Apart from food and clothing, housing ranks as one of man’s three fundamental needs. In developed nations, housing has gone beyond just having a roof over one’s head but rather a yardstick to measure a person’s standard of living and position in the society.
Consequently, developed nations invest heavily in housing recognizing that it is a key stimulant to economic growth. Thus, the health and wealth of a nation can be measured from the appraisal of its housing sector.
Being the most populated nation in Africa, Nigeria is confronted with severe housing challenges as its predominantly low and middle income earners do not have access to qualitative housing. With a population of about 190 million and 35% of this figure dwelling in cities, it is apparent that the problem is burdensome. However, it must be acknowledged that even in developed nations, there are still some pockets of homeless people. Housing challenge is, therefore, universal in nature, though with variations from nations to nations.
More than any other State in Nigeria, Lagos experiences a huge and increasing demand for housing. This is in view of its position as a land of huge opportunities where every Nigerian aspires to live, visit or do business in; thereby making the city susceptible to overcrowding which leads to poor living conditions.
It is in a bid to frontally address this huge challenge that the Lagos State Government is embarking on far reaching reforms in the housing sector. An integral part of this reform is the Rent-To-Own and Rental Housing policy which was introduced in response to the yearnings of the populace for affordable and accessible housing. The Rent-To-Own initiative is specifically developed for low and medium income earners. It offers prospective beneficiaries the opportunity to pay the required 5 per cent of the value of the housing unit as commitment fee while the balance is spread over 10 years. The program also permits recipients to live on the property while paying towards ownership as a fixed rent within that period of ten years.
Vital eligibility criteria applicants must meet to benefit from the initiative include being a resident in Lagos State with possession of Lagos State Residents Registration Card, being a first time buyer, must be above 21 years of age, must be tax compliant and also must be able to cover the monthly rental payments with 33% of his/her earnings.
Interestingly, the initiative is not just about making people home owners but giving them homes in a clean, safe and live-able environment. All the schemes are developed in serene and beautiful gated communities with facilities such as water treatment plants, adequate parking space, health care centre, estate management office, street lights, recreational area and a police post for security.
Presently, there are a total number of 4,355 homes available under the Rent-To-Own policy in five Estates including Sir Micheal Otedola Estate Odoragunshin, Epe; Oba Adeboruwa Estate, Igbogbo, Ikorodu; Choice City, Agbowa, Hon Olaitan Mustapha and Alhaja Adetoun Mustapha, Ojokoro, while a total of 12 schemes have been earmarked for the policy.
As part of moves to demonstrate the sincerity of the administration on promise made and promise kept, keys were recently handed over to the 100 applicants who were the first set of beneficiaries of the initiative, by the State Commissioner for Housing, Prince Gbolahan Lawal.
From the eloquent testimonies of the beneficiaries, one can perceive the transparency involved in the entire process. Mr Bamidele Olayiwola Idowu, who was allocated a 2-bedroom flat at Sir Michael Otedola Estate, Odoragunshin in Epe, was very appreciative of the initiative. He admitted that his earlier presupposition was that the scheme was a mere gimmick. Another beneficiary, Miss Leduwe Kikelomo Olajumoke, who got a one bedroom apartment at Oba Adeboruwa Estate, Igbogbo was still in shock about the reality of the scheme. It must, therefore, be stressed that allocation of these homes was done in a fair and just manner, devoid of lobbying or favoritism of any sort from any quarter.
Aside the Rent-To-Own Policy, the State Government has also commenced the Rental Housing Programme targeted at meeting the needs of citizens who may not be interested in ownership or may not be able to meet the requirement of 30 per cent equity contribution for mortgage. All that is required in this category is to pay one month rent.
In order to achieve sustainability of the policy, all beneficiaries need to play their part by ensuring good maintenance of the houses as well as remit their financial obligations to the State as at when due. This would not only open doors of opportunity for others yet to benefit, but will also motivate government to do more for its citizens.
It is noteworthy to assert that the spectacular accomplishments of the Ambode administration, not just in the housing sector but in all ramifications, can be attributed to a burning desire to put tax payer’s money into judicious use.
Abraham Maslow, a humanistic psychologist opined that: “what is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” Certainly, with this intervention, the status of 100 Tenants would change to Home owners every month and this would translate to the gradual reduction in housing deficit in the State.
Nwonah is of the Governor’s Office, Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.