Professor Fagbenle Seeks Adequate Government Policies on Housing Provision
The concept of sustainability and affordability needs to be adequately explained in the government's policy formation to realistically achieve efficient housing production delivery, according to a senior member of faculty at Covenant University, Professor Olabosipo Fagbenle.
He made the assertion amongst others on Friday, June 25, 2021, at the 24th Inaugural Lecture of the University titled "Affordable and Sustainable Housing: A Practical Approach to Total Building Construction".
"Despite its importance as a fundamental necessity, accommodation has been in short supply in nearly all communities across history. The situation is particularly dire in developing nations, where urbanization and population growth are accelerating, and the gap between housing demand and supply is widening," said the inaugural lecturer.
With the estimated increase of the current average global population being about 81 million people per year, he said that there was a need to provide shelter to the teeming population.
He stated that housing in Nigeria had sparked a lot of debate and interest over the last 20 years. He noted that Demands had been made for the different levels of government to prioritize the underlying housing problems and devote a fair portion of their annual budgets to housing. However, according to him, policymakers in Nigeria had traditionally regarded housing provision as tolerated rather than needed. He added that housing had been given a poor priority rating in infrastructure development as a part of this attitude.
He noted that despite Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals that focused on Sustainable Cities and Communities, many Nigerians lacked access to affordable housing, and slums were the only sources of abode for the commoner.
Professor Fagbenle, whose current research focuses on materials procurement and the construction process, said the main problem of housing in Nigeria was not its provision in most cases but its affordability. "Housing distribution is, indeed, a significant contributor to the country's gross domestic product (GDP). Moreover, it serves as a barometer and mirror of the nation's wellbeing as well as economic activities, which are widely understood to include all facets of human endeavours aimed at the production of capital," he explained.
While proffering solutions to the challenge of housing for all in the country, the inaugural lecturer lamented that current housing policies formulated by the government had not yielded visible positive effects on the lives of the poor despite the enormous amount of money invested in housing. He attributed the problem to the concept of sustainable housing delivery that governments had not adequately explained to the various stakeholders.
Professor Fagbenle, however, stated that since one of the most important aspects of federal housing policy was the allocation of land for housing, the government could provide accommodation in a variety of ways, and policy decisions must be based on local circumstances. He said researchers should be encouraged to develop local building materials as alternatives to foreign contents. According to him, a government body directly charged with coordinating all stakeholders should be created (if not in place) and empowered in all ramifications, while it should implement housing finance structures based on need rather than availability.
He suggested that government should promote active involvement of civil society, especially through the efforts of housing users' organizations, such as low-income earners' organizations; encouragement of housing developers to participate actively in the provision of low-cost housing and the establishment of construction gardens in each of the nation's tertiary institutions, where all manner of practical demonstrations could take place unhindered.
In his remarks, the Vice-Chancellor, Covenant University, Professor Abiodun H. Adebayo, acknowledged that there had been a significant increase in population, especially in the urban areas of the country, without an equivalent rise in the number of new housing units. He stated that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and industry experts had estimated the current housing deficit in Nigeria to be in the range of 17 to 23 million. "However, estimates of new housing output in the formal housing sector range from 100,000 to 200,000 annually. This figure is a far cry from the required 700, 000 units per annum to accommodate the growing population and migrants from the rural areas," he noted.
Professor Adebayo said that rethinking the approach to affordable and sustainable housing in Nigeria was very pertinent at this time. "As a leading global centre of knowledge, Covenant remains sensitive and committed to espousing viable pathways towards our aspirations for economic transformation and better quality of life. I congratulate the inaugural lecturer of the day on this landmark achievement in his academic career," he said.
Aside the presence of the Registrar, Dr Oluwasegun Omidiora; Deans of Colleges; Principal Officers, members of the Senate; faculty, staff and students, Covenant's 24th Inaugural Lecture was graced by guests from the industry and the academia, including the family of the lecturer.