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Why rising homelessness rate needs attention

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By Usman Oladimeji

Over 28 million Nigerians lack access to decent and affordable housing.

According to Africa Business Insider, a variety of societal and economic factors have contributed to the rise of homelessness populations in most countries. Migration from rural areas to urban centers, unemployment, deprivation, poverty, rising populations, and other factors are all the contributing causes. In the case of Nigeria, this estimate is not wholly novel, but it does serve to highlight the scale of the problem that the country faces. The International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) in 2021, for instance, estimated that more than 28 million Nigerians lack access to decent and Affordable Housing.

At the minimum, three factors continue to drive the increasing number of homeless populations in Nigeria namely; population growth, which has resulted in a significant rural-urban migration; poverty, which plays a crucial role in the decline of household income; as well as Inflation that has led to a decrease in purchasing power. Nigerian population growth rate of 2.6 percent is among the highest globally, and it is projected to continue increasing over the next 25 years. The impact of Poverty is evident, with an estimated 133 million Nigerians, approximately 60 percent of the population, living in multidimensional poverty. Undoubtedly, these circumstances would have a significant effect on urban poverty and household income levels.

Half of homelessness will be solved if economy is stable.

The Headline Inflation rate in Nigeria hit a record high of 25.8 percent in August 2023, according to data released by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics. After months of increases, the inflation figures suggest that the cost of living, including food, housing, transportation, and other necessities, will continue to rise. The most crucial realization is that the state of the Economy is directly related to the severity of the current problems. In actuality, we will have effectively solved half of the homelessness problem if the economy is stable and shared prosperity exists.

Another angle of the challenge is the call for major reforms in significant spheres like the mortgage and land use reforms. Thus, governments must take the lead in finding solutions to problems like poverty by providing the necessary fiscal and monetary instruments to assist people to move out of poverty and remain that way, as well as the skills and knowledge that will allow them to become self-sufficient and to afford necessities like housing. Similarly, while combating inflation is central to the Central Bank of Nigeria objective, it also has a fiscal aspect that has implications for the country’s ability to import and Export goods and maintain a positive balance of payments.

An effective mortgage system involving relevant actors is required.

As per the Central Bank of Nigeria 2019 report on mortgage and credit reforms, just 10% of Nigerians who want to own a home can actually afford to do so. Considering the scale of our economy, the estimate is woefully low when compared to the 72% in the US and the 78% in the UK. In order for Nigerians to be able to affordably meet their housing needs, the country requires an effective mortgage system that involves all relevant actors from the country’s fiscal, monetary, and banking sectors to offer support at interest rates below ten percent and over longer Loan terms.

Majority of the developed economies operate on an effective and robust credit Infrastructure. Nigerians willing to take advantage of the sector’s Investment opportunities will be encouraged by this measure. The government’s provision of short-term housing for individuals who cannot otherwise afford it is another important policy measure. This is in line with practices in other countries that guarantee all residents, regardless of socioeconomic status, a roof over their heads. Key sectoral reform relies heavily on the involvement of Private Sector actors to generate the necessary investment.

Problem of homelessness cannot be ignored much longer.

It’s more important now than ever for federal and state governments to work together to open the door for private investment in the housing market. The problem of homelessness is one that cannot be ignored for too much longer. This is the time for leaders to stand up and declare, “Never again! Never again should any citizen be left to their own fate.” The bare minimum standard should be for us to work collaboratively in order to end homelessness and make sure everyone has a shelter.


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