According to reports, the Federal Government is committed to providing the needed enabling environment for sustainable housing development in the country, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has said.
Fashola, spoke while fielding questions from newsmen at the weekend after inspecting the building site of the Millard Fuller Foundation, an indigenous estates development company with emphasis on affordable housing development for low and middle income class, at Masaka, a border town between Nasarawa State and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
He said what was needed now was to double the capacities of the partners and address the problem of sustainable housing programme, which, according to him, includes creating the enabling environment.
The Minister, who described the inputs of the building partners as inspiring, pointed out that it was not as if Nigeria lacked the capacity to build houses, adding that what was lacking at the moment was sustainability of the programme in a way that the country could determine how many houses it could build year-on-year on a sustainable basis.
Expressing delight at the efforts of Fuller Housing at the 400-Unit Grand Luvu Affordable Housing Project, Fashola declared: “What we need to do now is to double the capacities in many multiples and again address the problem of sustainable housing programme.
“It is not that we cannot build houses but can we do this year-on-year. How many of this kind of site can we do every year across Nigeria?”
Fashola, who had visited the building site, said the inspection was in fulfilment of a commitment by his Ministry to go and see what the building partners were doing adding that Fuller Housing was one of the sponsors of and exhibitors at the recent Affordable Housing Summit in Abuja.
The Minister told newsmen: “We made a commitment to oversee what our partners are doing. Remember we had a Housing Summit recently and people like the Fuller Group are some of the sponsors and exhibitors who were at that Summit and they displayed then on slide what they were doing on site and I have come to see what is on ground.
“As you know, the taste of the pudding really is in the eating and I have come to see, just as I have seen in other places, and it is quite inspiring that we have some local efforts going on.
He said that he would also see what methods the partners were using in each site, what materials they were using and what problems they were having.
Reiterating the commitment of government to support efforts at developing a sustainable National Housing Programme, Fashola promised that after the inspections and with the knowledge of what was on the ground, including the problems, the next move was to evolve workable solutions to enhance the achievement of the objective of a sustainable National Housing development.
“I am going to see what methods are going on in each site, what materials they are using and what problems they are having and then we can go back to our offices when we have finished our tour and, knowing now what is on ground as against what we have seen on paper, we can device solutions,” he said.
The Minister, who noted that the site needed a fence and access road, said he had asked the partners to supply designs and quantities to the Ministry “to see if we can intervene working with the Nasarawa State Government to assist with this road.
“That is what government should do now to provide the infrastructure that enables private business to carry on with its life.”
It could be recalled that the Minister undertook a similar working tour of some affordable housing development sites and allied companies like Lafarge Affordable Housing Solution in Idu District, Polysterene Industries Limited also in Idu District and Urban Shelter Limited in Kubwa in the Federal Capital Territory last month, where he expressed government’s determination to explore all the housing options available across the country to see what was possible with a view to utilizing them to meet the nation’s housing need.
Fashola, who said the Federal Government was determined to make use of locally manufactured building materials, collaborate with the Private Sector and enhance local industrial capacity in the National Housing Programme, told newsmen after the tour: “We welcome our partners from abroad; but we are determined to see what is available and what we can use to solve our problems. That is what we call capacity building. Where there is no opportunity, there is no capacity.”
Speaking recently also at a Summit on Affordable Housing held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja, Fashola had set guidelines for achieving sufficiency and affordability in housing in the country, saying in order to ensure that every Nigerian benefitted from the programme, there was the need to produce them enmasse, adding that the only way it could be made affordable for the low income group was through mortgage financing.
Stressing the role of the Private Sector as crucial, the Minister, who described the current building methods in the country as slow, said industrialization was the best modality to adopt to achieve mass production adding that his Ministry plans to embrace technology by developing quicker methods of building and training Nigerians to adapt and adopt them.
The government, he said, was already leading the way by evolving and standardizing design and building accessories and proving the concept adding that it would also support Small and Medium Enterprises to produce materials locally and provide incentives that would enable the private sector play more actively through the capital market and other funding sources.
The Minister said aside the reviews of building methods, emerging contemporary issues of climate change and energy conservation necessities has made it expedient that the building habits and methods of the country must change “for energy efficiency and sustainability”.
Also at the 35th AGM of Shelter Afrique held in Abuja, Fashola expressed dismay that many of the Public Private Partnership housing initiatives entered into have either stalled as a result of funding, lack of capacity, land disputes or court cases, adding that it was not the road to sustainability.
He said: “I know that there is a high expectancy out there. But everything tells me that as desirous as speed is, for us to respond to people’s expectations, we must be careful not to build roads that go nowhere; instead, we must be meticulous, focused and dedicated to build a road to prosperity.”