- LAGOS Housing Commissioner, GBOLAHAN LAWAL
A lot has happened in the housing sector since Hon. Gbolahan Lawal assumed office 2 years ago, as Lagos Housing Commissioner. In this interview with City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE and Senior Property Reporter, ISAAC ABIMBADE, he reveals Gov. Ambode’s new strategies to tackle Lagos Housing problems. Below are excerpts.
How has the Housing Ministry been coping with the task before it in Lagos?
The Housing Ministry has been very interesting. The staff have been wonderful. They quickly made me to settle down in time. There are a lot of stakeholders in the housing value chain; from the Construction Workers, the professionals to the Engineers, Architects, The Builders, Estate Valuers, The Estate Agents, their Institutes and professional bodies. I settled in quickly, to make sure that we have an affordable and accessible housing units for Lagosians. Thats been the journey so far.
Has it been challenging?
Yes, it’s been challenging. At the same time, we have been able to surmount the challenges.
How far have you been able to achieve your ministry’s mission and vision?
The mission of the ministry is Lagos Mega City with adequate housing for its citizenry. If you look at the effect of urbanisation on Lagos, you will see that Lagos has a population of over 22 million. You see people coming to Lagos because of the economic opportunities. There are challenges in terms of Infrastructure. There are also social challenges like taking care of sanitation issues, housing, accommodation, provision for shelter, good road network, water, power, all because we have seen a lot of people trying to live in the urban centre; where they can do commercial activities, where they can quickly get jobs. By so doing, we see a lot of informal settlers coming into those urban areas and it leads to urban slum.
So, as government, we would continue to work at it making sure that we can expand into the hinterland. We would also do a lot of connectivity. Gov. Ambode has introduced a lot of government initiatives and road infrastructure. The Governor has done so many road projects for connectivity. As for housing, he has also done a lot. We have done public housing estates, that is Lagos State owned housing estates in about 23 sites, precisely over 7,000 housing units. Presently, we have about 5,962 units in different states of completion.
We would make sure that we make Lagos State to continue to be a city that works for all. The governor will continue to put in place security and development. Both go hand in hand. Security has a positive correlation with development.
In the area of housing, we want private developers, private sector participation, foreign direct investors to see Lagos as an investment destination. So we have to put a lot of infrastructures and, institutions in place. If you have properties, you must be able to secure your property rights, and people must be able to know that their property is secured and once their property is secured they know they have to pay taxes, and once they pay taxes government will have revenues to invest in infrastructures and other social amenities that will make Lagos to continue to be a prefered destination for investment. That is what government is doing for now.
For us at the Lagos State Ministry of Housing, we would continue to ensure that more Lagosians have their feet on the Home Ownership Ladder. That is the goal of this ministry and that is what we want to achieve. That is why the Governor introduced the Rent To Own initiative. The policy came about when Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode came aboard. We had a survery. And from the report of that survey, we noticed that a lot of young population and start ups are finding it difficult to own their own home.
Before now, what was obstainable was outright purchase and mortgage scheme. Mortgage Schemes was introduced by the last administration of Mr. Babatunde Fashola; whereby you pay 30% as your commitment and you now spread the rest whilst you are living in the house till you own the house or the unit. But when we came on board, we decided to have a stakeholders meeting with the estate valuers and most of the professional bodies in the real estate sector. We checked from those people who are already in our estates, from people who already occupy our estates and we now asked ourselves what model can we come up with?
Then, Rent To Own was born. The Rent To Own is easy. It is the cheapest in Nigeria for now, whether private or even government owned estates.
How does it work?
First, you have to be a resident of Lagos, a tax payer. You must be above 21 years of age, then you must have the ability to pay. You must also have that 5% commitment. So, its from outright purchase to 30% now to 5%. The idea is to lower the threshold of entry. The entry point is being lowered for a whole lot of people. So far, over 20,000 Lagosians have applied. We have been doing it every month like 100 or 200. In the last 3 and a half months, over 500 homes have been allocated. At least 2,500 Lagosians now have their own homes.
How did you get that figure?
An average of 5 persons per home. If you multiply 5 by 500 you will get that figure, 2,500 minimum; husband and wife and their kids. Thats the idea behind this. We have some estates designated for this Rent To Own scheme. We have 4,355 housing units of 1,2 and 3 bedrooms apartments for Lagosians, at the first instance because we also know that only government cannot take care of the number of people who are ready to own their home, so we are partnering with the private sector. We have an initiative known as Lagos Affordable Housing Initiative, where a Public and Private Partnership is the model. The target is 20,000 housing units in the next 4 years. We have sites in about 12 locations across the state. The developers have started the preliminary works. Some of them have moved to site. We also noticed that the conventional way of construction might not really solve the challenges of the housing deficit in Lagos.