Population growth in metropolitan Lagos has assumed geometric proportion and has raised the demand for housing. Correspondingly, the provisions of urban infrastructure and housing to meet this demand has remained low, resulting in the acute shortage of housing to the teeming population of the State. The shortage, estimated at 5 million housing units representing 28% of the national housing deficit of 18 million, is having tremendous negative impacts on the well-being of the urban poor. Due to the absence of sustainable access to quality and affordable housing, the urban poor who constitute about 91% of the state’s population are taking the initiative to provide their own housing. Regularly, these self-help efforts are contravenes zoning and subdivision regulations. The major outcome of the contravention is slums proliferation which has increased from 45 in 1985 to more than 100 as at January 2010, while its control has remained a demanding challenge to urban planners and policy makers. The increasing slum settlements have exacerbated the incidence of poverty with attendant high crime rate in the city of Lagos.
Various strategies, aimed at providing housing have been adopted by the government, but the combined efforts of all the State’s agencies at providing housing have yielded less than 1, 000 units per annum where 500,000 units are required, annually, over a ten-year period to bridge the deficit.
From the above premise, it is obvious that government alone cannot meet the challenge in the sector and all strategies adopted have not yielded the desired results. The low-income housing which is one of the key approaches towards enhancing access to housing for the low-income earners tends to isolate building construction budget, eventual delivery price and overall commercial components of housing supply as against the general mechanism of housing delivery. This has resulted in low quality housing stock, absence of long-term management and maintenance structure, lack of proportional interplay among the housing development components such as land, finance, building materials and capacity development. Often, there is lack of connection between development and delivery leading to diversionary allocation of the units to high income earners to the detriment of intended beneficiaries, the low-income groups. Other initiatives like public private partnership and direct construction by the government have not expanded investment in the affordable housing sector and have priced the housing units beyond the capacity of the urban poor.
In view of the severe housing shortage, associated spiraling poverty rate in Lagos and in pursuance of its mandate, the Urban Spaces Innovation [USI] convened a social housing summit on Thursday, May 20, 2010 where it was resolved that there is need to articulate a social housing policy as a framework for advancing the development of affordable housing to low-income groups. The summit was attended by a broad spectrum of stakeholders in the land, housing, environment and urban development sectors. As a follow up to the recommendations of the summit, USI considers the formation of the Social Housing Policy Working Group as a critical step in the development of the social housing policy in Lagos State.
The formation of the Working Group rests on the principles of participatory, inclusiveness and responsiveness. The Group comprises of practitioners and professionals from government, private and civil society sectors with background in land, housing, environment, social and economic developments, urban development and finance. Strategically included in the Group are the target beneficiaries of the policy, the low-income groups. The broad composition of the stakeholders is to ensure that the policy framework meets the expectations of local demands for affordable housing.
Some of the terms of reference for the Working Group are as follows;
a. Design and develop a draft social housing policy for Lagos State. In the draft policy, the group will, among other contents, attempt to;
i. Define and establish guiding principles applicable to social housing in Lagos.
ii. Determine the social housing policy goals and objectives.
iii. Identify the target beneficiaries and set the eligibility criteria for social housing.
iv. Identify various stakeholders under the platform of social housing and define the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder.
v. Provide general framework among all the identified stakeholders for the delivery of social housing.
vi. Provide institutional, legal, regulatory, financial, and participatory framework for the social housing market.
viii Identify various strategies and incentives for promoting the development and delivery of affordable housing.
b. Make general provisions for any matter connected therewith.
At the pre –inaugural meeting of the Working Group on November 22, 2011, Oshodi, in his opening remarks explained that the Social Housing Policy Working Group [SHPWG] will work together for the next one year to bring into reality a draft Social Housing Policy that will be presented to the State for possible implementation. He affirmed that the dedication, time and support of all the group members are crucial in achieving the goals of the policy formulation process. The current population of Lagos State is about 18 million and estimated to climb to 25 million by the year 2015. At 18 million, access to housing is severely restricted, at 25 million, there will be chaos, if we do not act now, he concluded.
After the revision of the time schedule, activities and other operational procedures for the Working Group, members were constituted into seven sub groups, with the aim of producing effective and sustainable housing policy. The sub groups are;
1. Social Housing Policy and Strategy
3. Community Inclusion and Urban Regeneration
4. Lands & Planning For Social Housing
5. Social Housing Developments, Design and Technology
6. Institutional Framework
7. Social Housing Financing
The second meeting of the working group took place on February 2, 2012 with briefings from Lands & Planning for Social Housing, Social Housing Financing and Community Inclusion and Urban Regeneration sub groups. Presentations were also made by the Social Housing Developments, Design and Technology and Institutional Structures sub groups. Nigerite Limited, a building manufacturer organization was invited by the Social Housing Developments, Design and Technology sub group to make presentation on the technology that can deliver cost-effective mass housing. In closing the meeting, the representative of the low-income communities, Pa Samuel Aiyeyemi, expressed appreciation to all the group members for their selfless participation in the process and stated that the people of his social class will be eternally grateful for this effort at providing housing for them.
On April 5, 2012, the third general meeting of the Working Group was held with presentation from the Social Housing Developments, Design and Technology and Demography sub groups. On the invitation of the Social Housing Developments, Design and Technology, Professor Olumide Olusanya of Department of Architecture, University of Lagos, Nigeria made presentation on the initiative of producing mass housing in a mega city like Lagos. One of the key submissions of the Demography sub group is the identification of the beneficiaries using the Nigerian minimum wage as a benchmark.
Subsequent meetings of the working group received expert opinions from the representatives of the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (FMLHUD) and Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN). The representative of FMLHUD commended the forward looking approach of proposing a social housing policy in Lagos and emphasized its relevance to the provisions of Chapter Eight of the new Nigerian National Housing Policy. FMBN provided insight on the existing mortgage institutions in the country and how they can play effective roles in the delivery of social housing.
The policy aims at guiding the stakeholders in the housing sector, especially the Government on the possible direction towards providing affordable, quality and adequate housing to the people of Lagos State. It proffers solutions to the housing issues affecting the low-income groups and has the potentials to resolving most of the challenges confronting the housing sector in Lagos State. In clear terms, the policy, if adopted and implemented accordingly, will stem the proliferation of informal settlements, ensure mass production of housing by the private sector, reduce, if not eliminate the incidence of building collapse, ensure private sector participation in resettlement and provision of emergency shelter, build the resilience of the city, economically empower the low-income groups and further reduce the rate of poverty in Lagos State.
The proposed policy was submitted to the Lagos State Government in October 2013 after revision by local and international housing experts, and most importantly, the low-income groups who are the targets of the proposed policy.