Residents battle high cost of rent amid vacant homes in Abuja
With a growing urban population, rising construction costs and declining household incomes, access to affordable housing is becoming more difficult for millions of residents in Nigeria, especially in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In Abuja, housing remained a huge challenge for residents, where many people struggle with homelessness.
Statistics have shown that there are over 17 million housing deficits in Nigeria and the FCT alone accounts for 10% of the 17 million.
Sadly, at a time when many Nigerians do not have a roof over their heads, numerous mansions dot the landscape of the uninhabited territory.
The houses, completed but unoccupied, are scattered in certain neighborhoods, many of which are located in private housing estates.
While many factors have contributed to this ugly trend, LEADERSHIP Weekend found the high cost of rent to be a major challenge heralding Abuja’s housing deficit, which has left many homes in the city unoccupied, with many residents living in slums, or worse, homeless. .
The results show that housing has become one of the most difficult issues to solve in the world and in Nigeria in particular, especially when the government pretends to talk about the threat.
It cannot be overstated that Abuja witnesses a huge influx of people into the city on a daily or yearly basis, creating huge housing problems.
It is very difficult to get rental accommodation in the city because the prices are so exorbitant that low-income people cannot afford it.
Experts have argued that the main reason behind this is the cost of buying land in the city, skyrocketing cost of building materials, inflation and many more.
To make their investments profitable, the owners have made very high rents.
High rent in the city center has forced many residents to migrate to perceived cheaper areas such as Suleja, Madalla in Niger State and Mararaba in Nasarawa State among others.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend, Project Manager, Amore Homes, Mu’azu Umar said it will be difficult to provide affordable homes for Nigerians.
The reason, according to him, is the cost of living and building materials which he describes as worrying.
Umar noted that there has been an increase in the dollar rate since last year till date, and has affected almost every business in the country.
“Before you start building a project, you will consider the price of cement, sand, stone, blocks, iron, etc. So once there is an increase in the dollar rate, it affects all of those things, and once it affects them, it will certainly affect production.
“If you’re building and the cost of building materials goes up, you’ll want to raise the rent on the house, so you can recoup your investment.
“So as a developer, after you build a house, you put the house up for sale and you expect to get a profit, not a loss,” he said.
He called on the government to come up with policies that would help address these challenges and regulate prices.
According to him, it is the rise in the rate of the dollar that is driving up the cost of building materials, but if there is a policy that will address this, then there will be affordable housing for Nigerians.
A trader from Lugbe Abuja, Mr. Solomon Ibrahim, said the high cost of renting an apartment in an estate is high.
“It’s because before you can build a house, you have to spend a lot of money. Just look at how much cement and a pack of zinc cost, adding that almost everything related to building materials has gone up in cost.
According to him, the cost of building materials accounts for about 65% of the total construction cost.
“Invariably, building materials are the main factors that restrict the supply of housing. Having said that, it has been observed that one of the major impediments to achieving effective housing in Nigeria, as revealed by successive government efforts, has been the cost of housing in the country,” he said. -he adds.
The Managing Director of the Wizpro Research Institute Abuja, Adams Ayo, said there were a lot of unoccupied houses in Abuja because the rent for these houses was not affordable.
This may be due to the high cost of building these homes, he said.
According to him, “Some of them are even borrowing money from banks at very high interest rates, and the only way for developers to recoup their investment is to charge high rents.
“Some houses are empty because the owners of these houses are politicians who divert this money to build these houses. So, once this property becomes his or hers and he still earns money from other sources, he or she won’t really care about the properties, and the properties will sit unoccupied for years.
“I strongly believe that the owners of these houses are not using their own hard-earned money to build these houses because if they use it they will not abandon them at the level they are at now.
“Another thing is that some of them have borrowed money from banks and used that money to build houses hoping they can repay their money and pay the banks but unfortunately because the cost of their occupation is high and they start to default on the payment from the banks, the banks will seize them.
“It’s partly because the source of their income from building these houses dried up before they could complete the structures. Maybe it could be the change of government, the change of position in the office and they couldn’t meet, and leave the buildings like that.
He said that most of the time it is not the owner of the estate who owns all the houses on the estate.
“So someone will come in and buy land and you give them the pattern you want them to follow and down the line no money to finish the structure,” he said.
Ayo suggested that the government must weigh in because when things are going well it is for the benefit of the country, but when things are going badly the government takes the pressure.
“So what should the government do to address these issues? All the government needs to do is enact policies regarding the management of land and structures.
“The government should buy these structures and possibly at a rate that could determine the law at the appropriate rate and allow all these houses to be occupied at a lower rate so that people can afford them, but if there is not there is no enabling law whatever the government does can be considered illegal,” he added.
He also called on the government to take a census of these houses to determine the owners of these houses.
For his part, a property developer, Godwin Dauda, said: “Most of these houses are owned by high-ranking officials and politicians. Most of them have some of my colleagues representing them. You won’t be surprised to learn that some of these owners have long forgotten that some of their homes are unoccupied.
“The exorbitant fees often charged by property owners are also a contributing factor. The fees are simply too high to afford. I think the government has a lot to check on this development.
“Some of these houses are currently occupied by rodents and reptiles. They prefer to leave them unoccupied rather than rent them at prices below their target. They don’t just care about anyone.
“It is possible that the system, through its competent departments in the housing sector, will develop workable legislation that will help control the excesses of landowners in the country. Apart from Lagos, there is hardly a state in Nigeria that has an existing housing policy that seeks to regulate the activities of landlords in the country.
Recently, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola SAN, said that the collection of two to three years’ rent in advance by landowners was causing more harm than good to the Nigerian economy.
Fashola, who has stepped up the push for monthly rent payments across the country, has instructed state governments to look for ways to make paying rent easier and more comfortable for tenants and landlords.
The minister who spoke at the 2022 National Council meeting on land, housing and urban development, the 11th in the series, held in Sokoto, acknowledged that the majority of houses belong to the private sector and that they expect a legitimate rental income for the properties.
“However, I am a firm believer that asking working-class folks for two to three years’ rent up front (as opposed to corporate tenants who prefer to pay up front) does more harm than good to everyone. the people concerned and the economy.
“Interestingly, rent is a matter over which the federal government has no constitutional authority because it is a local matter and rightly so.
“But I’m using the platform of this meeting to challenge and provoke all state officials to think and act on how we can make paying rent easier and more comfortable for tenants and landlords. “
This, according to the former Governor of Lagos State, would be a most revolutionary intervention when working class people could pay their rent when they received their salaries.
Fashola told delegates at the meeting that at the federal government level, “we have introduced rent-to-own in our buy/sell model for the disposal of National Housing Program homes.”