Tenants have lamented the rising cost of house rent in the country. Notwithstanding the shortage of residential accommodation in Oyo State, especially, Ibadan, journalists’ investigation reveal that there is currently a property overhang in the market, high number of abandoned homes and vacancy rate in the city.
The scenario is not a surprise to property watchers, as upscale areas like Bodija, Oluyole, Ikolaba, Oke-Ado, Onireke and Jericho are the prime places, which appeal to the upwardly mobile people due to their serene and secure ambiance.
The highbrow areas are the first choice for renowned academics, captains of industry, prominent public officers, senior military brass, judges, senior lawyers, professors of medicine, former and serving governors, senators, bankers, business executives, media executives and a host of others.
Buildings in form of mansions, duplexes, four-bedroom flats, five-bedroom flats, bungalows occupying expansive land, three-bedroom flats and other expensive properties are found in those privileged environments.
The Guardian visit to the areas revealed that some of the houses there are on the verge of dilapidation, while some have fallen into state of disrepair.
Speaking on the paradox that characterised houses in Bodija and other prime areas, an executive of a landlord Association in Bodija, Ayowumi Ogunlade, explained that those houses are empty and expensive due to change in taste and fashion.
Ogunlade, an architect, also said the death of the original owners and litigation among their children have kept the buildings in their present condition.
He said: ” In a place like Oke-Ado, for instance, the class system has changed. There are many non-fashionable houses. There are some components of houses that have changed such as aluminum windows, louvres and others. People do not want to be in old styled houses. They want houses with modern features.
“Secondly, economic factor is another major reason, because all those houses their prices are very high. In Ibadan, we are just changing. All the while, Ibadan was cheap. They even needed somebody to occupy it. In those days, it was difficult to let tenants go, otherwise, the place would be empty.
“Another factor is the family issues. Most people, who have houses in Bodija, their children are abroad and may not come back. They are living well where they are. They don’t need the money. Only those who need the money will be struggling to rent out their parents’ houses to collect rent. They don’t care in as much as the house is not collapsing.
“Most especially, there are also legal issues associated with some of the houses, because the rich people marry many wives. If they could not revolve on who is supposed to collect house rent and take care of the house, such would happen.”
The Oyo State Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Solomon Faloye, confirmed that some of the houses are in the condition because they are bequeathed to children by parents, who have passed away, while the children might not have time to take care of the houses.
Solomon said: “It is a known fact that most of the buildings in Bodija axis are unoccupied. There are a lot of reasons why this is so, which include but not limited to: Some properties are bequeathed to children by parents who have passed away.
“The children may be busy with their own life in another state; they could be very wealthy and comfortable and not in need of additional income. Some may be abroad and uninterested in the rigours of property management issues usually accompanying letting out a property.
“Some parents may specify in their will that the property should not be sold. There is a property I know that the late parent wrote in the Will that the property should be used as a hospital and no hospital was interested in letting the same. The children wish to comply with their parent’s wish.”
Also, the Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) Oyo State Chapter, Dr. Bolaji Wahab, said the locations, especially Bodija were created to take care of privileged ones.
He said: ” Bodija axis is a settlement hub in Ibadan metropolis that has historical link to the creation of low-density residential areas, created years back, to address housing provision in the fast growing Ibadan, and in particular, to take care of the privileged ones, in the society, the high-income earning people.
“This informed the allocation of land to people of such privileged socio-economic status to be allotted land for housing projects. This informed their ability to construct such edifying and architecturally-pleasing projects, which are of considerably large size, with attendant many internal building spaces used for different purposes”.
The university lecturer attributed the emptiness to the way those houses were constructed. “The emptiness of few buildings in the Bodija axis and other upscale areas is still directly linked to the afore-stated indicator, socio-economic status of the building owners.
“This set of people are opportune to have other buildings not only in other parts of the town, but may still have outside the state.
“Relating this to the profile of their respective family structure, in terms of the number of household had, which surveys indicated, may be of an average of three. So, the children would not be with their parents, the owners of these imposing and edifying buildings for many years, as they too, would have to seek for pastures. So, their migration to other states or outside the country, equally contributes to the emptiness of those buildings”.
The NIOB chairman also attributed the emptiness to the design of the houses, noting that such situation is inevitable in those locations. “Apart from this, the design of some of these buildings, being tailored towards residential purposes does not support their use for commercial purposes, which would discourage their use by commercial or business-minded people.
“This is still in line with the allowable uses that such buildings can be put to, as enshrined in the agreement made with the organs of government that allocated the lands to the owners.
“Of course, very few ones might be seen to have business or corporate offices presence, particularly, for those close to the main roads, which would allow their occupation.
Akinwande Soji-Ojo, an entrepreneur, who works in Bodija, said the price placed on the houses is also pushing people away, which is why there are so many empty houses.
Again, an estate manager, Habib Akande, said prices being placed on houses in those areas are far above their real values.
Akande said:” Houses in Bodija and other highbrow areas tend to be expensive. They don’t actually meet the value of the price placed on them. Hence, many people don’t want to stay there.
“The houses at Akobo, Ologuneru are modern and better than the old ones in Bodija, Jericho, Oluyole and other areas. The properties in those areas are always expensive because they are in the city centre and more valued compared to the ones at far locations. The houses are empty because they don’t actually meet the value placed on them by landlords.”
Speaking on the security risk of empty buildings in the neighbourhood, Prof. Oyesoji Aremu, a security scholar at the University of Ibadan, said the empty houses calls for concern.
The professor maintained that abandoned houses would constitute social nuisances and also pose grievous security threats to the neighbourhood, especially hideouts for criminals. “Most often, such houses are used to store dangerous criminal items, including hard drugs.
” It is also important to note that abandoned houses are used as meeting points where strategies are discussed and intelligence shared. And unfortunately, these are not always known to unsuspecting members of the public, who may fall victims.”
Aremu added that unconventional security structures could be made to provide strategic information to safeguard neighbourhoods where abandoned houses are.
“These would pose more institutional and statutory responsibilities on the shoulder of the government to look outside the box, on how to address this growing challenge,” he said.
However, it is imperative for government to act on this for the safety and benefit of the state, the experts and landlords said.
In his submission, Faloye urged the government to impose taxes on vacant houses and issue a threat for the revocation of certificate of occupancy of such houses.
Faloye said: “NIESV is part of Oyo State Building Control and Regulatory Agency to be inaugurated soon. There will be sanctions for buildings in too long void states. Those of short period will secure certificate of fitness for habitation.
“Most of the vacant houses have become hideouts for miscreants in the neighbourhood, making them unsafe and the occupants insecure.
”The government can threaten to revoke their rights of occupancy. They can also charge them exorbitant taxes.” To address the challenge, Wahab said government needs to make provision for alteration and conversion of such buildings for dual occupancy, so that owners can engage professionals in the building sector to carry out such task for them.
“Also, owners of buildings need to be counselled on the type of buildings to construct, which would address emptiness challenge as it were now. This means, the need to construct according to family size structure.
“The arm of government involved in land administration must also carry out land zoning principle on how to allocate lands to prospective buyers along interest lines, so as to prevent the trend in the Bodija axis of the town,” the NIOB chairman added.
While toeing the same line, Akande called on government to impose some levies on empty houses, saying, “by doing this, the houses will not lie fallow. People can actually rent the apartment. Once there is levy the landlords will reduce prices of the property and people will move to the apartments.”
A senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity said government is aware of the development and may impose some levies on such houses, advertise them for the owners to rehabilitate, convert and rent them.
“If they fail to come forward, the government can take over the property, convert, renovate and be collecting rent. A special account can be opened for the management of the money realised. If the owners eventually come forward, the money realised would be given to them after deducting the expenses incurred,” the governor’s aide said.