community, to help us look at the review, taking into cognizance how they live and what we see in those communities that are affected by covid-19? So I see covid-19, as an opportunity where the government can bring all our policy regulations, and test them” she said.