Abraham Maslow identified the following as the basic needs of human : food, clothing and shelter. Thus, housing is a basic need of every human on planet earth. This necessitates that housing should be affordable to all and sundry. However, the yardstick of affordable housing differs from country to country.
The word “affordable” housing was first reported by the world bank in 1982 when it noted that people who rent houses could not purchase other basic needs like food, clothing, transport, health and education as a result of unaffordable housing. Hence United Nations formulated that 30 percent of household income should be used as payment for housing. The implication of this is affordable housing is a housing that 30% of one’s household income can pay for. This is not acceptable in developing countries as it is not practicable because 30% of low-income earners household income cannot afford a decent housing. The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the US Congress in 2010 argued that “There is nowhere in the entire country (USA) where a full time worker earning the prevailing minimum wage can afford the rent of a one bedroom rental home using the standard of spending not more than 30 per cent of household income on housing.”
Another postulate for affordable housing is that housing can be accessed with the median household income in a community. This means that housing can be afforded by the majority of people living in an area. This postulation democratized housing provision and failed to see housing as a right as enshrined in Article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is included variously in the constitutions of countries in the world and charters in some countries. In Nigeria, it was enshrined in Chapter 4 of 1999 constitution particularly section 43 states that “subject to the provision of the constitution every citizen of Nigeria shall have right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria”.
A third analysis of affordable housing is housing that can be afforded by the poor, that is people below the median income in the society or people living below $2.50 per day. In the case of Nigeria, for example, affordable housing is housing that can be afforded by workers on level 1 that is the minimum wager considering the fact that housing is right. This implies low-cost housing or subsidized housing. According to Gbenga Nubi (2006) in his view in “Housing Finance in Nigeria – Need for Re-engineering It is not possible to provide a housing that level one worker can afford in Nigeria with our current hostile economic situation as reflected in the cost of construction.
In order to provide affordable housing for their citizens, governments of various countries adopt various measures. Some countries adopt cooperative housing while some use social housing and subsidized housing like council flats and others adopt low-income housing. The main considerations in the practice of affordable housing are the culture of the people the housing is meant for and their household income. It is noteworthy that accessibility by all the income earners is an essential factor in affordable housing. All low income earners are entitled to able accommodation .Countries like Beijing and Indonesia have created “Migrants Workers Village” while India has “Model Village” under the Holistic Village Development Program (HVDP) where each member of the India Parliament adopts one village from their constituency to transform that village into a model village and has been able to reduce rural to urban migration.
Another essential factor in affordable housing in Nigeria is data. Nigeria should have a database which contains for instance data that reflects the number of low income earners that are under-housed, the location where they are majorly concentrated in the country, their housing needs, their rental payment capacities. It is noteworthy that relocating a working class from his source of livelihood can be grievous to his income. Another salient factor is who should cater for the housing needs of the low-income, the market or the government.All these factors must be considered to achieve affordable housing. As a form of bridging the gap between the rich and the poor, Austrian government is providing all residents with social housing. It has achieved 60% of its target now and promised to provide government accommodation for all in the year 2030.
Noteworthy is the fact that the cost of construction materials plays a major input in the production of housing and this affects the cost of housing. It is recommended that Nigeria needs a paradigm shift in its current adoption of building materials. Since housing is a shelter providing comfort and shielding occupants from the effects of harsh weather, affordable materials like plastics, clay and timber and locally sourced materials like clay bricks and bamboo should be used as alternatives. Research shows that for low-rise buildings, bamboos can alternatively serve as reinforcement bars. Bamboo can be used as reinforcements of short beams like lintels and columns are effective in sustaining the shear and tensile strength of concrete. Effective taxation of houses can be adopted to curb housing indiscipline and unnecessary acquisition by the super-rich.
The housing affordability index is important when considering affordable housing. The Housing Affordability Index (HAI) in an area measures whether or not an average family affordable earns enough income to qualify for a 30-year fixed mortgage loan on a typical single-family home without spending more than 25% of the income on payment for principal and interest. For instance, low income earners in Nigeria are those workers earning less than N100,000 per month (less than US$20 per month), the only way to give these people affordable housing in Nigeria is social housing.
There are two ways to satisfy the housing needs of low income people in poverty-ridden states. They are subsidized and social housing. The disadvantage of subsidised housing is lack of maintenance culture and poverty level hence it is not practicable in Nigeria.
The effect of subsidised housing is breeding slum and substandard housing. Beneficiaries of this scheme will not be able to maintain them and this defeats affordable housing. The purpose of affordable housing is to make sure everybody is accommodated as a right and basic need to thrive.
Social housing on the other hand is a public asset that is owned and maintained by the government. The wealthy in the society contributes, through tax, in the regular maintenance of social housing for the low income earners in the society. Most developed countries like United Kingdom have social housing to cater for the low-income earners and home for the homeless to cater for those that are not on income. Also,capitalist America has Section 8 which provides subsidies for those who cannot cope with their housing and home for seniors that is elders that are over 65 years old and are vulnerable.
Affordable housing is sociological and must be constructed with acceptable standard so that the occupants of the houses are not stigmatized.