As part of its efforts to address housing shortfall in the state, the Lagos State government has introduced the Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme to help bridge the gap in the accommodation demand-supply chain.
Under the scheme, 200 houses will be made available for balloting by pre-qualified Lagos residents every month, beginning from March 4. Among the qualifications for the ballot are: registration as a Lagos resident, residency in the state for six months and proof of payment of taxes in the preceding five years. Winners are expected to pay 30 per cent of the cost of the houses won upfront, with the balance paid in monthly instalments over a period of not less than ten years.
We commend Governor Raji Fashola (SAN) for this laudable project. The intervention, undoubtedly, will go a long way in reducing the hardship low and middle-income earners encounter in trying to secure roofs over their heads. The high population of Lagos makes it difficult for the residents to meet their housing needs. It is good, therefore, that the government has come to the rescue.
Now that the governor has launched the scheme with 1,104 houses already completed and ready to be won, the next critical element is publicity. Massive awareness should be created for the programme so that a lot of people will know about it and participate in the processes leading to home ownership. Already, a website has been opened where Lagos residents can access information on the scheme, but it is necessary to do more to get to the grassroots because not all potential beneficiaries are Internet-savvy. All the channels of mass communication, including traditional ones, should be used to communicate the good news to Lagos residents. This is very important so that intermediaries do not make a merchandise of the noble intention, for selfish profiteering.
Right pricing is another fundamental issue, so as not to alienate those who need the scheme the most. If it is scaled beyond the reach of the average income earner or businessman, the whole essence would have been defeated. This has always been the bane of both public and private housing schemes in the past. It is also responsible for the low occupancy rate of many housing estates in the country. The governor has, however, assured the people that the houses will be affordable for the intended beneficiaries because of steps government had taken from the outset. The government can also increase the 10-year period for repayment of the mortgage loans to reduce the monthly instalments payable.
Importantly, too, the documentation involved should not be such that would discourage prospective applicants. Civil service bureaucracy and red-tape should also not be allowed to bog down the scheme. Let the entire process be simple and transparent. If well implemented, this may well prove the solution Lagosians have been seeking for their shelter needs.
Already, there is hope for the sustainability of this scheme. Apart from the 1,104 structures already in place, an additional 3, 156 buildings are under construction. The government is also starting new structures in Iponri, Ibeshe Ikorodu, Ajara Badagry, Sangotedo Phase 11, Oyingbo, Obele, Akerele Phase 11, Ilubrin and Ijora Badia.
Plans are also on to involve private investors with the government only acting as guaranteed buyer, for onward sale by mortgage to beneficiaries who win at the monthly draws.
We salute the Fashola administration for fulfilling its promise on housing for Lagosians. It is gratifying that this is not one of the empty electoral promises by politicians when they are desperate for votes. This is a promise kept.
We urge Lagos residents who have no houses of their own to take advantage of this scheme that is specially designed for them, as those who already own houses in Lagos are excluded. Let the government do everything that is necessary to sustain the scheme to provide a long-term solution to the state’s housing question. It should not be abandoned on political grounds by either this government or its successors.