Home ownership options – Most working class people desire to own a house but have no means of doing so, MAUREEN AZUH writes on alternatives for such people
Everyone desires to have a house of their own. But like everything else under the present economy of the country, the process could be daunting. In most cases, some people work for years, putting off the idea of building their own house until they are finally unable to achieve that dream.
It is particularly so for low and medium income earners, who often see the idea as intimidating. Like a professor jokingly said, ‘a poor man cannot own a house in Nigeria’. Unfortunately, governments at all levels are still grappling with reducing the housing deficit that the country is plagued with.
Even investing in estates has proved to be expensive too. Developers who are into the business acquire land and develop into plots or finished buildings. They must recover the money invested in the project.
However, there are several ways as well as methods of combating this problem. National President of Nigeria Institute of Building, Mr. Chucks Omeife, told our correspondent that a low income earner can own a house through direct labour procurement method.
This process entails purchasing building materials and engaging the services of a builder to manage the processes of construction. According to him, it is assumed that the person would have done a design of the type of building he has in mind through an architect or a draughtsman.
He said, “The direct procurement of materials under the guidance of the builder will ensure the purchase of durable and cost effective materials. Basically once the substructure is well constructed, the building would have met with good quality standard and reduced to the barest minimum the problem of maintenance.
“Close management of the process would also ensure that the building is sound and wastages can be eliminated; the same with issue of rework and double handling. The cost to be saved by this procurement method ranges from 25- 30 per cent.”
A source at the Nigeria Building and Road Research Institute is of the opinion that low income earners can also explore alternative building technology such as the use of laterite, which he said is readily available, cheap and durable.
Laterite, otherwise called ‘red sand’ in local parlance, is the residual soil formed by the leaching or discharge of silica and is said to be enriched with aluminum and iron oxides, especially in humid climates.
Laterite is readily available when people dig wells or soak away pits, and often produces the desired result of an affordable house that can withstand any form of whether.
“All that is needed is for the user to stabilise it with five per cent cement and minimal water that would make it moist enough for the hand and feed it into the interlocking block making machine.
“Laterite is about N12, 000 for a truck load which can make enough blocks to build a mini flat. About four moulds from the laterite would make a nine-inch block. Although when you decide to use laterite to construct your house, you may require lots of it but it is also available. Anywhere you dig, you would find laterite” the source said.
This innovative method can allow those who have a housing need an opportunity to build their own self-financed affordable home, the source added.
But for former South-West Chairman, Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria, Prof. Gbenga Nubi, the problem with housing in Nigeria is the way people build, which he describes as ‘expensive.’
Nubi said as long as people continue to build houses in single units, no method, either alternative or conventional would work.
According to him, the only way to reduce cost of building is to build mass houses not as individual income earners but as groups. He proposed joining a cooperative society as one of the surest ways to owning a personal house in an affordable way.
He said, “Cooperative is coming together to enjoy what you cannot get as an individual. A low income earner buys in units, making the process cumbersome and expensive. But now, as a group you can consume in dozens. Whether it is cement, granite or other building materials, working in group reduces prices.
“Low and medium income earners should come together in a cooperative society. It is done all over the world, so it is not peculiar to Nigeria. In UK, it is called building society and in the US, mutual group. It costs so much to build a house as an individual.”
Although Nubi is an advocate of alternative building technology, he said it can only be enjoyed through mass housing.
“This technology is good but expensive. You cannot import a technology that would cost N200m for a building of N5m. It can only be profitable with mass production. It is key to affordable buildings, it is faster but it is not popular in Nigeria because we still don’t do mass production of houses. Alternative technology is industrialised and cannot work on individual basis,” he said.
And for those who are not salary earners, Nubi still proposes joining a cooperative and thrift society, which he called ‘osusu’. For him, affordability of a house is a two-way thing; either building materials reduce or the income of an intending house owner increases.
He said, “Even for those who are government employees, increasing minimum wage is not the way to go. If the construction of houses crashes, everyone would be able to at least own one building. The emphasis should then be on how to reduce this construction; that is where coming together becomes important.
“All we need is mass housing; even the alternative technology which is better and more affordable requires coming together as a group. For instance, instead of paying an architect N100, 000 for a prototype design, 10 people can come together and pay N10, 000 for the same project. Same goes for wood, cement granite and every other building material.”