Real Estate

UNOPS signed agreement needs a housing structure to work

Media reports suggest the Ghana Government and United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the construction of more than 100,000 social housing units across the country. The UNOPS will pre-finance the project with $5 billion whilst the government through the Ministry of Works and Housing, will acquire and secure land for the construction of the housing units.

Though this sounds good the lack of effective Housing institutional structures on the ground could derail the project. The article dated 5th September 2018 discusses a new approach to housing delivery in Ghana and highlights the institutional challenges that need to be addressed first.

In the first instance, we don’t have a Housing Regulator to enforce any rules or offer strategic direction about how this project will be implemented. There is also no organisation to receive and disburse the $5billion. If the money is going to be put into the Consolidated Funds then we must as well forget about housing the deserving poor.

There are various housing models that can be followed to implement a housing strategy. The government talks about following the Singapore Model but they have a Housing Development Board to coordinate activities. We do not have a similar organisation in Ghana. One, therefore, wonders how this money could be used judiciously.

The Independent Housing Companies (IHC) model is the concept recommended to implement a comprehensive housing development programme in Ghana. The IHC model is similar to how the Rural Banks concept was implemented in the country. These rural banks are independent but highly regulated by the Apex Bank to protect the public.Similarly, the success of IHCs can be achieved by establishing three national agencies to regulate them. These are:

  • The Housing Regulator
  • National Housing Fund
  • Rent Control Authority

The Housing Regulator will be the government agency with statutory powers to implement housing policy across the country. The National Housing Fund will receive the $5billion and future funds to finance housing development and associated infrastructure.

The Rent Control Authority will monitor rent settings, licence landlords and act as an arbitrator between tenants and landlords to resolve disputes. `These three statutory bodies will work together to ensure the houses are built at the right location, meet quality standards and are maintained for many years to come.

All IHCs would go through a rigorous vetting process before they would be accredited to operate anywhere in the country. They would be required to have a corporate structure with a board of directors or trustees and operational staff to carry out day-to-day housing management services.

The key objective of the IHC is to coordinate the housing procurement and development process at the local level. They would build their business model around rent-to-buy, build-for-sale or rent-for-life schemes.

The Ministry of Works and Housing has a great opportunity to do what nobody has ever done. Whilst we welcome every effort to increase the housing stock and transform our built environment we need an organised structure to implement the housing programme. Housing is more than securing land, provision of mortgages and designs. Let us have a plan to manage the assets and stock long after the houses are built.

Profile: Kwadwo Owusu-Darko is an architect but specialises in Housing. He has over 20yrs experience in real estate development, regeneration and housing management in the UK. He was a Director and Board Chairman of two Housing Associations. Currently the Director of UDeserve Limited, a firm set up to promote Housing and Assets Management in Ghana. Email: owudarko@gmail.com © copyright September 2018.