The city of Lagos' tenancy and home ownership schemes

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi, Lagos Community Manager
Lagos, 15 July 2014

Housing is a challenge for the poor in most urban centers, and in Lagos, a very densely populated area and center of economic activity, the situation is difficult. Availability of housing units is one issue, and affordability is another big one. The dearth of affordable accommodation, combined with ridiculous rent demands (such as security deposits of one to two full years of rent) have contributed to the swelling of slum settlements like Makoko and Badia. Their recent clearance and demolition has further contributed to the housing problem as residents become displaced.

In response to the challenges of finding affordable housing for the city's poor, the state has started with the provision of affordable housing settlements like Sangotedo, Shitta in Surulere, and Oba Adegoruwa in Ikorodu. This development is not the first attempt to provide social housing for the city's poor. Years ago the Jakande housing estates were built to address the same issues, and yet the issues still persist. The problem with the previous housing solutions lie in their planning, upkeep, and structure. There were reports from the housing units of uninhabitable conditions, frequent collapses, and loss of lives. In addition, these units were often located on the more expensive side of town, making the cost of living very high. The new attempt, however, takes into consideration many of the previously ignored factors.

In 2011, a rent control legislation called the Lagos Tenancy Law was passed to make rent more affordable and housing terms more fair. Amongst other things, the law makes it an offence for any agent to collect upfront payment of two year's worth of rent from tenants before letting them take up residence. In fact, it restricts payable rent deposit to six months for existing tenants, and a year for new ones. The tenancy law, coupled with the provision of better structured social housing units, aims to improve the housing situation of the city's poor. While it is a considerable effort, the program and projects have experienced setbacks as a result of lack of inclusiveness in the planning process. Observers report that despite the tenancy law, it is still business as usual in terms of the rental demands, which make the process difficult and expensive. Another problem is the access the poor actually have to the housing units. Most of the units are bought by the not-so-poor and then rented out to the poor without regard for the tenancy law.

While the state is making moves to solve the rental and housing issue, it is clear that there is a disconnect between what the poor need and what the city considers a viable solution. To tackle this same issue of affordable housing, the government recently launched a Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme as a solution to the housing challenges in Lagos. Inclusive planning can and might have highlighted the difference between the two distinct markets for rental housing and home ownership. If renting is difficult enough, it is unlikely these group can afford to buy homes — these two options should not be treated as mutually exclusive.

The city can make its programs more effective for the poor with better enforcement of the tenancy laws. The state cannot provide all housing units required by residents — private developers can and will do more than the state. This makes proper tenancy law enforcement a high priority. Also helpful is performing thorough due diligence in assigning units to ensure that the targeted market is reached. It is crucial to create a line of communication and a sense of inclusiveness so that violations can be easily brought to the city's attention. Last but not least, proper maintenance codes of new and existing units are key so as to avoid their deterioration, as occurred with previous Jakande housing projects.

Photo credit: Keji Ziza

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