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Government housing vs value for money

Government housing vs value for money
Source: Opanyin Kwadwo |
Date: 05-09-2018 Time: 05:09:38:pm

In the past 18months there have been a lot said about Ghana’s housing crisis. The Finance Minister’s budget statements suggest there is something in the pipeline.

However, those of us in the housing and built environment profession worry that action on housing is slow. Though one should avoid jumping the gun, it is of concern when it was announced on 13 August 2018, that the Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has cut sod for work to begin on the construction of 320 Housing units for the Ghana Police Service.

This is of concern because over the year’s government backed housing schemes had followed one main approach, i.e. producing an output on a set date in the future. The completed houses and immediate environment may look beautiful and clean, but more often than not a year or two later the place will look very much run down.

Housing and the lack thereof is seriously impacting our socio-economic development. It is hoped that this writing would kick start a debate among all concerned Ghanaians that housing in Ghana deserves a lot more attention than it is currently receiving. For far too long housing has been seen as a social intervention rather than as a contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP).

Until we see housing as a contributor to economic growth and its value is well captured and stated in annual budget statements we will never resolve the housing deficit problem. Currently the housing deficit is estimated at 2million. It is not clear how this figure was derived, however it is open knowledge that the demand for housing far outstrips the supply. And the houses some of our citizens live in are very embarrassing to say the least. Since independence successive governments have attempted to implement various initiatives to tackle this problem, however these initiatives could not be sustained.

There have been schemes like the workers housing, low cost housing and bungalows for civil servants and staff of state owned enterprises. We can also mention the schemes developed by SSNIT, State Housing Corporation (SHC) and Tema Development Corporation (TDC). These organisations have been the most active state institutions who have attempted to develop or build houses for the Ghanaian worker.

Unfortunately these housing schemes managed by these corporations barely resolved the housing problems in terms of the annual unit output. The way these housing schemes are delivered and managed do not offer returns on investment in the long-term. There is therefore an 
urgent need to create new structures and approaches to deliver and efficiently manage housing initiatives in Ghana.

Let us examine two recent housing developments initiated under the Kufour and Mahama led administrations. Both schemes were fantastic ideas only they were never completed. President Kufour initiated a four thousand, seven hundred (4,700) nationwide Affordable Housing Unit Project.

These affordable housing units were located at:

⭕ Nungua, Borteyman and Kpone in the Greater Accra region.
⭕Asokore-Mampong in the Ashanti region
⭕Koforidua in the Eastern region.
⭕Wa in the Upper West region. 
⭕Tamale in the Northern region.

The Mahama led administration also announced construction of 5,000 affordable housing units for low income earners in November 2013. A significant number of the houses were expected to be completed and delivered by Construtora OAS, a Brazilian construction firm, before the end of 2016. President Mahama also said his government was finalising a deal with SSNIT, to take over the funding and completion of the 5,000 abandoned housing units in Accra, Kumasi, Wa and Tamale.
In addition the Mahama administration initiated a 1,500 housing unit project at Ningo to provide affordable housing in a bid to reduce the country’s housing deficit. The abandoned projects were part of the affordable housing project initiated under the Kufuor administration but works on the project stopped when the Atta Mills' administration took over in 2009. Amidst the hype and rhetoric President Mahama assured Ghanaians by saying "Step by step we are fulfilling all the promises we made to Ghanaians and these would be fulfilled by 2016,". The year 2016 did definitely come but that promise was never fulfilled.
The above shows successive governments approach to procuring and developing housing schemes in the country have not worked and I dare say it would never work. If we are going to be able to house our growing population in decent houses then we need to adopt a new approach to housing. This is not just about building new houses. We must implement a framework for the delivery, management and long-term maintenance of houses in our country so that even after 100years those houses would still offer value for money. 
In the absence of a national housing delivery framework we will build houses but we will do very little to solve the housing crisis. The announcement of the Police Housing project means we are going back to the colonial era approach to housing development, where governments build for public sector workers. 
Unfortunately because the houses are not the personal or private properties of the occupants they treat it any how and do not maintain it. The estates departments charged with the responsibility of managing these houses are barely able to cope. This is because they do not have the financial resources to carry out day-to-day and cyclical maintenance throughout the life span of the properties.
The occupants are also not surcharged for the damage they cause to the property. The question is; “Who does a government built property belong to and who can be held accountable for the damage cause to it?” No body! The present government has announced a number of development projects and initiatives. Most of these projects have provision for staff housing. For example COCOBOD build houses for their workers and VRA did the same in Accra, Akuse and Akosombo.
The proposed railway development and bauxite mining projects housing requirement are likely to follow the same approach, which has proven unviable in the past. What we need is independent housing companies (IHC) or organisations setup to develop and manage the housing schemes for the projects and general purpose housing. These IHC schemes will be guided by the national housing strategy and local housing needs.
The revenue generated from the rents and other charges by the IHC would then be used to maintain the houses and for future investment. Through this approach we can ensure housing activities are carried out by those with the expertise and management structure to safeguard the investment. Estate departments within public sector institutions cannot 
maintain the independence and level of accountability required to manage housing schemes or ward off external interferences.
The economic value of houses or properties cannot be over emphasised. Properties have value and if they are well maintained in the long term, they create equity for new investment or become collateral to secure finance. Housing conceived along these lines helps quantify and value the contribution it makes towards GDP and economic growth.
Building for the Police,Teachers, Army, etc is good but when those properties are part of an Estate Department of a state institution they lose their long term economic value. It’s  time to develop a new approach to providing housing in Ghana. 

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