By Bunmi Ishola
FOR some years now, the cost of housing in Nigeria has been very high. Apart from the fact that the cost of building materials is not for the faint-hearted, getting a place to rest one’s head is becoming an uphill task in many parts of the country. For example, using Ibadan, Oyo State as a case study, getting a two or three -bedroom apartment around areas like Ring Road or Oluyole Extension will cost between N450,000 and N500,000. That means the total package will be between N550,000 and N700,000, the total package being the percentage for the agents who got the apartment, caution fee and some other fees as demanded by the landlord or landlady. It is far higher in areas like Bodija Estate and UI where you can get a room and parlour self-contained for as high as N1million. That means to secure a two bedroom flat in these areas can cost as much as N1.5 million. Areas like Iwo Road still have houses that go for between N200,000 and N350,000 per annum. In areas like Felele, you can get a room and parlour self-contained apartment for N250,000 a while two bedroom flat costs between N350,000 and N450,000. Three bedroom flats start from N500,000.
These prices are devoid of the agent fees and the rest. At Omi Adio, a two-bedroom flat is from N200,000. That will put a three bedroom flat to between N250,000 and N300,000 per annum. With the current minimum wage, it is easy to deduce that only few workers will be able to afford living in a reasonably decent apartment. In states like Lagos and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, the situation is no better. Mr. Sola, a trader at Orita Challenge in Ibadan and his wife, Bukola, a private school teacher around the same axis, who live in a two bedroom flat with their two children aged 7 and 5, lamented that the landlord had increased their house rent thrice in five years. Though his landlord does not reside in the country, he has an agent who relates his message to the tenants. Mr. Sola was paying N100,000 per annum when he first got the house but in five years, the rent was increased to N250,000. He said he can’t afford the rent anymore and does not know how to go about it.
On the other hand, Mrs. Idowu, a widow who resides around Iyana Church, also in Ibadan, said she had been trying to change her habitation due to increase in rent. She said it had been a bit hectic because the houses that the agents she’s been talking to are showing her are between N250,000 and N350,000 per annum. The total package is running to between N350,000 and N450,000. Her dilemma is she cannot afford this cost at this time even as a secretary in an estate firm. Her current house rent is presently N150,000 per annum but the distance to her place of work is far. To Mr. Kehinde, who just increased his house rent from N100,000 to N200,000, it is not the landlord’s fault that getting an apartment is cumbersome. They are house owners with the intention of making money. According to him, the price is too small. The house in question does not have a pumping machine, only a well; nor does it have a pre-paid metre. It is a block of four three bedroom flats with a toilet, around Monatan area, also in Ibadan, and should be about 30 or 40 years-old. When asked why he did not put the fact that it is not a new house into consideration, his response was that many would still “grab” it even at that price at this point in time.
The above shows that at this time, the issue of accommodation is something the government should show interest in. Many landlords are failing to even acknowledge the fact that as much as they own their houses, the tenants also have some rights according to the law and they should cut people some slack. Some of them make outrageous rules like “no generator from a certain time of the day till another time, no visitors, etc (not minding where you work) and many other inhumane rules. There seems to be no one protecting the interests of the masses in that regard. The experiences of the people who shared their experiences above are similar to that of many other Nigerians. The price at which house agents, in conjunction with landlords and landladies, give out their houses is quite alarming. Quite a number of Nigerians are finding it hard to cope with paying the huge house rents largely because some are living from hand-to-mouth and can barely feed. The cost of feeding has been rather high for many years now, and the priority of most homes is food. By the time many Nigerians have managed to feed their families and provide other necessities like clothing and education for the children, there is barely enough to fill other essential areas.
With the rate at which the cost of housing is rising all over the country, it is pertinent to ask the government to put up a body that will devise a way of regulating house rents in each state. House owners should be made to stick to reasonable house rents that the people can afford no matter the class they belong to. The government can also try to build low-cost houses for citizens which should be made accessible to every Nigerian. The recent news about the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) excluding most Primary Mortgage Banks from further accessing National Housing Fund (NHF) loans for Nigerians from the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) is not palatable. Some Nigerians have been able to secure houses with that scheme and putting a stop to its operation may cause more havoc to the housing sector. The government could resuscitate effective mortgage policies that will ginger that sector and improve its development. It will also encourage serious commitment from everyone to the uplift of the lives of the people.
The private estate developers springing up everywhere around the country should be strictly monitored at this time as many of them are robbing people of their hard-earned money despite the hardship being faced already. Nigerians are falling victims to the shenanigans of these developers by losing money to them. The government should develop stricter measures of checking the excesses of those companies and a better way of establishing their authenticity. The government at the centre should also look into the high cost of building materials and devise means of making them cheap even for the common person to buy. If a considerable number of the citizens can build their own houses, it is a feather to its cap.
- Ishola is on the staff of Nigerian Tribune.
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