Obioma Ezenwobodo, Esq. writes from Abuja.
The Senate is pushing for a bill that would limit house rents in the FCT to 3 months advance payment for a new tenant and monthly payment thereafter.
The proposed law titled “Advanced Rent (Residential Apartments, Office Spaces, etc.) Regulation Bill 2022,” being sponsored by Senator Smart Adeyemi has scaled second reading is and referred to the Committee on Housing and Urban Development for further input.
This bill should not be allowed to see the light of the day as it is against free market forces, realistic economic conditions and progressive economy.
To begin with, the right to shelter is a fundamental right of citizens and the obligation to effect this is on the government who should provide decent houses and make land available and affordable to the people. You do not achieve this by placing the burden on house owners and private developers.
Just like Senator Chimaroke Nnamani stated while opposing the bill: “If government wants to ameliorate the sufferings of the masses, (it) can go into housing schemes, mortgage schemes, housing credit facilities, not control the business of private individuals in an emerging African democracy,”
There is wisdom is the position of Nnamani that should be taken home with. This is exemplified by an acute problem of land availability for housing development in the FCT.
To obtain land allocation and C of O from FCT Minister is like a cow passing through the eye of a needle. Developers are forced to cough out outrageous amount of money to acquire lands from those who have the connections to obtain such lands from the Minister. One then wonders why the Senate is not addressing this vital issue instead of dwelling on the offshoots. Why not ease the process of acquisition of lands in the FCT and regulate the over bloated prices of lands in the FCT?
Also, the cost of building material have also skylocated due to spiral inflation. Currently, a bag of cement is hitting above N4,000 per bag and likewise other building materials. How would a developer who obtained high-interest loans to execute housing projects meet up with repayment plans. Why is the Senate not regulating high cost of cement and other building materials and also compel banks to reduce the cutthroat interests they are charging on loans? Why address the symptom instead of the ailment itself.
For a way forward, the Senate should come up with robust laws and regulations that would encourage the government at all levels to embark on emergency mass housing schemes not just in the FCT but all over the federation to meet up with our growing population. This move would drastically reduce high cost of rents and provide cheap and affordable houses to all citizens.
The Senate should also enhance the capacity and efficiency of the Federal Mortgage Bank to make mortgage loans and credit facilities easily available to citizens. A citizen has no business paying high rent but could obtain a mortgage facility which he would pay off over the years. This is the duty and responsibility of the government. It is unrealistic, cruel and inconsiderate to compel private developers to assume the responsibility of the government.
Moreover, how would this law which boarders on civil contract between parties be enforced? Would infringement of it be criminalised and how would the State prosecute defaulters?
The needless of this bill will be better appreciated if its long-term consequences is taken into view. The bill is passed into law would invariably discourage investors from investing in the housing sector as loan facilities obtained to facilitate housing projects would be impossible to repay.