What Must We Do for A Better Urban Future?
We cannot neglect the issue of housing. That’s because accommodation is a basic need of life. After all, we all need to live somewhere. Whether you are in Ghana, America, Malaysia, or Canada, you need a place to call home.
Based on statistics, 1.5 million children are born every year. When these kids grow up, they graduate from college, some of them marry, and many migrate to the cities. They need to get into their own houses, to create their families.
But while these growth steps are welcome, are the cities prepared for the influx? Do we have the capacity and infrastructure to provide the housing, sanitation, education, or health care services to these people moving to the cities?
The truth is that housing generally has not ranked high on the scale of priority for social spending. This is why overcrowding is a challenge in many parts of the world today. We find eight to twelve persons or more forced to live together in confined apartments.
About 85% of the urban population lives in a single room. A recent estimate of the National Bureau of Statistics shows that Nigeria has a deficit of 17 million houses. We also need to build at least 700,000 homes annually, compared to the 100,000 homes we currently construct annually.
It is necessary to mention that housing is not a private venture. Instead, it is a government venture because it is capital intensive. Therefore, the government needs to take up housing directly to provide for housing needs.
Many people do not appreciate public housing because they consider it low in quality and high in crime. Yet, we are not to leave housing matters to private developers that obtain funds at a very high cost. More so, they cannot develop such housing adequately since they are more interested in making profits. No one wants to build a house, only to rent it out at a ridiculously low rate. Doing that would only lead to making little gains when they have spent quite a lot of money.
Therefore, the only way to avert an imminent housing crisis in the foreseeable future is to embark on concrete actions to reduce the housing deficit immediately. The government must recognize the need to accord priority to some key initiatives. These include the review of the National Housing Policy, review of the National Building Code, and targeting of low-income earners for delivery of affordable housing.
Getting It Right
The biggest problem that many urban regions face today is the high cost of housing. As cities become safer and economically buoyant, they also become more expensive.
This global challenge in housing affects not just the wealthiest cities but some of the poorest ones as well. For instance, it is cheaper to live in Owerri than in Port Harcourt. That’s because the cost of adequate housing and obtaining goods and services in Port-Harcourt is quite expensive.
But why is housing so much more expensive in some cities than others? Are these high prices driven by robust demand, limited supply, or both? In the coming years, will the high housing supply we see in areas such as Victoria Island persist?
Generally speaking, buying a house is often an intense financial decision to make; and it seems sensible to think about what keeps the prices high. While some think it is the cost of construction materials, what can we do to make cities more affordable? Does the affordability in question require rent control, or should new constructions be subsidized? If yes, who will pay for it?
Restricting the supply of new houses is never going to make housing less expensive, but that doesn’t mean that the government should not regulate new housing at all. What if all new buildings were apartments set up for business purposes? Should we restrict the owners from doing what they do? We need to understand the core reasons behind the housing deficit we experience, and what we can do about it.
As rural to urban migration continues to increase, there is a need to tackle the housing deficit in urban areas. Thus, local governments have to key into existing housing policies and make proper adjustments to reflect their priorities in housing.
Creating A Better Urban Future
To overcome this unprecedented housing crisis, we desperately need radical innovation in housing. A lot depends on how we shape our cities, not just environmental impacts but our social well-being and economic vitality, too.
We must also give much care to those with disabilities who we believe should benefit from specialized structures and those who live in the slum. Slums in different parts of the world are not organized. And the people who live there do not enjoy essential needs. They are particularly vulnerable to external trauma, too.
Statistics show that approximately one billion people live in a slum, and more than 100 million are homeless globally. This evidence that housing is a huge challenge and lack of finance for adequate housing increases household vulnerability.
For our government to secure the future for our cities, they need to concentrate not on banning rent increase, but take drastic measures to minimize the cost of housing. We can only achieve the goal of affordable housing if we take the right steps to put the necessary ingredients in place.