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Housing Crisis: Religious Bodies’ Intervention Critical To Solving Yawning Housing Gap – Olu Olanrewaju

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is experiencing new spikes in housing deficits as a result of the destruction of thousands of homes across the country.

Despite Nigeria’s massive housing deficit of over 20 million units, recent flooding in many states of the federation has further depleted the country’s housing stock, hence widening the nation’s housing gap.

According to the International Human Rights Commission, the country now has a housing deficit of 28 million units.

In the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recent report, Nigeria’s inflation rate accelerated to 20.7 percent in September, the highest in 17 years, with analysts predicting that it will rise even further if the Nigerian government fails to address causative factors. Since 2016, Africa’s largest economy has been dealing with double-digit monthly inflation as more than 75% of Nigerians are living below the poverty line.

Meanwhile, in a bid to mitigate the soaring housing deficit in the country, an international housing expert and Director of Altair Africa, Olu Olanrewaju has stressed that religious organizations have crucial roles to play in the production of decent and affordable housing for Nigerians through various deliberate and planned actions.

Speaking during a virtual interactive session organized by the Housing Development Advocacy Network (HDAN), Olanrewaju revealed that in the last 150 years in the United Kingdom, social institutions like churches have been playing significant roles in the delivery of houses as well as influencing policies capable of spurring the housing sector.

Housing

“You may be aware of an industry called the housing association industry in the UK which provides one-in-ten homes in the United Kingdom, nearly about ten million homes. A lot of them were set up directly or indirectly as a result of the influence of churches in the UK. At least it could be argued that as of today, Africans most especially Nigerians are very active as far as religious activity is concerned compared to the Europeans and my wonder was like ‘How Come’ a religious institution in Nigeria can not play a significant role as it has happened in other places. I’m not saying some are not doing something similar but my stance is on the provision of affordable housing not just for church members but also for a significant population on low and medium income.

“We have got the institutions, we have got the people but there is a model that works and it’s important that such a model is adopted. If we are going to fix the housing crisis, it’s going to require more actors to do that. Of course, the government, banks and other institutions have a role to play, but most importantly, our social institutions like the church also have a role to play”, he said.

According to him, the same efforts Nigerian churches put into raising funds for church projects can be replicated in raising bonds to fund affordable housing, with social returns, noting that “beneficiaries can either rent or buy.”

He noted that there is a need to expose religious institutions across the country to best ways to contribute to affordable housing delivery through the development of various models. 

He urged the government to provide social organizations with necessary support systems, adding that housing provision should not be a one-way traffic but rather a responsibility of both the public and private sectors. 

“Government should not get in the way. There are a lot of things the government can do to support religious organizations’ housing drive. Smoothening land titling and acquisition processes can really go a long way. In the area of taxation, the government can create incentives to give opportunities to low and medium income people to own a home. Government can also help with infrastructure and make it accessible to potential developers. Industries that specialize in property management can be created, hence creating more jobs because the maintenance of assets is a job in itself”, Olanrewaju added.

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