Ghana is said to be facing a housing crisis but the subject is hardly given any publicity or discussed by political leaders. The Ministry of Works and Housing estimates the country has 2million units housing deficit. But is housing really in crisis in Ghana?
A crisis isan event that is expected to lead to an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, community or whole society. With so many people living in kiosks and slum areas one can concludethe housing sector is facing a crisis. The rural-urban migration and increase in population growth have escalated the problem into historic proportions. Urgent action is therefore needed to prevent further deterioration of the situation.
The Real Estate Developers Solution
The main private sector organisations championing housing development is the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA), a non-profit organisation which was established around 1988. GREDA’s vision is to assist all Ghanaians gain access to the housing of their choice and the opportunity to own their dream home. The organisation has thirteen core objectives: the first is to promote the development of a strong private sector participation in housing delivery in Ghana. The ninth objective in particular states:
“We recognise that there is no single formula capable of addressing all the desperate needs within the housing task facing us butwe do believe that every family, no matter how poor, has the right with commensurate responsibilities to a basic structure, which is capable of protecting them from the elements."
The above objective suggests GREDA believes in using different models to develop housing. Secondly they believe every family, no matter how poor, has the right to a basic structure they can call home. Currently it appears the membership is ignoring their own objectivesin not catering adequately forlow income earners. If after 30years of GREDA’s existence we are talking about housing crisis or deficit in Ghana, then the organisation has failed Ghanaians. We now urgently need the basic housing structures.
Though we can be critical of their performance we cannot conclude GREDA has failed. The pioneers of the organisation will argue that GREDA has made positive contribution towards housing. Their very existence is a testament to their resilience and ability to survive against the odds. From the point of view of democratic maturity Ghana is only 25yrs old and considering the uncertainties that have characterised our economic growth, GREDA can be proud of its achievements no matter how small it is.
The New Business Model
GREDA members’ inability to fully realise its vision and core objectives can be attributed to the business model the firms operate and type of houses they build.The companies largely build mansions for the upper tier of the middle and high income earners. They have not explored the development of basic structure to scale up the supply of houses.This approach has therefore alienated the low income earners from benefiting from their housing schemes.
The view held about low income earners is that they are high risk customers. However Muhammad Yunus the social entrepreneur, banker and economist who pioneered the concepts of micro credit and micro finance has proved that the poor is credit worthy and that given the opportunity they can maintain a roof over their head. Building for all therefore means developing a financing model that allows the development of basic house structures, with payment terms flexible enough to fit the lifestyle of the poor person.
It could be argued that the rental sector is risky but every business has an inherent risk. The entrepreneur’s ability to leverage its unique selling points, minimise cost and innovate to meet customers changing needs is what set them apart. In many countries the rental market is a mature and successful business within the housing sector. Those who understand build-to-rent have taken advantage of the diversity within the market to create viable businesses. A housing business built on rent revenues can also be very successful, especially if it is supported with good organisational structure, backed by good policies and procedures and a well-trained housing professionals to deliver the service.We believe after 30years of operations, GREDAand its members have acquiredthe capacity,assets, resources andknowledge to implement a build-to-rent business model.
This article is to remind GREDA of its mission, vision and core objectives. The organisation has done a lot but we believe they can do more. It is time for the membership of GREDA to explore a business model aimed at leveraging their years of experience, knowledge, assets and resources to assist all Ghanaians gain access to the housing of their choice. GREDA is being urged to challenge its members to look at other business models such as rent-to-buy, shared ownership and long-term renting.
Today, due to the constant discussion on the environment and sustainability, developers are urged to be mindful of the impact their activities have on the wider society. The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals calls on all of us to focus on developing sustainable cities and communities. Therefore the Government and Developers’ have a responsibility to make our cities sustainable for all and not some. They are to create good, affordable public housing and upgrade slum settlements. In essence, they should make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, create green spaces and get a broader range of people involved in urban planning decisions.
In conclusion, housing for all in the 21st century means nonconformity, i.e.the courage to turn your back on the old formula and the courage to invent the future. Give Ghanaians a new basic housing structure and the choice torent-to-buy, share ownership or rent-for-life.
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 setup to promote Housing and Assets Management in Ghana. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ©copyright September 2018.
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