According to a study by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), the housing shortage in the nation has increased steadily over the past 50 years, from one million to 2.8 million between 1950 and 2010.
The GSS published data from the 2021 Population and Housing Census on buildings, housing conditions, and facilities revealed a 33% reduction in the housing shortfall.
According to GSS, this may indicate some of the interventions taking place at the levels of both the public and private sectors.
On Tuesday, September 13, 2022 the Minister of Works and Housing, Francis Asenso-Boakye (FAB), granted an exclusive interview to the Daily Graphic Reporter, Vincent Amenuveve (VA), on a wide range of issues in the housing sector.
The minister also used the opportunity to explain in detail a National Revised Affordable Housing Programme to be rolled out by the ruling government in November this year barring any hitches.
Below are excerpts of the interview:
Vincent Amenuveve (VA): When we talk about affordable housing, what exactly do we mean?
Francis Asenso-Boakye (FAB): I think it is a fair question that everybody will ask. The United Nations (UN) defines affordable housing as a situation where the prospective owner is able to spend up to 30 per cent of his or her income, either in the payment of mortgages or rent and anything above that percentage is not deemed to be affordable.
When you spend 30 per cent of your income, there are other commitments that your income will have to take care of; your food, school fees and other commitments, including household needs.
Once you are able to spend up to 30 percent on rent or mortgage the UN defines it as affordable and so, in effect, it is relative. What is affordable to you may not be affordable to me.
VA: Research has shown that affordability remains an issue because of the prevalent low household incomes restricting access to shelter, be it ownership or rental. What are the interventions put in place by the government to ensure affordable housing for the ordinary Ghanaian?
FAB: Affordable housing programmes have been part and parcel of many administrations in this country, dating back to the era of Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, through to Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor, John Evans Atta Mills and also John Dramani Mahama.
But most of the time, they’ve all been depending on government’s direct funding.
Even in the second term of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, where he has prioritised the provision of mass affordable housing for the Ghanaian people, the programme has also relied on government financing.
There were some challenges, even though efforts were made to source private capital with the signing of Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs). This was to ensure that the government served as an off-taker. But it didn’t work because we didn’t have the funds for that.
So when I assumed office, I realised that it was not possible to make the housing policy an entirely government programme and that you have to adopt a programme that can leverage on private sector investment coupled with government support.
The main thrust of our affordable housing programme now is centred on available statistics, which says that 60 per cent of Ghanaians can only access housing with government support and that there is 35 per cent of Ghanaians who cannot access housing even if the government provides some support.
It is only five per cent of Ghanaians who can actually access their own housing without the support of government.
So our strategy is to address the needs of that 60 per cent of Ghanaians who need government support. We, therefore, looked at various components of housing costs, land, infrastructure, financing from the demand side, mortgage arrangements and all that.
We figured out what government can do to support these 60 per cent of Ghanaians.
So we decided that government can absorb the cost of land and provide tax incentives for the private sector developers who want to partner government to provide affordable housing. It also involves import duty reliefs to make it affordable for companies bringing raw materials for the construction of housing units.
That is the current framework the government, under President Akufo-Addo, has adopted and we are about to start a new housing programme – one would be sited in Pokuase near Accra and the other one would be located in Dedesua in the Ashanti Region.
VA: What is the target group for the housing package?
FAB: We are targeting public sector workers who are on payroll.
We have put in place a system whereby these workers can pay by instalments because there is an arrangement for the banks to act as off-takers.
VA: Are workers in the informal sector also included in this package?
FAB: We also have them in mind and as long as you are able to prove to your banks that you have a dedicated source of income, and at the end of the month you can contribute GH¢1,000, or GH¢500, based on the requirements of the banks, you should be able to qualify for the package.
VA: How many housing units are to be provided or for that matter, how many people are benefitting from the package?
FAB: For the one at Pokuase, we are providing 8,000 housing units and about 4,000 units for Dedesua – that is the estimated number of units we are providing.
VA: When is this initiative taking off?
FAB: If we are able to expedite action on the processes, by November this year, we should be able to start construction because a lot of companies have expressed interest and they are embracing this new concept that the ministry is introducing.
We are going through the approval processes, which I believe is going rather too slow; I wish that the process was expeditiously executed because this housing programme is more important for Ghanaians.
VA: How do you call the new initiative?
FAB: It is known as the National Revised Affordable Housing Programme, christened “Mi fie”.
VA: Can you give us a breakdown of the major affordable housing units provided in the past and their various stages of completion?
FAB: Recent affordable housing programmes can be traced to the period of President Kufuor, where about six affordable housing projects across the country in Borteyman, Kpone, Asokore-Mampong, Koforidua, Tamale and Wa were undertaken.
As I pointed out earlier, most of the housing programmes suffered and stalled for some time because they were solely funded by government.
We are looking at various financial arrangements to be able to, for instance complete them.
We are considering roping these projects also into our revised Housing Programme. In fact, the last time I visited Tamale, I encouraged contractors and developers to show interest and partner government to complete the project.
VA: What are some of the challenges facing the government in affordable housing delivery in the country?
FAB: One of the challenges we are facing in the housing space is actually from the demand side. I have travelled a lot and I know how people access housing in advanced countries and as long as you are working and earning salaries, you can get a bank that can actually say let me buy this house for you and you pay it over time, say up to 40 years.
VA: Although the Saglemi project is in court, are there plans by the current government to complete it?
FAB: We will do our best to complete the project, and what I know is that we have technical people who have been meeting regularly to figure out the issue and come out with effective measures for the government to implement, to ensure value for money in order not to waste the tax payers’ money.
VA: Does the government have any plans of refurbishing the old, dilapidated government bungalows in the various regions of the country?
FAB: The government has a redevelopment programme, which has to do with rehabilitation of the old government bungalows in prime areas like Accra, which has been ongoing for some time now.
Many of these bungalows are old and dilapidated, so the programme is to help rehabilitate them. Others are small bungalows sitting on big lands, so part of the redevelopment programme is to optimise the available land space by building more of the housing units and beautifying the land.
Ghana Housing Authority
VA: To what extent has the ministry’s plan to establish the Ghana Housing Authority been successful?
FAB: Over the years, one of the reasons why our public housing programmes have failed is because we don’t have an implementing agency whose responsibility is to plan and manage housing developments in Ghana. It has always been at the ministry level. But the core functions of a ministry is to formulate policies and guide its implementation.
Look at this Saglemi Housing Project. If there were to be an implementing agency, they would have done feasibility studies and then we will know that providing 5,000 housing units required a certain level of infrastructure.
I have had the opportunity to travel to many countries. I have been to South Africa, Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire and I have also studied other regimes. I have seen that one of the best examples of housing development is in Singapore. They have set up the National Housing Board.
In Korea, and in Malaysia, they all have implementing agencies and we haven’t had one, and for me, I believe that it is the single most important reason why we have lagged behind in the provision of public housing in this country.
Therefore, since I assumed office, I have put in place the necessary steps to ensure that we set up a Ghana Housing Authority. I am glad to mention that Cabinet has already approved a policy for a set-up of the authority.
We have done a lot of stakeholder consultations and we even had a colloquium on it in Kumasi recently.
VA: There are public concerns that establishing such authorities would further bloat public wage bill, how do you react to that?
FAB: That is a genuine concern, but it is a very important institution if you look at the challenges it will address in the housing sector.
VA: Tell us a bit about rental housing.
FAB: One key aspect of housing is rental. I mean, at the end of the day, it is not everybody who can own a home. You have to rent and we have policies and laws that guide the rental market in Ghana.
We have the rent law that has existed for about 60 years and since then, a lot of things have happened. Urbanisation, population growth and economic circumstances have changed. It has affected the rental market, which has necessitated a review of our existing Rent Act 220 of 1963.
The law is against the collection of advance rent for more than six months but you know today people are collecting two to three years’ advance rent, which makes it difficult for the ordinary Ghanaian to pay. It is so because there are limited houses as against the demand.
I am happy to say that Cabinet has given the approval for the Rent Act to be reviewed and we are currently holding stakeholder engagements and we are working with the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General to facilitate the necessary legal framework to ensure the passage of a new rent law to address the challenges in the rent regime.
VA: How is the current performance and state of the Department of Rent Control?
FAB: The Rent Department is in a very bad shape and they use very rudimentary methods to collect data, to process claims and all that and we are working with the Ministry of Finance to digitise the operations of the department.
I have had the opportunity to visit the department and even though they have their issues regarding the usage of rudimentary methods to process claims, they are still able to settle rent issues.
Sea defence projects
VA: Finally, minister let us look at the Sea defence projects in the country. How far has the ministry gone with those projects around the coastal belt?
FAB: Evidence shows that our beaches are quite narrow and the tidal waves are very strong and violent. So it has been destroying lives and property in the coastal areas. That is why the government is implementing this Coastal Protection Programme under which the sea defence project falls. The project enhances economic activities. In other areas, their major source of occupation is fishing.
The project enables us to stabilise the water so that people can do fishing, while it also ensures that people’s lives and property are protected from tidal waves.