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It’s time to control house rents in FCT

The arbitrary hike in the cost of house rents has led to an outcry in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), as property owners, counting the…

The arbitrary hike in the cost of house rents has led to an outcry in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), as property owners, counting the current inflationary trends in Nigeria, have increased the rents by about 50 per cent. In a recent survey by Daily Trust, it was discovered that house owners increased the rents for two-bedroom flats from about N500,000 to N750,000 on the average; one -bedroom apartments which used to cost N200,000 are being increased to N300,000 and above. And in some areas, the increments are a lot higher.

Also on Wednesday, a House of Representatives member, Emmanuel Udoh (Akwa Ibom, PDP), raised a motion for rents to be regulated in the FCT. He argued that, “One-bedroom self-contained goes for between N1 and N1.5 million, two bedrooms go for between N2 and N3 million while three bedrooms go for between N3 and N5 million.”  

At this rate, the low-income earners in Abuja are being choked up by the rent inflation, in addition to the unbearable food inflation. It is a given that the cost of renting residential accommodation in Abuja is higher than what is paid in other parts of the country, no thanks to the influx of Nigerians from all geographical axes into the city that hosts the seat of power. But landlords in the FCT are going too far with this excuse in deciding what they charge tenants.

The current arbitrary and astronomical increases in house rents are not captured by the National Bureau of Statistics, an indication that the government is not bothered about the plight of tenants in the country. In advanced countries, the cost of house rents features prominently on data about inflationary trends, because landed property and their costs or values have significant impact on the economy. In Nigeria, the costs of house rents do not reflect on the data on inflation released every month by the NBS. We call on the NBS to include this in the monthly survey of inflationary trends.

In Nigeria, it is assumed that the property sector operates in a free market economy, based on competition, with little or no intervention by government.  But the current dimension, as exemplified in the skyrocketing of house rents, is leading to a serious social problem which the government can no longer ignore. How can a worker who is paid the current minimum wage of, say, N30,000 per month afford a rent of N300,000 for a one-bedroom apartment in a suburb in the FCT? For this reason, it has become imperative for the government to interfere in what landlords charge as rents for houses in the FCT, to regulate the relationship between landlords and tenants. Government must also step in to eradicate illegal ejection of tenants, usually carried out as a prelude to inflating house rents.

Lagos State set an example for rent control with its 1997 Rent Control and Recovery of Residential Premises Edict. The edict categorised residential accommodation in Lagos into eight, from single bedroom to room-and-parlour; single-bedroom flat; two-bedroom flat; three-bedroom flat; two-bedroom house; three-bedroom semi-detached; and three-bedroom detached house. In addition, the edict identified all the places where people resided in Lagos and clearly stated what the rents for the residential accommodation should be. Though the law, like similar ones in several other states, has not been effectively implemented, it has become imperative for the FCT to put in place a similar law to regulate rents for residential accommodation.

The National Assembly has a duty to put this in place. During the debate on the motion by Emmanuel Udoh (Akwa Ibom, PDP), the house called for house rents to be paid monthly, instead of annually. Good as this recommendation is, the house must go beyond it. There must be a measure to peg the cost of residential accommodation in the FCT. Lands are allocated for over a period of 100 years, so landlords have so many years to recover their investments in residential accommodation. It is, therefore, unreasonable for them to jerk up the rents astronomically, as if they must recover the amount expended in building their houses in a short space of time. All over the world, investment in properties is considered long-term. It should not be an exception in Nigeria.

Apart from setting up measures to control rents in Abuja, the federal government must come up with a realistic strategy for providing low-cost mass housing for low-income earners. At the moment, the mortgage policy on housing is not realistic, as most contributors cannot afford houses built by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) across Nigeria, or those constructed by commercial estate developers. Without a genuine commitment to the provision of low-cost houses in units that are affordable, the residents of the FCT and other cities in Nigeria would continue to be at the mercy of merciless landlords who prioritise profit over the social condition of their tenants.


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