Religious organizations in Nigeria own acres of land and since they are classified as non-profit incorporations; are exempted from paying taxes to the government in Nigeria.
If we want to be honest with ourselves though, we will accept the fact that religious organizations are full-time money making ventures now, in fact, it is a booming industry filled with money and as such, it is important for religious organizations to give back to the society.
Given the huge housing deficit in the country, one area which has been advocated is the involvement of religious organizations in the provision of social housing in their communities.
The principle of catering for the poor is inscribed in all religious groups so it is baffling that Nigerian religious institutions turn a blind eye to the provision of social and affordable housing in Nigeria.
The role of religious institutions in the provision of social housing was the centre discussion in a special interactive forum, “One on One Breakfast Meeting with CEOs”, organized by the Housing Development Advocacy Network (HDAN) which was anchored by HDAN Executive Director, Festus Adebayo and had Mr Olu Olanrewaju, Director, Altair Advisory Services, UK as guest.
Mr Olanrewaju, an international housing expert said that solving the huge housing deficit being experienced in the country requires the collaborative efforts of all sectors of the economy; public, private and social institutions like churches, mosques which have members that are also suffering from the lack of affordable housing.
Lessons From The United Kingdom
Mr Olanrewaju explained that the model of religious organizations taking the driver’s seat in the provision of social and affordable housing is very common in other clime.
He noted that the model is currently being used in advanced countries like the United Kingdom and the United States where various churches have provided huge amount of housing units for the benefits of the society.
Using the United Kingdom for example, he said, “There is over a 150 years history of the church playing an active role in the delivery of housing in the United Kingdom.
“There is an industry called the Housing Association Industry in the United Kingdom which provides one-in-ten homes, nearly about 10 million homes in the United Kingdom, a lot of them were set u, directly or indirectly as a result of the influence of the church in the United Kingdom.”
Using London and Quadrant as a case study, Mr Olanrewaju said the company was set up by a Reverend in the 1960s who sought out resources from other clergymen and friends to set up the housing institution.
He said London and Quadrant now has a turnover of over a billion pounds and capital assets of over 20 billion pounds in market value while providing accommodation for over 100,000 homes in the United Kingdom.
He also added that the organization has become a major player in the area of housing delivery by any category.
Arguably, Africa and Nigeria in particular has a more active religious community that these developed countries, Mr Olanrewaju opined, so accordingly, religious organizations in the country should be able to not only replicate this model but surpass the achievements of foreign religious bodies if they choose to make provision of social and affordable housing a priority.
How Can This Model Be Applied in Nigeria?
Mr Olanrewaju expressed optimism that this model will be successful and can lead to the provision of a significant amount of housing units which will reduce the housing deficit and access to decent affordable housing in the country.
On how it can be applied, he said the idea is premised upon large faith based institutions deploying some of their resources which could be in form of land, cash to build homes for social rents which would be rented to those in bottom end of the income pyramid.
While explaining that what is needed is commitment from these religious organizations for this model to work, he said, “It is not unknown for religious organizations, when they are committed to a project to raise funds in order to get the project done.
“That same principle can be applied to affordable housing. For example, if a religious institution says it wants to raise a bond to produce XYZ number of affordable houses, it is not impossible for such funds to be raise because these institutions have been able to raise similar funds for other purposes.”
Speaking on why religious institutions should adopt this model and prioritize the provision of social, decent and affordable housing, Mr Olanrewaju said there is a social value attached to catering for the welfare of the poor in the society; it is in the tenet of all religious groups.
He also explained that the model is a win-win in all ramifications for religious institutions because away from its social values, some of the monies raise through the payment of rent can be blended into money raised through capital.
He described the model as successful and working in most parts of the world.