Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives on Monday pledged the resolve of the Lower Chamber to embark on comprehensive review of the laws governing mortgage with the view to reverse the 17 million housing deficit.
The Speaker who gave the assurance while declaring open the 11th Abuja Housing Show, called for creation of new cities and regional hubs for development in all six geo-political zones.
Stressing the importance of housing, Dogara said that provision of shelter is one of the duties of government, as contained in Section 16 of the Constitution, and this is a reason why housing is a cardinal part of the legislative agenda for the Eighth House, which he presides over.
“It is estimated that Nigeria requires about 17 million houses to bridge the deficit. This is why, the House of Representatives made housing a cardinal part of its Legislative Agenda. It provides in item 6(h) for a Legislative Initiative on Housing, Urban Development, Mortgages.
“Under this concept, legislative action and support will be given to identify and create at least one large and expansive area provided with 21st century infrastructure that creates a modern city equipped with basic infrastructure, fast rail, mono-rail, communications, ICT, etc. In this direction, a legal framework that actively involves private sector participation will be put in place and necessary amendments to relevant existing laws introduced.”
The Speaker noted that despite previous governments’ interventions through the establishment of Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) and Federal Housing Authority (FHA), the persisting challenge has been lack of long-term money with which such mortgages can be financed.
This, he observed led to the establishment of Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC), which involves the private sector and charged with the duty of making the required funds available to banks, which then lend to the public as mortgages.
The Speaker also advocated for a reduction in the cost of building materials in order to make housing more affordable, as owning a home has since become a luxury.
“To provide affordable housing to Nigerians will also require lowering the cost of building materials. It is in this regard that we should not relent in research, development and education to improve building methods and cost effective locally produced building materials.
“I understand that the National Building and Road Research Institute has recorded some successes in the development of cost effective building technologies and materials. We should patronise and encourage others to do more.
“Indeed, there is no gain saying that decent and affordable housing in Nigeria has become a luxury that vast majority of Nigerians cannot afford. This should not be the case as housing remains one of the basic necessities of life which governments all over the world strives to ensure that it is a right that citizens must enjoy.
“In 2006, a new draft housing policy was released with the aim of ensuring that Nigerians own or have access to decent, safe and healthy housing accommodation at affordable cost. However, suffice it to say that in all of these, no meaningful achievement has yet been recorded. Sadly, the housing gap keeps widening yearly as the population increases,” he observed.
Speaking on the role of the legislature in fixing the housing crisis, Dogara stated that it has become necessary to enact a comprehensive law governing mortgages, and reiterated the commitment of the House to achieving it.
“While I urge the federal and state governments to be pragmatic in addressing Nigeria’s housing shortfalls, the National Assembly has a major role to play to enhance access to decent and affordable housing. This, I can assure you that we shall look into before the expiration of the 8th National Assembly.
“I will repeat for emphasis that a comprehensive legislation to deal with how mortgages are processed and accessed in Nigeria have become necessary. We must design a mortgage system that captures those in the informal sector of the economy where majority of Nigerians operate.
“We need to take advantage of the newly signed laws: The Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Act, 2017 (also called Collateral Registry Act) and the Credit Reporting Act, 2017 to reach the ordinary Nigerians who do not have very significant collateral often demanded by banks. The new laws have the capacity to deepen the financing sector, creating a wider pool of assets that can be utilised as collateral for loans or other obligations required to be collaterised,” he stressed.
He urged practitioners in the housing sector present at the event, to come up with a draft bill of the type of legislation which would be required to effectively address the country’s housing challenges.
KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja