Following concerns by subscribers of the Egan-Igando millennium scheme on the delay in the delivery of the project, fresh efforts are underway to resurrect construction activities in the 1,350-unit Housing Estate in Alimosho area, Lagos State.

The new lease of life for the abandoned scheme is courtesy of the state’s new Housing Commissioner, Mr. Bosun Jeje, who announced the take over of the six-year old project from the contractors as part of his blueprint to make housing accessible and affordable to the citizenry.

Initially mooted as Public Private Partnership scheme, the Egan-Igando project worth about N4 billion was started by the administration of former Governor Bola Tinubu in 2005, with the Lagos Building Investment Company Limited as the developer. No fewer than 25 contractors were engaged to deliver the project on contractor-finance basis. But the project ran into trouble waters after Lagosians promptly paid the initial deposit for the estate.

“When you talk about affordable housing, you are talking about houses that low income earners can afford. We are going to do a number of affordable houses and in doing that, we are going to look for ways to bring the cost construction down, which is known as the bane of affordable housing,” he said.

He revealed that the ministry has already signed authorisation for some subscribers to get refunds for deposits into state’s housing scheme, but warned that in such cases there will be penalties. “When government allots property to people, there is always a covenant that goes with it which usually involves making periodic payments to the developer. If the buyer fails to make the payment as and when due, it means he has broken the covenant and there is penalty for breaking the covenant. When you are penalised for the breach, you are free to go to court. People make that breach because it is government institution, where they can do anything they like, but it doesn’t work that way, because the money they demanding is meant to do something on the project.”

According to him, the proposed launch of the state’s Homeownership Mortgage Scheme simply called HOME will make housing more affordable. “When you have an effective mortgage scheme, all you demand from buyers is an equity contribution. When that is done, the mortgage scheme will take care of the balance, which will be spread over a certain period of time between 20-25 years. We are proposing a single digit interest rate of about six percent. With this kind of arrangement, we would have helped the low -income earners own their own houses. We already have over 700 housing units on stand-by.

On the inability of some of the prospective subscribers to be able to afford equity contribution, Jeje said: “The houses to be provided will be graded to suit different income levels. I think that the best approach to the equity contribution is through co-operatives where there will be a pool of funds. When a buyer sees the house he wants to buy, he will go to the co-operative and take a loan. When he gets that, he goes to the mortgage bank to get his loan worked out. This is the way to give everybody a sense of participation. Government on its own cannot do everything for everybody. All that the government can do is to form a co-operative society, which everybody can belong to and that will be a pool of fund where everybody will put resources together towards one goal.”

The Commissioner further disclosed that the ministry would be exploring new modern building technologies to bring down the cost of building. “We are going to employ any available technology. This is going to be a different era for housing in the state. It takes three to five years to deliver housing in the state but by the time we take off, we can deliver 500 housing units within six to 12 months with the new technology that is in place,” Jeje said.

He also said that the ministry would open up satellite towns in Eba in Ojo, Ajara in Badagry an Odoragunshin in Epe and re- position housing in the state, especially work with the private sector to put property development in the front burner. “I am coming to marry the social welfare with private sector initiative to achieve our goal, and remove that word jinx from the ministry. We have prime areas that we are prospecting like Ikoyi, Ikeja GRA, which we want to develop and whatever we make from there, we will use to subsidize developments at the low income areas.

“Secondly, we will be going into public private partnership with developers so that the burden will   not be on the government alone. We are going to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to develop. They too will participate in the social contract that we have with the people. We are going to share the burden of serving the people,” he added.

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Source: The Guardian