The concept of affordable housing is as enigmatic as it gets, especially here in Ghana.
When the numbers do not add up and the masses cry foul at every juncture, you begin to wonder if all policies are indeed applicable to all societies. Or maybe this is just another case of good intentions but bad execution?
Affordable Housing is indeed a worldwide concept. Over the years, several governments have adopted the concept in a bid to look out for the accommodation needs of their citizens, particularly low income earners. Ideally, such a scheme should go a long way in bridging the gaps among classes. The overriding factor is always gross income. This determines price point, number of buildings, building materials to be used etc.
All things considered, an affordable housing scheme is well within the remit of the government’s moral obligation to its people. The housing deficit in Ghana is north of one million units against an ever-increasing population and this has been every administration’s headache for a while now. Talk about housing projects has become rife over the years but with a gray area surrounding income/rent ratio and a lack of enforcement of the Rent Control Act, it looks like we are going nowhere fast.
With Ghana adopting the 30% yardstick for rent/income ratio to define affordability in housing industry, a major crack in our approach to the solving the housing deficit problem has been revealed – Income Inequality. The generally low income levels among the masses out here means we cannot use the same benchmark as that of countries who are miles ahead of us economically. While 30% may be ideal for the US in what is internationally accepted as humane living conditions, the average Ghanaian will be looking at shedding about 60% of his income for such a housing unit. I was particularly pleased that prices for an affordable housing provided by the government to the 6th parliament was rejected by the Speaker simply because they were not ‘affordable enough’. At least someone was looking out for the ordinary Ghanaian.
All stakeholders need to coalesce to revive the conversation on affordable housing and all the angles that come along with it. Certainly, the government cannot do it all alone. The burgeoning involvement of the private sector in this sector is a welcome initiative but I cannot stress enough that the interest of the regular Ghanaian should be paramount amidst all these business dealings. Some consideration should also be given to the use of local building materials, which will eliminate importation talks, in effect, driving down building costs and other related costs. However, the angle of affordable housing I desperately would want to see reviewed is the definition of affordable housing pertaining to the average income level of Ghanaians. That should be the starting point of this conversation.