General News of Wednesday, 4 October 2017
In the not-too-distant future, low and middle-income earners who are lamenting over their inability to access mortgage facilities or build houses, will heave a sigh of relief, as the Ministry of Works and Housing is working towards a credible national mortgage facility to provide opportunities for workers to acquire houses.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Samuel Atta-Akyea, said the ministry would seek Cabinet approval on a proposal to invest between 30 and 40 percent of Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) funds in the proposed credible mortgage system to ensure that all workers had access to mortgage facilities.
He was speaking at the celebration of the 2017 World Habitat Day in Accra on Monday under the theme “Housing policies: Affordable homes.” The UN has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day.
The celebration provides the platform for stakeholders and all individuals to reflect on the state of towns and cities and the right of all to adequate shelter.
It is also intended to remind the world that all citizens have the power and responsibility to help shape the future of the world’s cities and towns. Mr. Atta-Akyea defined a credible mortgage facility as one that allowed all workers, irrespective of their salary income group, to have access to mortgage, and pay off with 30 per cent of their salaries over a period of time, in line with the international definition of affordability.
Considering the challenge of affordability and salary levels in Ghana, he said, Ghana needs a credible mortgage system, saying “that is what we are going to push for.”
He said the ministry is working hard to ensure that low and middle-income earners could access mortgage facilities and pay off with 30 percent of their salaries for an agreed duration.
“Affordable housing is uppermost in the planning of the ministry. We can never talk about affordable housing if we do not address the financing dimension of it to ensure that the low and middle-income group could access mortgage facilities.
“My investigations have established the absence of a credible mortgage system which allows the low and middle-income group to access housing loans,” he said.
He said the government, recognizing low income levels as a challenge on the demand side of housing in Ghana, had decided to focus on making affordable houses which are truly affordable through pragmatic policies such as the credible mortgage facility.
“What we do not understand is the essence of SSNIT. It is a mockery to say that someone contributed to the trust for so many years, but after pension he or she did not have a decent home of his or her own, no matter the type or how small it is, the fund can help or facilitate the purchase of a house.”
“As for SSNIT, some of its ideas are to make money, for which I don’t begrudge it at all, but it becomes unfortunate when it makes the money out of contributions by ordinary contributors but the contributors are deprived of the investments SSNIT makes,” he said.
He described the situation as diabolic and must stop with all urgency to make SSNIT more relevant to contributors.
He explained that the necessary interventions would be put in place to ensure that the interest on the mortgage loan would be pegged by the government, not through market forces, to ensure reasonable interest rate and accessibility for the target group.
Mr. Atta Akyea said the government is also considering alternative building technologies that could reduce the cost of decent housing to ensure that every worker had access to a decent house to meet his or her needs and financial status.
He said such technologies to be considered were wooden houses, as seen in the United States of America and other developed countries, container houses, brick houses and pre-fabricated houses.
He said the government was also considering public-private partnerships in addressing the more than 1.7 million housing deficit, as it had been established by many stakeholders that the government alone cannot address the problem.
On real estate agency practice, he said a draft policy paper expected to boost and regulate the practice, such as transactions, sale, purchase, rentals, leasing, among other objectives, is ready for approval by the Cabinet.
“Other interventions, which the government is putting in place to enhance the housing sector, include the amendment of the Rent Act to ensure that landlords and landladies charged only three months’ rent advance,” he added.
He also spoke about other measures to include the curbing of encroachment, illegal acquisition of government landed properties and the implementation of the national housing policy.
In her remarks, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr. Christine Evans-Klock, said the UN team in Ghana is committed to supporting the combined and concerted efforts of Ghana to deliver decent houses for all.
She said under the leadership of the UN-Habitat, the UN supported all levels of governments in meeting their commitments under international law related to adequate housing.