AN ASSESSMENT OF THE ROLE OF THE PUBLIC SECTOR IN HOUSING DEVELOPMENT
Background to the Study
Housing is an integral part of human settlement that fulfils basic need and has a profound impact on the quality of life, health, welfare as well as productivity of man. It plays a crucial role in integrated physical and economic development, environmental sustainability, natural disaster mitigation and employment generation as well as wealth creation (Erguden, 2001; Boehm and Schlottmann, 2001; UN-HABITAT, 2006a). The desire for adequate and affordable housing also has strong links to the need for security, safety and proper socio-economic status of individuals and communities. In spite of this widely acknowledged importance of housing and various efforts in making adequate and affordable housing available to majority of people, a large proportion of urban residents in less developed countries do not have access to decent housing at affordable cost (Tipple,2004; 2006; UN-HABITAT, 2006a; Greene and Rojas, 2008). As a result, most urban residents in Developing Countries live in housing conditions that constitute an affront to human dignity and which comes with appalling social, economic, spatial and health implications (Rondinelli, 1990; Cotton and Tayler, 1994; Opara, 2003; UNFPA, 2007). Hence, inadequate housing condition has become an intractable challenge that has continued to receive attention from governments and individuals in many developing countries.
In line with human tradition which seeks to investigate, describe, understand and proffer solutions to ameliorate defects in human conditions, and enhance individual and collective well- being; both public and private sectors have continued to take concerted efforts at addressing the social and economic challenges posed by inadequacies in housing provision in many countries of the world. These efforts have informed legislations, policies, strategies and reforms, which most often have culminated in various housing programmes (Onibokun, 1985; Rondinelli, 1990; Ajanlekoko, 2002; Sengupta, 2005; Sengupta and Sharma, 2008). A review of literature shows that between 1950 and 2000, governments in many developing countries have engaged in different housing programmes and delivery strategies. For example, previous studies have shown that successive administrations in Nigeria had launched a minimum of seven public housing programmes in the last few decades in a bid to address increasing housing challenges in the country (Onibokun, 1985; Awotona, 1990; Ogu, 1999; Ogu and Ogbuozobe, 2001; Ajanlekoko, 2002; UN-HABITAT, 2006a; Akinmoladun and Oluwoye, 2007; Ademiluyi and Raji, 2008).
However, substantial literature on public housing in developing countries has revealed three main streams of criticism (Mukhija, 2004). First, it is argued that most public housing schemes are inefficient and ill conceived, and thus failed to meet the needs of target population (Rondinelli, 1990; Mba, 1992). Second, direct government involvement in housing provision is viewed as being negligible compared to the volume of housing provided by informal private sector (UN-HABITAT, 2006a; 2006c). Finally, government intervention in the housing market to check rising cost of housing is seen as counter-productive and an impediment to smooth operation of housing market and efficient housing delivery system (Sengupta and Ganesan, 2004; Mukhija, 2004).Consequently, many scholars and stakeholders have argued that government has no business in providing housing for people, but rather government should act as a partner, enabler and facilitator of housing process by making available appropriate incentives, policy and good regulatory environment necessary for effective private sector participation in housing provision (World Bank, 1993; UNCHS, 2000). In view of this, there is an emerging consensus that current approaches to public housing be based on market-friendly policies and strategies that encourage reduction in government‟s direct involvement in public housing provision. Ong and Lenard (2002) and UN-HABITAT (2006a) were however of the opinion that this does not necessarily mean reduction in government‟s social responsibility in providing housing for the citizens, but rather it implies the production of housing through collaborative approach in an integrated manner.
In the light of foregoing criticisms coupled with the need for sustainable solution to burgeoning housing challenges; most governments in developing countries are engaging in new housing policies, programmes and strategies that seek to meet demands of market-driven economies in addressing housing needs of their people (Sengupta and Ganesan, 2004; Sengupta, 2005; Sengupta and Sharma, 2008). In Nigeria for instance, current approaches to public housing provision are based on private sector-driven strategies (National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, 2004; Aribigbola, 2008; African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development, 2008). Similar approaches are known to have been engaged in countries such as India, Malaysia, Peru and many other developing countries (see Arimah, 1999; Ong and Lenard, 2002; Sengupta and Tipple, 2007; Fernandez-Maldonado and Bredenoord, 2010). Surprisingly to date, the outcomes of those strategies, reforms and programmes are yet to be empirically evaluated in many of these countries, including Nigeria.
Prior to this time, several studies (Kaitilla ,1993; Rysin, 1996; Ukoha and Beamish ,1997; Magutu, 1997; Djebarni and Al-Abed, 2000 ; Lall, 2002; Gilderbloom et al, 2005 ; Ilesanmi,
2005; Yeun et al., 2006 ; Erdogan et al. 2007; Obeng-Odoom, 2009; Mohit et al., 2010) had evaluated various aspects of public housing in countries such as Guinea, Nigeria, India, Malaysia, Kenya, Ghana and many other developing countries. These studies focus on the product of public housing by examining residents‟ satisfaction and accessibility to urban services as well as the underlying production and management frameworks. None of these previous studies neither assessed the validity of underlying theories in the respective public housing programmes nor examined residents‟ perception of the level of adequacy of housing provided. These identified gaps are certainly vital in providing solid evidence upon which factual judgement on the underlying theories in public housing can be based.
This study therefore undertook an in-depth evaluation of public housing between May 2003 and December 2010 in Imo State of Nigeria. It principally examined the outcomes of four housing delivery strategies used, particularly with respect to residents‟ perception of the level of adequacy of and satisfaction with housing provided as well as the quality of life of residents in public housing in study area. This is with a view to assessing the validity of the underlying theory in public housing in the study area, and thus bridging the gap in literature on the subject matter.