With a minimum of 1 million housing units required annually to avert a serious housing crisis by 2020, residents of urban areas continue to groan under high cost of rent and property.
The oversized lettering in front of the house simply reads: 'THIS HOUSE IS NOT FOR SALE'. Though what might look like a "buyer beware" advisory is quite unnecessary, but more people are losing their tenement homes in the urban areas to dubious developers who now take advantage of the housing problem in Nigeria to inflict more pain on low-income earners.
Describing what has become a common sight in the urban areas, Segun Adediji who had lived in a residence in Agege, Lagos State for 20 years said: "I have been in this one-room apartment since 1991, when I graduated from the university and now we have been served notice to leave because the family that owns the house sold it to someone. We heard that it will be used to build a bank or shopping mall."
Just last year, President Goodluck Jonathan admitted that Nigeria faces a bleak future in housing. He disclosed that the government requires $30 million (N4.8 billion) per annum to provide adequate shelter and build an extra 60 million housing units to meet the housing needs of the country.
But critics who have been swamped with promises of homes without getting their dreams fulfilled in the past say housing is yet to get serious attention at all levels of government.
Yes, since 1991 when the National Housing Policy, (NHP) was promulgated, the daunting challenges facing the country's housing sector, such as poor policy implementation, bureaucracy, political instability and corruption, are yet to be surmounted.
Despite that, Nigeria continues to seek development without first addressing the housing needs of the citizens, especially among low-income earners. For instance, there are lots of social problems like diseases, crime and poverty that are traceable to inadequate housing and the lack of political will to implement a comprehensive housing policy for the country.
According to a security expert, Mr. James Agaji, "The shortage of housing can contribute to crime wave, especially where people are squatting in uncompleted buildings or completely lack shelter in some instances."
Yet successive governments have over the years started and left behind several uncompleted housing projects across the country. In some cases people who contributed to National Housing Fund (NHF) are still unattended to, while some government housing estates are left for illegal occupants to run down. These structures have become dens for criminals and hard drug peddlers in recent times.
In addition to not being able to own houses, the arbitrary increase in rent has put unbearable pressure on the populace and made the development of slums inevitable.
"The other day I went out with a friend in search of accommodation on the Lagos Mainland (covering Ogba, Agege, Ikeja, Egbeda, Maryland) and to my bitter disappointment I found out that there are affordable homes anywhere for a three bedroom flat in these areas, as most now average N500, 000 per annum and one is expected to pay a minimum of two years as deposit. There is open disregard for the new Lagos rent edict. In fact, a facility manager told me that government policy is one of the reasons behind the soaring price of properties and rent in Lagos," said Eunice Ashafa, a Lagos resident.
In all honesty, experts have continued to lament over the negative impact of Nigeria's Land Use Act on housing. They say the cost of land, the cost of building materials, the lack of planning and the absence of mortgage funds have continued to make housing inaccessible for most Nigerians.
According to the Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority, Mr. Trever Gemade, housing today in Nigeria faces a major challenge coupled with the limitations imposed by the income levels of citizens. In the face of a daunting deficit put at about 16 million and the level of achievement over the past 36 years of the Federal Housing Authority existence, so much is required to narrow this gap and deliver homes to the low, medium and high income earners in the country.
"Our vision therefore juxtaposed with the federal government transformation agenda to place housing as a major driver in the pursuit of the vision 20:20-20; facilitate access to sustainable housing in the country and make home ownership possible for all Nigerians," he said.
Also, the National Director of Fuller Centre for Housing, Sam Odia, revealed recently that more than 60 million Nigerians live in poverty and substandard housing. Approximately 15 million houses are said to be required to fix this crisis nationwide. In addition, there is need for adequate housing in the rural areas, though most housing experts agree that more urgent need resides in the urban areas, where there is a manifest growing number of unplanned neighborhoods, squatters' settlements and slums.
Unsurprisingly, a number of families are homeless and over 70 per cent live under sub-human conditions because they cannot afford decent housing despite government promises over the years to provide "housing for all".
"As the nation's population grows at an annual rate of 3.2 per cent, with more than five million people born annually, up to 750,000 new homes, by implication, are built yearly all over the nation to meet this ever-increasing basic need," he said.
While figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reveal that Nigeria's housing shortfall is between 12 and 14 million residential units, real estate experts and industry watchers maintain that 18 million housing units are currently required to forestall an imminent housing crisis.
For this, some state governors and industry players say they have concluded plans to nip in the bud, the housing challenge. They are of the opinion that the effect of the housing challenge can be mitigated through support for Nigerians who are desirous of owning a home to reduce the housing deficit in the country.
The Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, has vowed to tackle the problem of housing in the state, stating that he has given approval for the construction of more low-cost housing estates in the state to solve the accommodation challenges facing residents of Lagos.
He said this at the commissioning of a 72-unit of three-bedroom Elegant Court housing estate located in Ikota area of the state. "Construction will commence on a new scheme soon," he said.
He added: "The solution to the nation's housing deficit does not lie with the state government alone, but requires concerted efforts by all stakeholders from both the state government to the federal government."
Also, Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi has said his administration would build 5,000 affordable housing units this year. He said, "Ekiti is in its year of empowerment and consolidation and the government would empower more people and create a conducive environment for job creation."
The Rivers State Government is also taking a number of steps to address the housing deficit, just as Delta State Commissioner for Housing, Chief Paulinus Akpeki has recently stated that the administration of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan is determined to overcome the housing challenges of people in his state.
In the end, expert agreed that if concerted efforts are made, housing might be a least of Nigeria's problems.