•SA To Lagos Gov. On Housing
Barrister Toke Benson-Awoyinka is the beautiful Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Housing. She is on top of her game. She understands the industry so well, and she is making a great impact in that Real Esatate sector. Many stakeholders constantly commend her and her team for a job well done.
A few days back, City People Magazine, which covers extensively the Real Estate & Housing sector got her to be the first Guest on our new City People @25 Instagram Live Chat series. We got her to speak on the topic: Lagos State as the Best Real Estate Investment Destination in 2021 and for 60 minutes on Friday 29th February 2021, this stylish woman held her audience spell bound as she revealed how Gov. Sanwo Olu has made a remarkable impact in the real estate sector, and what he has done to improve the housing stock since he came in as Governor in 2019.
Below are excerpts of the Instagram Live Chat.
What are the opportunities that exist in the Real Estate Sector in Lagos State? What are the benefits people can gain?
There are so many opportunities available right now in the state. If you want to talk about the Real Estate that Lagos State Government owns, that is on one side and also there are various opportunities also by Private developers.
A week ago, I was fortunate to commission a housing project for one of our private developers in the Lekki axis, and one of the things we spoke about there was that Real Estate in Lagos is something that is alive and is live and real. Despite the fact that we have a pandemic right now, it is one sector that has not been affected by the pandemic. So, he commissioned about 100+ units last week Friday. For the year 2020, he had a project of 527 units, which he commissioned and which are fully sold. So, in everything going on right now, the Real Estate sector is still alive and vibrant. It’s a very good investment sector for people who are looking at going into business, especially the youths.
Every day, we churn out graduates; every day we churn out people who are looking for jobs. So, if we do that, then we would also need to accommodate people. So, on the Private sector side, it is a booming business. On the Government side as well, we are also putting in our efforts because the Lagos State Ministry of Housing is churning out homes for people of Lagos as well. And we also have good news for the people of Lagos State, because of what we do. We do not sell to people outrightly. We sell to them on the Rent To Own Scheme, which means that you don’t have to pay everything that is being asked for. All you need to do is to pay a percentage of the cost of the unit, which is usually about 5%. Once you pay the 5%, we give you the opportunity to make the payment for the rest of the unit over a 10 year period. So, we are doing everything we can to bridge the gap in the housing deficit in Lagos and we are continuing that process until the end of this administration and hopefully the next administration.
So, within this administration, we should be able to boast of about 5,000 units for the people of Lagos. Few days ago we commissioned The Lagos Homes in Iponri, which the Governor has renamed BRF Homes in Iponri, which is 132 units. We also commissioned the Lekki 2, which is on Mobil road in Lekki and that is 84 units. Last week, Saturday, we commissioned 252 units in Badagry: 2 bedroom bungalows, nice area, serene gated community, also done in collaboration with the private sector, Messers Ecostone And Co… So, every day we are churning out homes for the people of Lagos State, and we expect that the people of Lagos also need that to help them address the problem of not being able to pay the entire sum of the cost of the unit, and us giving them the Mortgage scheme that will do with Lagos State Mortgage Board. Those are the units that we have commissioned this year.
What is the secret behind the remarkable performance of the Sanwo-Olu Administration in Lagos, in terms of Real Estate?
You know Mr. Governor by professional training is also a Surveyor and he used to be the MD of LSDPC. So, he is very passionate about Housing and Real Estate. At the onset of this administration we promised we are going to give at least 10,000 units of housing, and everything I have told you is what we have delivered in January, almost 500 units now. We did 252 in Badagry and we did 316 yesterday. So, we have already hit the 500 mark in January 2021. We are fully committed, and here is the secret. When the Lagos Homes Project started it was towards the end of that administration, and we came in and inherited a lot of abandoned projects. Like I always say, different administrations have different passions. For this Governor, and this Government, we are committed to completing all these units. So, we have various projects. At least we have 7 housing units, which we are trying to complete and by the time we do those, I think we would probably call our Governor Mr. Housing.
Why is Housing so key to Lagos? Why is it a major aspect of the Governors Game plan for his 4 years?
You know on a daily basis people flock into Lagos. Nobody can actually put a figure to the number of people who come into Lagos on a daily basis. We can talk of the domestics, who come in January, who come in to join families here that they work or live with. We talk of other people who come in from other parts of the country either in search of a job or those who have come to meet a relative or a friend who has invited them to come over. Every day, there is a huge chunk that come into Lagos. And everybody in Lagos needs somewhere to stay. That is why I said Real Estate to Lagos is like what Oil is to Nigeria. Because we have high influx of people coming into Lagos, we don’t have a choice but to join hands together with the private sector, in churning out a huge number of housing for the people of Lagos.
In the last few months, you have been trying to sanitise the housing sector. How far have you gone?
It has been a huge success, we are gaining Traction. Compliance is encouraging.
What I can say for the people of Lagos and that industry is that good times are here and good things will continue to remain with this administration. So, we are really encouraged. Our practitioners have registered, some are registering and we are going to encourage them. Late last year we had a public hearing on the Amendment to the LASRERA Bill and the outcome was good, Because practitioners and Stakeholders came out to come and speak about their interest and fears. We are hoping that the Bill is going to be passed soon.
Once we do that, it’s going to be mandatory for Real Estate practitioners to register with the agency. When we register and have a data bank of the people who are in the Real Estate, it is good for the people. It is good for the Investors because with that you can get private and international funding because once a sector is regulated people have that comfort that they would not fall into the hands of fraudulent people, which is one of the reasons we launched that agency, to help our people. Because in Lagos every day, because of the huge demand for housing, people are falling into the hands of fraudsters every day because of the demand for housing. That’s one of the main reasons LASRERA Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority was set up.
Why was there a need for the last event you had with the Real Estate players interfacing with the government?
In everything, there has been a sector-driven, policy statement, policy discussions and stakeholder engagements. But we found out that, in Real Estate it has been a sector that nobody has looked into and we thought it will be a very good opportunity that after the pandemic we bring people together and that’s why we organised the Market place. The Market place was put together to bring Buyers and Stakeholders to one place, one location to interface with one another, contrary to what we are used to, dealing with any how agents or developers etc.
Normally, when we people are buying real estate, its either, oh I have seen the advert somewhere, or an Agent is taking me to one place. I don’t know what this Developer is doing. We thought it was time for us to bring the players in the industry together.
We thought it was time for us to bring the players in the industry together and that is the General public and the Developers, and also the Financial institutions who finance those investments and who would also finance your purchases of those investments. So, it was a very good one for us. It was the very first time in Lagos and in Nigeria where people will come into the exhibition place and be able to Off-take investments or speak to potential customers or clients that want to buy houses and also have the opportunity to speak to the financial institutions who will finance those projects.
So, Business meets Business or Business meets People. The outcome was incredible. It was well attended. We also had a Conference Section where we spoke about a lot of things like The Ease of Doing Business In Real Estate in Lagos where we had all the members of Cabinet in Lagos including Mr. Governor himself, who was The Chief Host, speak to the people of Lagos, speak to their fears on Permits, like Planning Permits for your structures, and all the bottle necks. We had all the Commissioners speak. The Commissioner for Physical Planning was there. The Commissioner for Justice was there. Commissioner for Energy spoke about Renewable clean Energy and Alternate Energy for us to use in Lagos rather than the Generators, pumping and polluting the air all over. We had major, major stakeholders in the banking sector. We had bank MD’s and MD’s of financial institutions who came to speak about Funding and Investments and the need to create a proper Governance Structure for Investments and finance to come into developments in Real Estate. It was a very good outing for us. We are hoping it is going to be bigger this year. Hopefully, the pandemic will subside this year after all the vaccines and the flattening of the curve. So, we are looking towards a much grander event this year.
That means you are happy with the Private sector participation and involvement in the Housing sector in Lagos.
Oh yes. We cannot do it alone. Government alone cannot build for people. If you look all over Lagos you will see that the whole of Lagos is privately developed. Yes, Government puts in the infrastructure, but the actual units of houses is put in by private developers. That is why at the Ministry of Housing in Lagos State Govt. we are partnering with private developers to make sure we fill that deficit. We cannot do it alone.
The 3 estates that we commissioned this year, were actually private sector driven, in collaborating with the ministry. We will still continue to partner with the private sector. The ones we commissioned last year on May 29 to mark Mr. Governor’s 1st year Anniversary was also done by private individuals in collaboration with the ministry. So, we would still partner with the private sector. Government cannot do it alone.
All in all, like how many estates have you commissioned to date?
In 2019, we commissioned 492 units in Igando called Lateef Kayode Jakande Gardens. In 2020, we did about 132 units in Igbokusu in the Lekki axis of Lagos. Those were 4 bedroom maisonette in a place called Lekki Estate. Also on Freedom road, we did a 100+ units. That was 2020. So, all together in 2020, we did 2 units estate. In 2019 we did an estate in 2021, we have done 3 estates and I can tell you that we have about 4 more coming up this year. We have Sangotedo Lagos Homes, that one is about 774 units. It’s coming up before the end of this year. We have Odo Onasa Agbowa, we have 660 units there. We have 360 units in Igbogbo, Ikorodu. We have about 400 units coming up in Ajara, Badagry. We have 400+ units coming up in Ibese, Ikorodu e.t.c. putting all these together I think we have about 2000 units more, coming up this year or more.
What’s your message to a lot of people watching us right now?
A lot of people have had a Trust problem with government, judging by the number of calls that I have received about our estates. Some people don’t believe we are actually selling the house to the Public. They thought we are selling to Politicians. I keep telling them. Yes, those houses, those units, are available, you just have to go through normal procedure. What we normally do is, once we break ground for units coming up, we expect our citizens in Lagos to buy the form at the Lagos Mortgage board, or go to the website of Lagos State Mortgage Board, where you can actually fill the form online and make payment. The form is 10,000 And you can choose any of the estates we are constructing. People are sceptical but I can tell you that our current Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Rabiu Olowo is a beneficiary of Lagos Homes Project and he is ready to tell anybody who is ready to listen that “I did not know anybody in government, I was not a politician and I applied for that Lagos homes in Ogba and I got it”. So also many testimonies of people who have gotten it.
I remember when we gave keys to those that won Lateef Jakande Gardens in Igando, I was moved to tears. Even the Governor, because people expressed so much joy. Those who thought they could never be homeowners in Lagos became house owners. My point is please don’t be skeptical of government.
These homes are actually built for the people of Lagos State. It’s mainly for 1st term home buyers. We do not sell to people who want to do Investment with them. We sell to people who actually need that accommodation, who actually want a place in Lagos to put their head, and there are so many people, and that is why we will continue to partner with Private sector because they are the ones leading that course.