Ramping Up Enugu’s Mass Housing Stock

Considering the national minimum wage at thirty thousand naira monthly and a mortgage sector blighted by an unusually high interest rate, the promise of affordable mass housing for civil servants has always sounded somewhat like a pie in the sky.

So, barring any radical housing policy, dreams of owning personal homes will remain an uphill task even for senior level public servants, let alone mid- and low-cadre workers. The long absence of such policy is the reason Nigeria’s housing deficit is currently estimated at 17 million, a figure that rises annually by 900,000, according to former finance minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun.

One such radical policy occurred in July 2016, when Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi launched an ambitious mass housing programme that reduced the burden of the usually huge equity contribution on the public to a tolerable level. The Ugwuanyi administration paid over 50 percent equity contribution for Enugu State civil servants between grade levels 01-10 for the purchase of 100 units of one-bedroom flats at Elim Estate, Ibagwa Nike, Enugu.

In making this project one of his administration’s earliest capital expenditure, the governor underlined his commitment to the provision of affordable housing for workers. The project was insulated from the noxious influence of politics as beneficiaries were selected via a transparent ballot. Just as significant is the fact the project was a product of a state-private sector partnership. As the governor had rightly observed, “today’s event indeed underscores the usefulness of synergy and cooperation between government and the private sector in the quest to improve the lives of our people through the rapid development of all sectors of the state’s economy”.

The conceiving and implementing of that housing project is in accord with Governor Ugwuanyi’s promise in his inaugural speech to deploy government resources and services to create fair and equal opportunity for every citizen and improve their wellbeing in a peaceful and secure environment. “It is a reaffirmation of our commitment to improving the welfare of workers in Enugu State, and to the provision of affordable housing for all citizens of the state,” he said as he handed out keys to beneficiaries.

It is such noble objective that is behind the ongoing construction of 750 residential housing units for civil servants, comprising one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom bungalows. The project being carried out by the Enugu State Housing Development Corporation will feature a similarly flexible repayment schedule.
This vision has earned the Ugwuanyi administration a resounding accolade from labour unions in the state whose leaders, Comrade Virginus Nwobodo of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress’ Comrade Benneth Asogwa, accompanied the governor during an inspection of the housing units

Besides the construction of these low-cost housing schemes, the Enugu State governor’s commitment to workers’ welfare is further reinforced by his administration’s swift implementation of the enhanced minimum wage. His scorecard in improving workers’ welfare is also evident in his conferment with the “Most Labour-Friendly Governor” award by workers in Enugu State.

It is instructive that the mass housing programmes as well as many other capital projects were carried out despite the drop in allocation to states from the federation account. This reduction has been worsened by the outbreak of coronavirus which caused a near collapse of economic activities across the world. Indeed, even at the best of times, Enugu State is actually one of the least recipients of the monthly federal allocation. But the state, ironically, has consistently ranked among the top performers in most socio-economic indices from internal revenue to support for small businesses, job creation, and capital budget expenditure performance.

Even when the economic strain of the pandemic compelled states to carry out a reordering of budget priorities, which often meant scaling down capital expenditure, infrastructure development in Enugu State was by no means diminished. That is credit to the governor’s creative deployment of resources and his ability to inspire a new thinking to bolster the state’s revenue base.

Given the massive housing deficits across the federation, some may cynically view the Ugwuanyi administration’s intervention as a mere drop in the ocean. The truth, however, is that these interventions offer a clear insight to the sort of incremental growth that mass housing would have experienced had it been, over the past years, given the kind of attention the Ugwuanyi administration has devoted to building new affordable housing projects.

Source: This Day Live

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