Comment: A look at the state of housing in Accra

Business News of Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Source: Graphic Online

Slum Housing

The need for shelter remains a fundamental human right of every citizen and in this era of rapid population growth, people are finding their own means of getting a roof over their heads.

Interestingly, there is a glaring gap between people touted as ‘upper class,’ who can afford luxury homes in prime areas such as East Legon, Adenta, Ajiringanor and Spintex and those who belong to the ‘lower class,’ who find solace in slums dotted across the national capital and other cities nation-wide.

In addition to these two kinds of communities, a new class is also cropping up. It consists of people who are referred to as squatters, because although they have no legal right to put up structures in some areas, they still go ahead to do so for the want of places of accommodation .These people normally live in kiosks, and with no help in sight for them, they get more people joining them.

Gradually, their places of abode, which are mostly temporary, become permanent homes.

Late last year, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), which has jurisdiction over the central part of the national capital, descended on some of these squatters who lived around the Agbogbloshie market and ejected most of them from there. That was because aside from blocking the entrance to the market, the squatters also created insanitary conditions, thereby making life unbearable for city authorities and other residents.

A walk from Adenta to East Legon and its environs projects a beautiful view of the nation’s capital, Accra, with its magnificent edifices that have sprung up over time. The high rise buildings that have come up around the Airport City area is also a scene to behold as it sends a message across to foreigners that all is well with the country in terms of housing.

In contrast, the area around the Kanda Highway, which leads to Nima and Maamobi, paints a rather gloomy picture.

This is a community that can best be described as a slum when you look at the buildings that have been put up there. With no proper demarcation and sanitary conditions, it casts a slur on the picture that had been painted earlier.

2015 Budget on housing

The 2014 Budget and Economic Policy of the government said the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing will continue to implement the National Housing Policy to reduce the housing deficit. This, it said, will be done by creating the enabling environment for private sector participation to deliver affordable housing units as well as improve mortgage affordability in the country.

According to the budget, about 5,000 housing units will be constructed at Saglemi-Ningo Prampram and about 4,700 affordable housing units in a number of regions, which are on-going, would also be completed in 2015.

GREDA’s role

The Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA), which is a collection of estate developers in the country, also plays a significant role in helping to bridge the housing deficit.

Members of the association build about three per cent of the annual 45,000 housing units needed in the country.

Although houses built by the members are usually within the range of the upper class, the Executive Director of GREDA, Mr Sammy Amegayibor, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS in an interview that their members are doing what they can to help promote the housing industry.

“Most of the houses they build are for the middle income earners. They cost about US$70,000 and above, and such units get reasonable infrastructure. Few of our members do the low income homes, which are usually around US$25,000 and US$30,000 and these units do not have full infrastructure,” he explained.

GREDA has been in existence for 26 years now, formerly with about 500 members but after re-registration and the exit of unscrupulous developers, the membership hinges around 200 developers now.

Why price houses in dollars?

Most of the houses that are developed by these real estate companies are usually priced in US dollars despite the directive from the Bank of Ghana banning dollarisation.

For instance, a two-bedroom non-expandable semi-detached house by Regimanuel Gray Limited is being sold at US$83,400. A four-bedroom detached, two-storey house by the same company is going for US$567,500.

Similarly, a two-bedroom detached house by Blue Rose Limited is being sold at US$38,100 while a one-bedroom expandable to three bedrooms or more by Redrow Ghana is being sold at US$45,000,

Explaining why most developers price their houses in Dollars, Mr Amegayibor said most of the items used in the construction of the units are imported. In the face of the instability in the local currency against the US Dollar, he said it would be unfair to price in cedis.

“The cedi is not stable and since most of the materials used in the building are imported, if you price in cedis you will lose capital. That is a big challenge,” he said.

Affordable housing in Ghana

The country’s housing deficit is currently estimated at about 1.7 million housing units. Indications are that the government’s affordable housing project will help bridge this gap.

The affordable housing project, which was started by the Kufour Administration in 2008, is yet to be completed.

Currently, there are ongoing housing projects by government at Borteyman, Asokore-Mampong in Kumasi, Koforidua, Tamale and Wa being manned by the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).

Mr Amegayibor was of the opinion that government must secure funding to complete its affordable housing projects, given that most of them stalled because lack of funds.

“The government needs to secure funding because these projects were started and were never completed. There is a disconnection between government and the private sector in terms of housing. There should be more collaboration instead of the current system of contract, execute and go,” he said, explaining that such developments do not help the industry.

By Jessica Acheampong