It seems that every few weeks or so, billboards all over Lagos announce the creation of a new estate. Lagos’ shining newest housing project claims to be a cut above the rest, promising modern housing and lucrative property investments.
These new estate adverts usually forget to mention one thing: the vast majority of Lagosians cannot afford them. On the contrary, the real estate sector has continued to suffer from low occupancy through to the first quarter of 2018 due to an overhang of new space coupled with low demand in a weak economy.
Lagos is full of fancy houses that remain empty because nobody can afford to live in them. What we are currently seeing is a housing deficit in which most living spaces can only be afforded by the rich. Access to affordable housing remains the biggest challenge facing residents of Lagos State today.
As the cost of property and housing in Lagos continues to climb, individuals are forced into progressively dismal living conditions in the limited number of areas which low-income households are able to afford.
These Lagosians are crammed in densely-populated hotbeds of disease and crime. They are denied basic amenities such as garbage disposal facilities and drainage systems. Where any such facilities are available, they are poor and overstretched, as these slums have inadequate supplies of water and electricity.
Migration flows have resulted in uncontrolled and unplanned developments in areas such as Ajegunle, Ijora Oloye, and Makoko. At the other end of the issue, due to inconsistent regulation, the real estate industry has expanded far beyond the reach of the economy, increasing already-exorbitant property prices all over the state.
All told, the main issue underlying real estate challenges in Lagos is a lack of regulation. In taking its usual reactive approach, the Lagos State Government has allowed housing in the city to spiral out of control, making the city practically inhabitable for average citizens.
Going forward, the government must put an end to the reactivity approach that has allowed so much to go wrong in our dear country. The government must take control and react as needed to any economic projections that spell trouble for Nigeria.
It is not beyond the government’s reach to provide subsidized housing with decent living conditions for the neglected classes in Lagos, quite the contrary, it is their duty. The time has come for us to bridge the Lagosian housing gap between the rich and the poor.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.