Home Editorial Our stand (25): The need to prioritize affordable housing for economic growth

Our stand (25): The need to prioritize affordable housing for economic growth

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Building more social housing is a top priority for a society that looks to avoid the harsh effects of probable future pandemics. Housing crisis in Nigeria was more exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, highlighting the huge difference in classes of persons in a system that has been dilapidated for years.

The “stay home” directive by the government looked like a last resort in combating the rapid spread of the virus but, in reality and a place like the Nigerian environment mostly dominated by urban migrators who have majority of dwellers in slums, the stay at home order did not yield the desired results. More persons contacted the virus with various deaths recorded by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). This is not surprising.

During this period, the home became more important. A home should represent relaxation, comfort and security, it also represents refuge from danger especially in eras of pandemics. But, for so many living in slums or informal settlements, a home is far from this.

Those that may be residing in quality affordable homes that provide safety, space and luxury may have not found it difficult during the lockdown but, what can be said of those that live as a family of ten in a one-bedroom flat amongst other flats in houses that are built so closely? It could be terrible. What if one is living in an environment where kitchen and other domestic amenities are shared with many other families? Were they able to self-isolate? What about the health complications of slum environments during the lockdown?

The housing crisis in the country as laid bare by the virus, showed more inequalities in a system that has continually found it difficult to combat housing problems for years. Many homes in the country do not meet the standards of a decent home. For many in the country, housing costs take more percentage of their annual income.

With the 2nd phase of lockdown likely to come into effect, it is more probable to halt or slow economic activities than it did previously. Not all sectors of the economy have fully swung into operations due to the previous lockdown, including housing and the tourism sectors. Amongst other adverse effects of the previous lockdown, prices of items at the market have really gone high, majority of the masses especially those residing in slums are already bearing the brunt.

One may say the recent youth protests that rocked the country may be as a result of rapid economic hardship caused by the outbreak of the virus. This is true as was earlier predicted that the effects that will come as a result of the outbreak of the virus and the resulting lockdown will include mass protests going on around some countries of the globe.

If successive governments had keyed or prioritize housing as a catalyst for economic growth, many in the country would not have been faced by living difficulties. If the citizens were provided with affordable homes, it would have lifted a good percentage of burden on many families, thereby, channeling resources to other vital areas of operating a home. Few or none would have come out protesting against bad governance.

To support the development of affordable housing to cushion the effects of probable future pandemics, the government should consider supporting developers, small, medium-sized or big developers through more government favorable policies to provide affordable homes to cater for residents in the country. The country need to build homes for its citizens, especially those in serious housing needs. The government need to use its abundant resources to build new homes for the people as housing is a public good that can last generations to come.

As the nation strives for the future, it should prioritize affordable housing as a public good, essential for the wellbeing and security of a society. So that, everyone can have a place to call a home.

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