IN Lagos, a city of an estimated 23 million people located in Nigeria, West Africa, securing housing can be physically, mentally and financially challenging.
When Aniedi Bassey began preparing to start life afresh with the love of his life, he reached out to some of his friends to keep him abreast of any new space, as his company was willing to shoulder the rent.
Not so long after, a property agent (and there are hundreds of them in Lagos hustling for a living) informed him of a vacancy, a room-and-parlour, ‘self-contained’ apartment. The agent told him the landlord of the apartment, located at Ojodu Berger on the Lagos mainland, was asking for N600,000 per annum.
By the time Bassey went to inspect the property, the landlord had jacked the rent up to N700,000.
The distraught home-seeker summed up his experience, “Finding accommodation in Lagos is not fun.”
Forced to increase the budget but still no luck
Like Bassey, Daniel Okechukwu had to increase his housing budget twice “from a decent N1 million to N1.2 million, and then to N1.5 million” when seeking for a mini flat or a two-bedroom apartment.
“Lagos shocks you. You think N1 million should be good for a mini flat, but you enter the market and realise all the mini flats going for N1 million are terrible. The good ones you are seeing are going for a minimum of N1.4 million,” he said.
Safety and affordability
Expensive as accommodation is in Lagos, many buildings are deathtraps. At one of the demolitions this year in Ebute Meta, on the Lagos mainland, a two-storey building directly facing the collapsed building was in cracks. Not far from it was a storey building supported by steel rods, to prevent it from falling. Yet, many tenants are settled in this tragedy waiting to happen.
Drawing from conversations with survivors of building collapse in Lagos, the major reason why people settle for these dilapitated houses is due to the cost of living in Lagos, as well as proximity to work.
Afolayan Temitope, a resident that survived the Ebute Meta building collapse, stated that the expensive rate of housing in Lagos kept her and her sister in that ill-fated building that long and they were only lucky to get out alive.
“From April, May, we have been thinking of getting our money back from the developer. Apartments are really expensive to rent in Lagos. A room-and-parlour that we saw at Surulere cost almost a million naira. I thank God I am a survivor here. Some people are still under the rubble,” Temitope said.
She recalled a moment she came back from work and the staircase had collapsed, and she began considering leaving the building.
A blog, BuyLetLive, argued that Lagos State had not been able to meet up to 50 per cent of its housing demand and would still need over three million residential units to meet demand.
“Lagos needs, at least, 4.69 million residential units to cater to its population. On the surface, that may sound like a small number, but when you juxtapose these numbers with Pison Housing Group’s estimate of Lagos’ residential stock, which was around 1.49 million residential units in 2016, you begin to see the picture more clearly,” the blog explained.
How has the state government been faring in the housing sector?
In the midst of all this, the Lagos State government has begun an initiative tagged, ‘Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (Lagos HOMS)’, designed to help residents who are first-time buyers to own ‘affordable’ homes through mortgage finance.
Applicants must be, at least, 21 years old and above to want to own a home and must also be able to make the five per cent commitment fee payment. In addition, the applicant is required to pass an affordability test while choosing to commit 33 per cent of his/her monthly income as repayment.
Applicants must also have their Lagos State Residents Registration (LASRRA) card and proof of tax payments.
The policy, the state government explains, is aimed at bridging the gap of the Lagos State Housing deficit of about 2.55 million in the next 10 years, and sensitizing the citizenry to own a home, with 5 per cent of the value as equity.
On August 2, 2022, the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, announced that he had unveiled and completed 16 housing projects in the last three years. Sanwo-Olu said this while unveiling the Channel Point Apartments, a mini-housing scheme on Victoria Island. The housing scheme, located in Sinari Daranijo Street, consisted of twin blocks of 38-unit two-and three-bedroom flats on a land size of 2,832 square metres.
He said at the event, “We shall continue to pursue and implement this tried-and-tested model of public-private collaboration, as it has proven to be a potent strategy for keeping up with the rate of demand for housing by our rapidly increasing population.”
The government’s 16th housing project is more than half shy of the 35 housing schemes target that the present administration set when it assumed office in 2019. According to the Commissioner for Housing, Moruf Akinderu-Fatai, over 7,000 affordable housing units had been added to the market in the first two years of Sanwo-Olu administration. About 1,752 families were said to have benefited from the scheme then.
The 7,000 housing units figure was a far cry from the three million deficit that the BuyLetLive blog gave.
How affordable is Lagos HOMS for the average Lagos resident?
A cursory look through the site of Lagos HOMS would question how many residents of the state can afford the homes. Most of the homes have been commissioned in both highbrow and low-income settlements, including Igando, Igbokusu, Lekki, Badagry, Igbogbo, Odo-Onosa/Ayandelu, Agbowa, Sangotedo, Epe, Ilubirin, Epe and Egan-Igando.
The lowest apartment on the list is a room-and-parlour fixed at a unit price of N1.5 million ($3,432.49), with a five per cent down payment of N75,000 and a monthly repayment N15,820.42. With the current minimum wage in the state at N30,000 ($68.65) a month for civil servants, many of the resident artisans, petty traders and commercial vehicles operators, it would be quite a struggle for the state government to build enough units for this class of people.
Moreover, it is not guaranteed that the level of greed in the system would even allow the low-income people to have access to the room-and-parlour apartments specifically designed for them.
The price for the one-bedroom apartment across the different schemes ranges from N2 million to N15 million, the lowest being the Sir Michael Otedola Estate, Odoragunshin, Epe, and the highest the one-bedroom apartment, in Sangotedo Phase 2 for N15 million.
A two-bedroom apartment ranges from N3.5 million to N20 million, while a three-bedroom apartment ranges from N5 million to N25 million.
Interestingly, all the units are being snapped up immediately on completion.
High cost of building materials
The Managing Director of Living Trust Mortgage Bank, Adekunle Adewole, speaking during the ‘Facts Behind the Figures – Living Trust Mortgage Bank’ organised by the Nigerian Exchange Limited on July 18, 2022 stressed that high cost of building materials has really affected the housing sector, eroding the gains it made before the current administration eight-year tenure.
According to him, prices of commodities are currently at a five year high as inflation rose to 18.6 per cent in June, compared to 17.7 per cent in May 2022, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Adewole believed that the setbacks could hamper lenders’ effort to close the 20 million housing deficit suffered in Nigeria.
He lamented that in the last six years since the bank listed on the exchange, inflation has jumped from 8.05 per cent to 18.07 per cent. GDP growth rate slowed down from 6.3 per cent to 3.11 per cent. The dollar exchange rate went from N157 in 2014 to N415 in 2022, a 300 per cent increase, he stated. The apex bank’s official dollar rate has risen further to N433 since the day he made that presentation, while inflation is no longer 18.6 per cent but now 20.77 per cent. This demonstrates how difficult building houses in Nigeria has now become.
He said, “Our environment is volatile. Palpable fear remains over the insurgency in the North Eastern parts. Terrorism continues to affect the economic participation of a large section, safety of lives and products, limitations of movements/operational time and cost of security.
“Government policies have really slowed down our growth. Elongated justice process, prohibitive cost of securing land titles, non-de-risk of the financial service sector and complex administration system seriously affect the sub-sector.”
Adewole lamented how cement prices had risen from N1,000 in 2014 to N3,900, and to N4,200 in June 2022.
He explained d that natural materials such as sharp sand (20 ton) surged by 218 per cent from N22,000 seven years ago to N70,000 in June. Also, iron rod (12mm per ton) rose from N140,000 to N420,000, while finishing materials rose to N3,000 from N1400.
The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of PropertyPro.ng, Dapo Eludire, has said that Nigerians spend over 40 per cent of their annual income paying rent.
Eludire said, “I would say that enabling the private sector to provide more liquidity in the industry is always an expensive venture, whether you are buying or renting an apartment. People use over 40 per cent of their annual earnings to rent an apartment. They have to work for like 30 years before they can buy their first houses. Why does that have to happen?
“In other countries, you can actually buy your property through mortgage at rates that are affordable. Here, we are experiencing 19 per cent and in some cases 25 per cent per annum. That is if the landlord is not even asking for two years’ rent.”
A Lagos realtor, Jimi Oni, who runs a real estate firm known as Jimi Oni & Associates, acknowledged the premise raised by the Living Trust Mortgage Bank MD, adding that it is usual the practice for landlords to increase prices of old buildings and new due to the rising cost of building materials.
Oni said, “The usual practice is when prices of building materials and all other commodities are going up, the landlord increases prices of already constructed buildings, like the rent of old buildings. Now in Ikeja, a two-bedroom apartment is between N2 million to N2.5 million, which is an old building. If it is new, it will be from N3 million up. The same thing applies to all other buildings and accommodations. The prices are going up even in suburbs like Egbeda, Akowonjo, Ipaja. Like Abesan Estate, the rent for a 3-bedroom flat used to be about N200,000-N250,000 per annum, but now it is between N300,000 and N350,000. Some are even as high as N400,000. It is a difficult situation for many income earners because their incomes are not going up in that dimension. It is a big problem for many accommodation seekers.
“Can you force management to increase the salaries of their workers? Even for the government, a major employer of labour, the minimum wage is nothing to write home about. Before they can increase salaries, it will take five years and the labour union, everyone would have to be involved. It is only in the private sector that some organisations increase rent.
“Sometimes, it is not across board, it is mostly based on performance. In an organisation, some people’s income can be increased, while some may not be increased at all. How many of them have housing allowance or rent allowance? In those days, there is always a rent allowance or housing loan which can be taken in advance. Now, people just take a salary advance. That is the only way the workers can circumvent this problem of accommodation.”
Even on Lagos Island, the situation is the same
Adekunle Adeyomi, a resident living on the Lagos Island told this reporter that a self-contained apartment on Lagos Island goes for well over a million naira.
Oriyomi said, “The cost of renting a house is too much. A room self- contained goes for about over a million naira. Government has to do something about it. Some ask for N1.5 million or N1.2 million for housing. We are all hustling and the government has to help us.”
Agreeing with this, Alhaja Amumini, another Lagos Island resident said securing a room and parlour is quite expensive. She stressed that building materials are increasing and general standard of living has forced many youths outside of their own country to other lands, like Ghana.
She said, “Housing is very expensive. The government should do something about this. We suffer low income, poor education and we are unable to put a roof over our heads. We also lack potable water to help us carry out activities.”
Argument for sustainable housing
Experts in the property industry have advocated several methods to create sustainable and affordable housing for Lagos residents, who, despite facing a housing crisis, also suffer a flooding crisis that would further exacerbate the poor accommodation problem.
In March 31, 2022, the state government had predicted a high-intensity annual rainfall volume of 1,750mm in 2022, with attendant socio-economic implications.
The impact of these warnings has already been seen in some parts of Lagos, including Ikeja, Ajah, Maryland and Alimosho Local Government. The Nation reported on September 13, 2022, how two men were swept away, while nine were rescued following heavy flooding in some parts of Lagos.
A former president of the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers (NIStructE), Mr. Oreoluwa Fadayomi, said that many Nigerians are building on flood-prone locations, thus, making them more susceptible to flood effects and building collapse, aside other factors that could trigger building collapse.
Fadayomi said, “When you have a flood prone location, the number one thing is never to allow people to illegally build there because it is supposed to be under government acquisition and a place that should be within the setback. The moment you allow them to build, they would continue to multiply and it would become a community. When government wants to enforce the law, an entire community would be displaced and it becomes a social problem.”
Arguments for container housing
A Managing Partner at Tempohousing Nigeria, Dele Ijaiya-Oladipo, believes refurbishing shipping containers can solve Nigerians’ housing problems.
He said, “The only way we can get the housing deficit sorted is by providing good quality houses at affordable rates.
“You can’t build a million homes at a price that no one will ever afford – that doesn’t achieve anything.”
However, he notes that the container housing concept is still foreign to Nigerians, hence the reason why most clients use the containers to build office spaces.
Mr Ijaiya-Oladipo’s container homes are 25 per cent cheaper than traditional housing, and can be built in as little as two weeks, an article on CNN said.
An expert, John Amadi of Flojonnie Nigeria, lauded the idea but did not think it is good enough.
Amadi said, “The containers cannot be suspended in the air,; it has to sit on land. Tjhe cost of land is high and out of reach for so many. Containers are short in supply and as a result have become very expensive to buy.
“The cost and time of retrofitting a container to make it habitable is also very high and, therefore, most people would rather pay for a house than get to live in a container.”
The co-founder of RentSmallSmall, Naomi Olaghere, and the Chief Executive Officer of SeventhSpace, Kanyinsade Ademuson, in a housing webinar organised earlier this year, believed that property owners should develop buildings that take into cognisance the attribute of the upwardly mobile Nigerian.
Olaghere said her start-up has built trust with landlords, which enables them to rent property to Nigerians for shorter periods.
She said, “People often think they must have all their money together before they can buy something or even rent a house, but RentSmallSmall is changing that. We’ve been in existence for three years now, and we’re letting people know that they can pay their rent monthly, quarterly, or annually.”
Ademuson said the best way to sell a solution to a market that is filled with seemingly unaffordable housing issues is by taking advantage of underutilised properties and increasing the speed of production.
He said, “If you look at the property trends today, builders are developing for people who genuinely can’t afford them. However, I think that one of the major solutions we can provide is actually getting designs that are centred around average Nigerians who are genuinely poor.”
“There are a lot of lands that are owned but unused. Part of the solution is to create policies that ensure the usage of underutilised lands. We also have to consider our environment, and build for the environment we are in. We need to look at different technologies or building technology methods, using different materials and materials that we can research and create here, within Nigeria, and which are suitable for our environment.”
Amadi believed that demand has outweighed supply in Lagos and the housing crisis is worsening due to the obvious shortage.
He said, “In Lagos, just like in most other Nigerian cities, there’s a big gap in housing – the number of people looking for accommodation far outstrips the number of accommodation available. It is almost like a bidding war between tenants – so accommodation is only available to the highest bidder.”
His advice for people unable to afford the high prices of rent or even to buy is by sharing accommodation.
He said, “Mates can come together to rent accommodation and share the rent. They can also pool resources together to buy.
“Also, when young people empower themselves and acquire good education and or life skills, they can earn more to be able to afford the rent.”
He suggested that people can also seek cheaper accommodation by moving to the suburbs – outside the city centre – where the rents are not exorbitant and can then commute to work by car-pooling, or use of mass transit.