'Shylock landlords taking advantage of housing deficit in Kwara'

Date: 2017-10-03

Housing is one of the basic needs and major problems of man. The growing population in Kwara State, especially Ilorin metropolis and its environs, has continued to pose a major housing challenge to residents amidst rising cost of rent. This has accounted for the migration of residents from central Ilorin business area to outskirts for affordable housing. In this interview with PILOT HEAD OF BUSINESS DESK, MATTHEW DENIS, the General Manager of Kwara State Housing Corporation (KWHC), Architect Salihu Sulaiman speaks on the problem of housing and how it can be addressed.

Can you give an overview of activities of your office?

The Kwara State government in its wisdom decided to re-establish Kwara State Housing Corporation through an enactment of a law in 2009. The management came on board in January 2010 during the Administration of former governor, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki. KWHC is charged with the broad charter of delivering or developing housing and to improve on the delivery of housing. Since the creation of Kwara State 50 years ago, altogether we had about 3,000 houses delivered by federal, state and local governments. So, the idea of the corporation is to fast track development of housing and reduce deficit in housing delivery. KWHC is a direct head-on approach to beat the challenge of housing development. It has policy to provide houses through various means either provision by government using private developers in partnership or providing the enabling environment that will regulate the mass housing production in the state by any developer that has interest. This has been our core area of concentration since we started. When we came in, we introduced the four years business plan to guide us and we have been following it since inception. In the course of doing this, we also inherited some housing estates that are yet to be developed, what we did was to do what is called development control on these estates. They include Mandate I and II, Irewolede Housing Estate, Ilorin; Offa Mandate Estate, Omu Aran, Kaiama and Shonga areas of the state. We added old legislative quarters along Yidi road. All the other estates like the Mandate III, Adewole Housing Estate and Kulende Estate are not under the state Housing Corporation they are under the state Property Investment Company, which is controlled by Harmony Holdings. So, we are playing supervisory roles as regards the estates that we inherited. And then, talking about the new development, the one that government supposed to execute through direct production is not on course yet, but, there is government directive that all local governments must set aside at least 50 hectares of land for future housing development. And I believed the local governments have done that but we are yet to take full possessions of them. The idea is that we are planning to execute more housing projects in rural areas to cater for everyone, the retirees and other people that would be retiring into their native homes in the state, to upgrade the standard in the rural areas. This will also help address and reduce rural- urban migration or explosion expected in the mega cities.

We have been able to invite many developers to come on board either on their own or by partnership with the state. Those that have shown interest have come to do a lot of developing works on their own, we have along Airport- Eyenkorin axis, Sobi area and Amoyo after Ganmo area and we regulate what they do. For instance, they donít put down any structure without the housing approval and by extension the town-planning agency that has legal statutory to monitor and approve their activities. What we do is that we ensure that the structure that is approved is what they built to the satisfaction of their clients. For those that we engage in Public Private Partnership (PPP) is also divided into two again, the KP3 office in Government House is directly in charge of any developer that has to do with PPP segment and they are doing a lot in bringing developers to key into it. The one we are working with is the one we called the regulated understanding between the developer and the KWHC by which government is able to give land for them to come and develop it. That is what we are doing with the Budo Osho 1000 Housing Scheme that the Governor flagged off sometimes early 2016 of which the first phase of it was commissioned in May 2017. Thatís going on and people have keyed into it and we have developers that source their funds and we regulate them and the payment is on concessionary rate. However the Housing Corporation is not custodian of land as land has to be given to us through the Bureau of Land.

High cost of rent is gradually pushing people to relocate to the outskirts of Ilorin. What are the factors responsible for it?

The issue of Shylock landlords is related to the economic theory of supply and demand. The demand of housing is higher than the supply that is why we are having exorbitant charges by landowners. We have the deficit in housing that is why there is consistent hike in house rents. Definitely, rent anywhere in the world, especially where we have the central business district is usually higher than on the outskirts. Probably because houses in commercial areas have better services and well secured for the people and landlords take advantage of that. We are encouraging people to own houses through some of these programmes we are putting in place. You know owning a house is the best and something that everybody is striving to do in life. But I think what we can do is to encourage developers to build more houses in the state and when they do this, house rent will fall. Look at what is happening in Abuja currently, there are more houses therefore driving down rent. More investors are building houses everywhere in Abuja. If we build more houses in Ilorin metropolis it will surely drive down the cost of renting houses even in the local government areas and satellite towns and communities. And if you can observe prices of houses is gradually coming down because there are more developers now building houses in the state.

What is your office doing as regards recent building collapse within Ilorin metropolis?

Quackery is a major factor responsible for building collapse in Kwara State and the country at large and the owners of these structures should be blamed. However, the Housing Corporation and Town Planning and other related agencies are manned by professionals who are involved in the construction of houses. We are trying to have synergy with professional bodies so that we donít allow quacks to do what they are doing. Most of the property that are collapsing I can tell you without mincing words were constructed by quacks. We are also holding the clients responsible because they are the ones that are always trying to cut corners without using professionals.

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