Fresh building block were again laid recently in Abuja, unto nation’s housing industry, when the United Nations Humans Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat) and the federal authorities  held talks to boost the provision of affordable housing for officers and men of the Nigerian Navy.

The tripartite meeting held by the Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Naval Staff Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, Director, Regional Office for Africa, UN-HABITAT, Professor Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka and Chinese firm- Messrs  Beijing Chengdong International modular Housing Corporation at the Defense headquarters in Abuja agreed to a partnership between the parties.  A formal agreement is expected to be signed in few weeks time.

Under the proposed agreement, the Chinese firm  that specialises on prefabricated houses, and classrooms building and some local contractors will be enlisted in the construction of about 20,000 low cost homes in different locations in the country.

Specifically, the meeting agreed in principle that Navy will provide land as equity, a variety of funding models will be explored to ensure low cost construction finance and low cost housing mortgage which combined with available land are conditions for afforoyebdable housing accessible by the rank and file.

The Chief of Naval Staff observed that the Navy has a big housing deficit and he is determined to remedy the situation by building 20,000 homes over the next five years. In the development will screen a wide variety of proposals to select the right builders both locally and internationally.

He explained that the agreement would address the housing concerns of his personnel when completed in 2019 and also go along way in encouraging officers and ratings of the service.

Ibas said the major concern expressed by personnel of the Navy in the course of service is “the fear of what happens when they are retired, where to stay and be comfortable after they leave service. The least expectation is to have a place where they can retire. The 20,000 that would be built in three years will bridge the gap and provide for those who desire to own a home”.

While outlining the initiatives adopted by the Naval leadership over the years to address the welfare of personnel, the Naval boss said the project would be “vigorously pursued”, as the Research and Development (R&D) directorate of the Navy already have data of the existing housing deficit in the organization.

The Director, ROAF, UN-HABITAT, told The Guardian that the agency would offer technical support to build affordable housing for officers and men of the Nigerian Navy as housing market in Nigeria is not well developed with an estimated 80 per cent of the population living in informal housing.

“In the formal market, due to housing shortage, rents and house prices are very high. For myriad reasons, the housing sector has not been able to provide the required stock to cope with growing and urbanizing population. One of the challenges is that despite the size of the economy, Nigeria’s mortgage market is put at only $840 million which implies a mortgage to debt ratio (a key indicator of mortgage penetration) of only 0.4 per cent.

“There is very limited integration of the primary mortgage market with the capital market. This has severely constrained the development of a secondary mortgage market as a potential funding source.

“Currently, Nigeria has a backlog of affordable housing estimated at between 17-20 million. Properly harnessed the housing sector is able to drive sustainable economic growth and to attenuate Nigeria’s persistent inequality.”

Professor Oyebanji , who led the Chinese firm to the talks said the presence of the UN agency is already felt in 24 African Countries, “like Somalia, Kenya, where it has worked very well, using a mortgage system and providing decent accommodation to the teeming population”.

Present with the CNS are several Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) including the Managing Director, CEO of Naval Holdings, Rear Admiral James Oluwole.

– The Guardian