While playing host to the Senate Committee on Housing led by its Chairman, Sam Egwu, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, disclosed in Abuja that the Federal Government (FG) is to rent out unoccupied private and government houses located in various towns and cities across the country.
Fashola also explained that the non-provision of land was why the Federal Government was not constructing houses in Lagos and Rivers states, adding that over 3,000 affordable housing units were being constructed in 34 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Responding to an enquiry on what government was doing about empty houses scattered all over Nigeria, Fashola said his ministry had started collating the buildings and would lease them out to collect rents on a monthly basis.
He said, “As you have rightly pointed out, there are empty houses all over the place. How can we put those houses to use? I have news for you; some young people are already doing that and we are working with some of them.”
Providing additional explanation as directed by the minister, the Director, Public Private Partnership, Eucharia Alozie, stated that the young Nigerians had deployed technology to determine the number of empty houses in many parts of Nigeria and were expanding their reach.
She stated that what the ministry had done was to collate all empty houses built by the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, Federal Housing Authority and those built by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
Alozie stated, “They gave us a scenario that a lot of people built big houses in Abuja and in other big cities in Nigeria and nobody has taken these houses.
“So we want to use this as a pilot to go round the country, collate the houses and possibly rent them out, especially to young people.”
She added, “It is so easy to pay your house rent monthly because a lot of people do not have the money to pay for two years and that is a major problem in the country. So they pay monthly and the team will work with agencies of government to deduct the monthly rent payments.
“That is the innovation and we have gone very far with it. Right now, we are at the procurement stage where they will be given the opportunity to show what they have done. They have succeeded in Abuja, Lagos and Cross River states.”
Fashola, however, told his guests that the initiative was not compulsory.
He said, “We started this as an initiative and it is not compulsory for everybody. So, let’s be clear. Now, how many houses are empty in your cities and villages? Many people have empty houses in their villages and these are part of the housing stock and they must be counted.
“So, these young people are working with some financial institutions that have collected houses from defaulting customers and the houses are seen as dead capital, as they are not bringing in income and nobody wants to buy them.”
The minister explained that some of the houses, for example, were three-bedroom homes.
“Now, young people need houses but they don’t have funds for three-bedrooms. So, we will bring them together and rent each of the rooms and the rents are collected monthly,” he stated.
He told the senators that the government would ensure the success of initiative in most states across the country.