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Data, public-private partnership key to housing devt — Odusolu

Babajide Odusolu is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Octo5 Holdings Limited, a real estate focused company. In this interview at the sidelines...

Babajide Odusolu is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Octo5 Holdings Limited, a real estate focused company. In this interview at the sidelines of the just concluded Africa International Housing Show (AIHS) in Abuja, the former managing director, Ogun State Property Investment Corporation (OPIC), and a former special adviser to the immediate past governor of Ogun State on property & investments; said verifiable data and collaborations between the public and private sectors will boost housing development in Nigeria.
He also said companies are looking for solutions to the high cost of building houses in Nigeria. Excerpts:

 

Can you tell us the progress you made so far in this year’s edition of the African International Housing Show (AIHS) with regards to trying to make housing affordable?

The theme for this year’s edition was Beyond Rhetorics: Making Housing Happen and one of the things that we set out to do this year is to move beyond talk because this is what rhetoric means. First, we focused on having all the primary government agencies that deal with housing from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) to Family Homes Funds (FHF) to Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and Nigeria Population Commission (NPC). They are all here and one thing that became clear to everybody is that there was a need to integrate data, because when you have a problem that problem cannot be solved if you do not know the extent of that problem. And one of the problems we have is affordable housing but measuring what the actual depth of the problem is, is part of what we are here for. So, we are able to get these agencies to commit publicly to work together and integrate their information and data to help us attack the challenge of housing.

On Tuesday, we had the private sector session; we now have a lot of developers, we had a lot of agencies and bodies that interface with housing, also sharing the challenges that they’ve had with land administration, land banking, excessive charges and duplication of charges by government entities. The takeaway was the need to approach the government, the public sector and work with them with the hope of them offering incentives. One thing that is clear is the fact that we do not need government money to make housing possible but we require government support to create the enabling environment to make it possible. The gentleman that heads Kenya’s Mortgage Finance Corporation shared a very brilliant idea of what they do in Kenya where if you do over a hundred houses that are affordable, you get a 50% rebate from your taxes. You can imagine that tomorrow morning, FIRS announces that any developer that can demonstrate that he has done two hundred houses will get tax free concession. The taxes will come down and the volume will go up, so that was the discussion.

Wednesday’s session was basically theoretical with the academics coming up with innovations and innovative ideas to try and bring it all together. This afternoon, we are going to talk about technology. What you will see in everything that I have said so far is that it is like a chain, like a sequence designed to ensure that we can come up with mathematical solutions that make housing possible.

The Kenya model is quite exciting, is this something that you here in Nigeria are looking at trying to persuade the government to start implementing?

Well, I won’t use the word persuade, what I believe is enlightened self-interest. Government says they want to create employment, they want to meet the needs of the masses, they want to deepen housing stock, the government does have money and we have seen the chaos that comes from subsidy in oil; we don’t want that chaos in housing. What the Kenyan model shows is that the government is committed and is partnering with the organised private sector in housing. There are so many incentives, so many solutions and many concessions that can be implemented that will make housing viable.

One of the things we have taken away from this edition of the show is that collaboration can make things happen. We had a meeting this morning again working on how to integrate data from all the relevant agencies; working on public and private sector data, working with the NBS, working with NPC, working with NMRC, working with FMBN, working with entities that influence housing. One way that we come together to agree is that we are going to do like a data map and that data map will show the possibilities so that when we approach the government, we tell the government we want  you to do this, if you do this,  this is the consensus you will get.

Talking about data, one major issue is that of housing deficit, we don’t have verifiable data on that, will this collaboration solve that problem?

So, remember I said to you that the first thing we did was, we had extensive preparation on data and one of the things that came  out was, for example, we know that there are over 40 million households in Nigeria. We know that the number of people that actually own their homes is less than 50%, and talking about realistic demand, we know it’s at least 10 million. But you see, these are all projections, their projections do not restrict them circulating data from here and from them, but at the end of the exercise that has been promoted now, we will be able to come out and say definitely and conclusively this is the accurate gap.

One of the main focuses of this event is trying to make housing happen and we have the challenge of inflation affecting the cost of building materials and consequently, the housing stock.  Has this forum looked for and gotten the solutions to this problem?

Another innovation that came out in this year’s international housing show is that we had at least two major material suppliers present. We had Lafarge this year, one of the two major suppliers of materials in the building industry showing light gauge frameworks that have been manufactured in Nigeria that will reduce the cost of reinforcement, which is the major problem, once you reduce cost of reinforcement you will also reduce your concrete sizes. It means that all of this coming together will make the houses cheaper. You cannot make building materials cheaper because we still import all components but what we can do is that by increasing volume and increasing opportunity for information, we can make the houses cheaper.

Like one of the developers that was here during this whole process, he said something profound. He said unlike in Gambia where he’s from where they don’t have aggregate, they don’t have granite they import sand but here we don’t import it, yet it’s easier for you to build a house in Gambia than it is in Nigeria. It doesn’t make sense. It means that most of our problems are lack of synergy, a lack of integration, a lack of synchronising all the various efforts of everybody to come up with comprehensive solutions.

What message is coming out of 2023 AIHS as you round up the show?

First, data is the key, and what AIHS has promoted is consideration of data, working across public and private sector integration to ensure that using data will be able to drive down the challenges mitigating against housing in Nigeria.