A Challenge for Nigeria
Nigeria currently faces a dire housing crisis. The percentage of Nigerian citizens in middle-income brackets continues to rise rapidly, indicating our promising future. Despite this increase in country-wide living standards, however, large numbers of Nigerians remain in the lower income bracket and are stuck in substandard living conditions that lack basic amenities like potable water, electricity, and sewage disposal. Our people are threatened on a daily basis by intense overcrowding, poor sanitation, and unsafe construction techniques.
According to the World Bank, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with a population of 180 million, and we expect this figure to continue to grow exponentially. Lagos itself is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. The housing market, however, has thus far failed to keep pace with the explosive demand, creating a massive housing deficit. Currently, the deficit stands at 17 million units and is expected to have reached over 20 million within five years if the problem goes unaddressed.
Although Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, its homeownership rate is one of the lowest at 25%, lagging far behind Indonesia (84%), Kenya (73%), and South Africa (56%). A full 51% of Nigerians live in rented homes. A myriad of interrelated factors are contributing to the deficit, including a high unemployment rate, a large population of youth, and, of course, inadequate production. At the core of the problem, however, is that with limited access to mortgage finance and home prices increasing ahead of inflation, most Nigerians simply cannot afford to own their own homes.
The acute housing shortage and the lack of decent accommodation for a majority of Nigerians is nothing short of a national priority. The challenge is for our government and the private sector to work together to develop a cost-effective way to meet the urgent demand for safe, affordable housing that can be implemented on a large scale.
Sustainable Housing as a Solution
The solution may well lie with technological developments in ecologically sustainable housing. This housing deficit is a crisis for our country and many of its people, but bridging that gap represents a $300 billion potential market opportunity, according to a joint presentation delivered at the AfricaBuild Lagos exhibition by Giz, a German agency for international development, and The Fuller Center for Housing, an international housing nonprofit. Providing small but high-quality homes that meet the basic needs of young working families is an untapped opening in the market, both international and local, which could have huge payoffs both for ordinary citizens and the economy.
For such a venture to be successful, however, they must understand: It isn’t just new houses that we need, but better, smarter houses. The way has already been paved by bold engineering projects that are meeting high standards of quality and affordability through sustainable technologies. The winning project of the African Diaspora Marketplace competition designed ultra-low energy sustainable housing, proving that “change is achievable, and change means green housing.” Their passive house prototypes were carefully designed to be affordable for the average Nigerian, as one-bedroom apartments are cheaper and quicker to build than traditional houses and can be produced even more effectively in economies of scale. Four families can live on one small plot, each with their own bedroom, kitchen, living room, bathroom, and a shared courtyard.
Every aspect of the passive house prototype was built to reduce its ecological footprint, making it sustainable both for the environment and its owners. The prototypes use 50-70% less energy than a comparable building in the same location and run on solar power. They are self-cooling, harvest their own clean water, have a bio-digester for sewage, and sit on a raised bed to protect against flooding.
Another groundbreaking Nigerian property developer designed a block of apartments that are entirely self-sustaining, relying on a hybrid of solar and wind energy coupled with eco-friendly building techniques to remain completely off the grid. The apartments produce enough electricity to run lights, air conditioners, and other amenities. They also power their own water system which provides 57,000 liters of clean water to residents. It is easy to see how environmentally sustainable practices not only benefit the environment, but the working Nigerians they house, by making accommodation more affordable, significantly reducing the costs maintenance, and ensuring that residents have constant access to safe, reliable amenities for a high standard of living.
The Eko Atlantic project gives a glimpse into the future showing just how far such a revolutionary concept can go. The same big dreams, however, can also be applied to small houses for the working family, enabling them to begin to move up the housing ladder.