National Housing Fund, Not A Sincere Programme – Ismail | Independent Newspapers Limited
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National Housing Fund, Not A Sincere Programme – Ismail

Gbenga Ismail 3
Posted: Jun 3, 2016 at 1:48 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

 ESV Gbenga Ismail, is a chartered surveyor who began his practice in England, worked with Knight Frank before embarking on a private practice. He speaks with NKASIOBI OLUIKPE, on issues revolving round estate survey and valuation profession. Excerpts:


 Having practiced in England and now in Nigeria, how do you compare the economic environment of the two countries?

The only difference between here and anywhere else is standards of doing business. We are managing our inadequacies and inefficiencies. We have to do certain things right.  A lot of people do not know the things we do, but for everything we do, it’s a lack of standards that affects it.


Beyond the letting, leasing and selling functions, what else do you guys do?

The entire patterns of any high or low rise building you see anywhere will have a thought-process of an estate surveyor. What you see us do is put our banner up where you see the to-let sign, but we are not seen from the beginning point, from where the land was barren to when it has taken shape. We can manage the quantity surveyors because they are a subset of what we do.


 Are there not times when you guys encroach into other people’s profession?

The built environment deals with everybody. So we need to know how it affects everybody. We do not encroach; we just manage everybody’s interest.


What efforts have you guys made to see how possible it is for Nigerians to pay house rents for six months or even shorter?

Well, the market is what determines that. It is not impossible, there are other markets that these happen, but we are not used to that system. What is impossible is to see somebody that will pay three years, which was the norm previously.


You know there are complaints that it is you guys who are responsible for the number of years paid as rent?

I have transactions that I do that I sign the contract for four years and the fees are paid for the full four years. It’s a yearly payment. Even if you pay monthly, you will still pay me the fees for one year. That is the rule. You see everybody pushes the whole thing on the tenant. But the landlord is supposed to be the one to pay me the fees.


 Is the National Housing Fund functional?

I am not sure. I have not seen those that benefitted from it apart from the mortgage houses that take the money. Everybody contributes to it, but I don’t know those who have accessed it, apart from a few of the civil servants.


Why is it not functional?

There are no standards; it is not a sincere programme.


Why are people calling for the review of the National Housing Policy?

That is probably, because it is not working.


What have you guys done to make access to land easy?

The first is the Land Use Act, which was supposed to make land available for everybody. But for some reasons or the other, it is restricting access to land. Land Use Act has some clauses in it that is preventing access to land. So far, we have been agitating that those clauses be repealed.


In your assessment, do you think the locally manufactured building materials are standardized enough to carry some big structures?

Of course not! If you look at a high rise, 80 per cent of what goes into it are foreign based, while 20 per cent are local and that is just cement and block work, and maybe paints. Most of the time, everything inside is imported. This is why buildings are expensive in the country. But what the government has done is good, why are we not making our own tiles here? We have a lot of raw materials that can create tiles, we have marble, granite and items that can form and make these items. All we need is to start from somewhere. They do some here, but the quality is so bad that even when you export from China, they will buy the one from China which is also cheaper.


How do we get these problems solved?

It still boils down on standards. Organisations like the SON should make sure that all products should have a minimum function for standards. But also, you know machinery costs a lot of money. What government/Bank of Industry should be helping industry people to do is get the machinery to make sure they produce to a certain level.


As a developer, how often do you use foreign artisans?

All these nearby West African country citizens are no longer foreigners, they are everywhere now. Every tiller in Nigeria now, is from Republic of Benin. They do the work well. Laying of tile is a skill. I even have a developer who makes his doors in Cotonou.


How do we create jobs for our own people?

We are not ready to do the jobs. Every Nigerian now is after big-mannism. A tiller that knows his job will have access to kings. But Nigerians look down on the profession here. If I don’t have Nigerian tillers and that skill needs to be met, what can I do?  We must have people that are ready to provide the services and required skills in the first place. If you don’t have them, the foreigners will come in. if you find a good Nigerian that can do the job well, there is so much work for them to do.


In 1991, the National Building Organisation estimated that the housing deficit was 8.23million. They projected that by 2001, it will come down to 6.64million. Today we are having roughly more than 17million deficit. What went wrong?

This 17million is not even representative of everybody; it represents people who are trying to climb the ladder. Effectively, only 40 per cent of most people that work own their homes.

You see, the housing policy will have to be looked into. When you graduate, the first thing is that you must have the opportunity of getting a job. If you get that job, it must give you the capacity to get a house within three years. That policy is not in place, nobody even thinks about it. In the developed countries, even if you are the tiller that I am talking about, you will get your house.

If you create avenue for people to build their own houses, the deficit will come down. So, two things are key, soft infrastructure, which is finance and hard infrastructure, which is transport.


 What are the issues in the NIESV profession now?

Most estate surveyors are complaining that there are no jobs, nobody is buying their houses and nobody is paying them fees. Valuation jobs are few.


Don’t you think that the reason why people are not either renting or buying the house is because they are expensive?

Yes, they are very expensive because the interest rates are high too.


Why is it that when government even provides the lands and infrastructure, you build and sideline the low income earners?

Problems of affordable housing is a global problem, it is not only in Nigeria. The centre is getting full, to be in the centre costs a lot of money, as a result, you have to go out. The further you go out, the cheaper it becomes.

The low income earner in Nigeria, does not know what to do with their houses. You cannot have a three bedroom apartment and you put 10 people in that house or have two or three wives. You need to go and live in the village.

Affordable house should be given to somebody who is a starter. Even if government should subsidise houses, there are certain rules that should be put in place, like the number of people to live in there. In Nigeria, what happens is that we bring in everybody from the village to stay in that one house because everybody wants to come to the centre.


How do you get the low income earner integrated into the housing policy?

The NHF is supposed to come to their rescue. If you have money saved up, that money should be able to get you something. For starters, there are not enough houses.


How do we reduce the number slums in Lagos?

Scrap and regenerate them.


If you regenerate them, where would you squat the people who were there previously?

They should go back to where they are coming from because a good number of people that live in those places have nothing to do. Nobody should be carrying a dead weight or a loafer, somebody who has everything, but does not want to do anything.