We are prioritising decent homes for low-income Nigerians —Adewole

Mr Femi Adewole, Managing Director of the Family Homes Funds (FHF), is a professional housing finance and chartered architect with over 30 years experience across Sub Sahara Africa and the United Kingdom.

In this interview with DAYO AYEYEMI, he speaks on measures being put in place to ensure proper implementation of the National Social Housing Programme (NSHP), a housing component of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) to deliver affordable housing and millions of jobs for Nigerians.

To what extent have you gone with regards to the implementation of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s N200 billion Intervention Fund for housing sector?

It is not that we have not started the programme; we have to build the necessary foundations. These foundations are obviously about completing all the legal agreements. Now that this is 99 per cent completed, we expect that by the end of next week, all the necessary enabling agreements would have been completed.

These will now allow us to start funding project. Once that happens, I think we expect to see much accelerated number of housing projects across all regions of the country. Those projects are already there, we already worked on them, they are awaiting funding, and I think once we complete all these agreements over the next one week, we will see a big start.

Under which propramme are you talking about?

That is the National Social Housing Programme.

How many real estate developers are already shortlisted for the programme?

We are working primarily first, with the state governments. We expect in the first tranche close to about 14,000 housing units to be financed immediately we finalise the enabling legal agreements. Then we move on from there.

Some developers are already criticising the scheme, saying it is not possible and do the same in Lagos State, citing high cost of land. What is your take?

We understand that challenge, but we are not looking at it from what can build the house. The programme is about people. For those developers who say that, I also ask a question that somebody who earns N30,000 a month, what kind of house can he affords? If they say they can’t build a house for N2 million, are they also saying that we should ignore the majority of Nigerians earning N30,000 monthly? So the challenge for them and the challenge for us is to see how we can make those things that appear impossible possible.

Is it a faith thing?

It is not. We have to see what to do to make it happens. Someone says the definition of madness is to continue to do the same thing and expect different results. There are ways to get houses for Nigerians at the cost of N2 million. It is not only about how much we think we build the house, there are financial instruments that we can move in relationship with suppliers to ensure we achieve that target. People must be prioritized over a process. It is important that a large number of people are earning such a low-income and they must be housed. So we must start the discussion from there. As a person, this is where I want to start the discussion. It is not how must it costs the developer to build the house, but I want to start the discussion on what do we need to do to ensure that 80 per cent of Nigerians who are on low-income can be housed? So if we start the discussion there, we will make progress.

How many states have keyed into this programme?

As of today, we have above 2,500 hectares of land donated by 26 states, and the number is increasing on daily basis. We have had tremendous support from all the states of the federation. The reason I am here is because Lagos State supports us. It takes time to get through every state. Nigeria is a big country, but we have not had any state that has not keyed into the programme. For some, it takes longer because of their internal processes. We have absolute commitment from all the 36 states.

How are you going to cope considering the current high cost of building materials and the types of houses you want to build – low-cost houses?

These are challenges. Life is about overcoming challenges. We will overcome this challenge. We have processes, we are developing a relationship with suppliers, we are managing the value chain better and we are talking to cement manufacturers with the bid for bulk buying and secure discounts. We can do that for cement, roofing sheets, paint works, window profiles and a lot of others. We are making sure that we are using local materials; we are geared towards the foreign exchange fluctuations. We are working with architects to improve the efficiency of the designs. We are hoping to work with developers who see that the primary objective is to ensure that Nigerians on low-income have a house that is affordable to them. This is how the world has always progressed, it is always progress by people looking at the end and doing things in different ways to achieve the results that they want to achieve.

I tell you a story, maybe in the 40s, science said it was impossible for a human being to run the mile under a minute, but one person did it, and now every athlete is running a mile under a minute. The same thing, I keep hearing the story that it is impossible to build a house that is liveable by people for N2 million. I don’t believe it; I have 30 years experience in construction and architecture.

What of cost of interior décor like floor tiles?

The cost of tiles has increased, but I don’t need to have tiles in a low-income house. What happens is that there is a lot of big noise like entrenched interest. I can get cement today from Dangote, Lafarge and Bua at the same price it was sold last year. I have an agreement to that. So let us not be scared by scare mongers. Let us be focused on the objective of all Nigerians that if you are earning N30,000, which is the lowest income, you don’t have to live in a timber shed, you can live in a house. Let us focus on achieving that objective then we will solve every problem. If you focus on challenges you will stop.

How are you incorporating local materials in the social housing programme?

Our objective is that by 2023, at the end of the programme, we have at least about 95 per cent input in the local materials. That involves changing how we design things in relation to the materials we use. In this country, we have about 17 glass manufacturers that have died because people chose to import things from China. We need to bring them back.

What is your advice to Nigerians?

Let us understand that it is all in our interest that Nigerians on low-income have decent homes.

Source: Tribune Online