Though Nigeria has about 17 million housing deficit the increasing number of unoccupied houses dotting the landscape of Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and other adjoining cities have been linked to overpricing.
Also, high agency fee and high cost of rent are part of the problems created by estate surveyors that had contributed to over-bearing slum settlements.
As Abuja grapples with sprawling slum settlements, leading to poor city management, the issue of urban sustainability took the front bunner at the the just conluded 46th Annual conference of the Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV). The theme of the conference, “City Growth: Issues and Challenges of Urban Sustainability in Nigeria’ was targeted at resolving unsustainable city growth and the battered Abuja master plan which has not been reviewed for the past 20 years.
The minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola known for his strong stance on national issues spoke bitterly on how estate managers have worsened the housing problems of Nigeria.
He said time was ripe for a change of estate valuation even as he urged surveyors to comply with the principles of real estate pricing.
“50, 41 and 33 per cent of people in Lagos, Kano and Abuja rely on estate agents when looking for a house but agents make housing more difficult compared to the landlords.
Fashola noted that estimated 5000 properties in Lagos was not rented due to over-pricing and high agency fee.
The minister emphasised that as the three tiers of government commences housing development to improve home ownership that NIESV has a role to play in making housing affordable to Nigerians.
He maintained that first steps towards reducing the housing deficit begins with a good plan not lamentations even as he expressed worries over high fees charged by surveyors.
The minister urged stakeholders to familiarise themselves with Abuja Declaration document on the just concluded United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) which he said was also Africa’s position on slum settlement and city growth.
Fashola, who was represented by the special adviser on lands and housing, Mr Abiodun Oki, submitted that government alone cannot meet up with the housing needs of Nigerians adding that everyone cannot afford a house despite its availability.
“64 per cent of the populations in the United States of America are house owners while 34 per cent are living on rented apartment despite their housing programme.
Earlier, the Senate president, Bukola Saraki said stakeholders have described the imposition of property tax as inappropriate adding that high taxation and penalties have discouraged investment in the sector.
Saraki who was represented by the chairman, Senate Committee on Housing, Sen Barnabas Germade noted that the conference was a veritable opportunity for surveyors to partner with the new administration in order to deliver on set goals that would significantly improve the welfare and living standards of the people.
“The conference couldn’t have come at a better time like this when the government seeks to do things differently in order to instill renewed hope and enthusiasm in our citizens.
“A typical area of partnership with federal government is in its famed anti-corruption crusade.
He lamented that the overbearing cases of inflation of rents, overpriced lands, lack of integrity, bribery, and other forms of corruption in the real estate sector would not augur well for the development of the industry.
“Your role as agents for the management of land, buildings and other failures puts you in a prime position to develop effective strategies that will cleanse the industry and make it attractive for meaningful collaboration while still delivering on your objective of establishing a high and reputable standard of professional conduct and practice in the landed profession.
He said though the real estate sector was not immune from challenges of financing that the increasing demand for urban and rural infrastructure have compelled some state governments to conceptualize ways of increasing internally generated revenue through property tax.
He was hopeful the conference would articulate enduring and implementable strategies towards generating necessary funding for the development of the real sector while ensuring affordability for off-takers.
Saraki assured of the readiness of the National Assembly in working with the recommendations of the conference in a bid to encourage city growth and stimulate urban development.
He noted that the 8th Senate have adopted a working legislative agenda by partnering and collaborating with professional bodies to realise the effective implementation and monitoring of APC- led agenda.
“The Senate is determined to work with relevant stakeholders to bring about sustainable development of our country and to achieve this, we shall ensure that through our oversight activities and possible legislation that government performance is enhanced”, he concluded.
Also speaking, the President of NIESV, Olorogun James Omeru said the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) target is a wake-up call on nations to entrench sustainability in all aspects of development including city development.
Omeru enjoined surveyors as foremost professionals in the built environment to guide the country towards sustainable city development stressing that surveyors could reverse the faulty city development if given the conducive environment to operate.
He sought for the establishment of National Property Management Agency to manage seized properties from Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) stressing that EFCC should concentrate on arrest and confiscation of properties and not superintending over the seized properties.
On Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) , he added, “Since it was established it has been in the hands of engineers who were not trained to maintain but to construct and that is why pot-holes are developing into valleys and they leave it deliberately until it develops into gullies since they feel the project is too small to award contract.
Omeru reiterated the call for the federal capital territory administration to effectively resolve the problems associated with conversion of residential areas to commercial areas instead of mapping out yearly penalties that would lure the staff into corruption.