The Ghanaian government says it is committed to reducing the country’s housing deficit through policies and programmes which hold good lessons for Nigeria on how to deal with its own humongous housing demand-supply gap.
According to Francis Asenso-Boakye, Ghana’s Minister of Works and Housing, the country would soon launch a new affordable housing programme which would include government making land available, tax exemptions and other social amenities such as electricity, access roads etc for private developers towards the construction of affordable housing facilities.
Recent data on housing as released by Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), an equivalent of Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), puts Ghana’s national housing deficit at 1.8 million, showing a 33 percent reduction from the previous 2.8 million units.
The government recognizes that this deficit exists and is excited about the significant reduction as expressed by Asenso-Boakye, who described the figure as released by GSS as great news, disclosing that the ministry was focused on ensuring that the old-age problem was effectively resolved.
This sharply contrasts with the Nigerian situation where the government says there is no housing deficit in the country. Babatunde Fashola, Nigeria’s Works and Housing Minister, says there is no record anywhere in the world that shows him that Nigeria has a housing deficit which experts have put variously at 17 million, 20 million and 22 million units.
Fashola insists that if there is anything in the semblance of housing deficit in Nigeria, it is an urban-based problem, contending that across towns and villages in Nigeria, there are many houses that are unoccupied because the owners have migrated to the cities.
Unlike Nigeria, Ghana has a current Housing Census Report on Housing Characteristics which the housing minister presented recently, assuring that his ministry was working towards eradicating impediments facing Ghanaians in owning decent, quality and affordable accommodation.
In Nigeria, the impediments to homeownership including access to land, high cost of housing finance, no functional mortgage system, lack of enabling environment for investors and developers are well known, but there isn’t any attempt to address these problems, rather government appears to be in competition with private developers by building and selling houses at unaffordable prices.
Like Nigeria, Ghana also has a good number of empty houses and apartments. But unlike Nigeria, the Ghana government, according to Asenso-Boakye, is concerned that about 12.7 percent of the total housing structures were vacant with variations across its 16 regions due to non-affordability.
In Nigeria, there is no known data that shows the number of vacant houses and apartments as could be seen in the nation’s big cities, particularly in Lagos and Abuja. In Lagos, for instance, the number of luxury apartments in places like Ikoyi is alarming but nobody has any accurate figure on them.
This is why many housing sector stakeholders call on the government to commission a body that would come up with dependable data on the country’s housing sector. “This has become very necessary so that we shouldn’t continue with a war (tackling housing deficit) we may have won or lost,” Erejuwa Gbadebo, former CEO of Broll Nigeria, advised.
“The percentage of vacant housing units reported in Greater Accra provides evidence for our growing concern about the number of exclusive high-rise apartments that are out of the price range of the average person in the country,” Asenso-Boakye lamented.
He explained that the affordability concerns was the reason the government has committed to introducing new policies that seek to reduce the cost of owning a decent accommodation by 40 percent, adding that while this required a multi-sectoral approach, the ministry would work with the GSS to interrogate the findings to be able to better serve the housing needs of the population.
Asenso-Boakye cited a research from GSS indicating that the country’s housing deficit in the last 50-year period continually witnessed an upward trend from a figure of one million to 2.8 million from 1950 to 2010, noting, however, that the 2021 Population and Housing Census data on structures, housing conditions and facilities as presented by the GSS reveals a reversal in the housing deficit by 33 per cent.
“This, according to GSS, points to possibly some of the interventions that are happening both from the governmental point of view and from the private sector point of view. Despite the reduction in the national housing deficit, the GSS data also captured the quality of housing units with the use of unconventional structures such as kiosks and metallic containers as housing units.