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Opinions of Monday, 28 July 2014

Columnist: Sodzi-Tettey, Sodzi

Not One Completed Affordable House since 1992!

You promise me a house in your manifesto and tag it with a beautiful adjective – “affordable”! But you know that at public salary levels, at prevailing mortgage rates, with a 1.5 million housing unit deficit, about 85 per cent of the Ghanaian workers earn below incomes that qualify them for respectable mortgages. And the latter is according to Mr. Yeboah of Housing Data Ghana Ltd.
Welcome to Ghana’s democracy; where its political elite appear to enjoy democracy’s processes and trappings more than striving to achieve its end objectives of delivering development. What is the use of this democracy if it cannot even pretend to deliver us from the scourge of stinking urban slums and bumpy neighborhood roads?
“…The need for the accelerated construction of housing units in all settlements is an imperative. …
Promotion of brick and tile manufacturing using … natural gas offshore Ghana to promote gas-fired kilns; …Support for the use of pozzolana cement in the construction of both public and private housing units; …We will promote well-structured and integrated urban development as follows: Upgrade low-income residential structures and depressed residential areas; Re-develop low-density inner city areas… Rural Housing - Support self-help building schemes organized by community and trade associations; Encourage the MMDAs to use their Common Fund to embark on the construction of rental housing units on a massive scale; …” National Democratic Congress. 2012

“Firstly, we will build affordable housing units for rental across Ghana in a partnership between the proposed Housing Agency, Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies
(MMDA) and the Private Sector… Secondly, through the Housing Agency, we will sup p o r t the provision of affordable housing for Ghanaians eager to buy their own houses by partnering the private sector operators like GREDA and others… establish a Housing Agency dedicated to facilitating the role of the private sector players (e.g. GREDA) in delivering both social housing and low and mid-income housing schemes across the country…” New Patriotic Party. 2012

If wishes were horses, Ghanaian voters will ride in their own homes in style. These are the types of promises that we have been enjoying since 1992 from both sides of the political divide. After twenty + years, we are still waiting to see the first completed affordable house. As my Nigerian colleagues will put it, abi we don taya sef! Because our votes are not a reward for delivery on political promises, but donated in respect of other considerations, politicians confidently craft plans they know we ourselves will never refer to. And all this time, not one brick will be laid down.

In Ghana today, two and three bedroom semidetached houses at Kantamanso are selling for $69, 500 and $180, 000 respectively according to the Daily Graphic’s well researched feature of July 14, 2014. Mr. Samuel Amegayibor, Acting Executive Secretary of the Ghana Real Estates Development Association (GREDA) is more graphic when he predicts that “if the current economic situation is allowed to continue, many Ghanaians in the lower and middle income level might never be able to afford even a one-bedroom apartment in the near future.” Many of these private housing units are simply out of the reach of so called ordinary Ghanaians. Today, we are told that one needs to earn in the range of GH¢10, 000 a month in order to secure mortgage for a standard two bedroom piece.

It is interesting how the Daily Graphic’s Naa Lamiley Bentil categorizes purchasing power: high income earners (banking, telecommunication and insurance sectors) and civil servants and public workers of a lower earning power.

There is an even lower income level that I have come to discover. Some weeks ago, I visited an artisan friend of mine for the first time in two years. I left mesmerized and somewhat incensed at our political leaders. He lived in a kiosk on a rented piece of land about half the size of a football field. There were about fifty other kiosks arranged in some sort of formation. Each kiosk housed a family. When I knocked on the door, his wife came out with their four month old baby. This is where he lived with his wife and two children, in a poorly ventilated kiosk he had constructed himself. Others were tenants in the kiosks and all paid monthly land rent.

Forget the $35,000 houses that are said to be cheap enough for public workers. I need true mass housing that is far far far cheaper! If these people, within their limited resources can tolerate kiosks, then I figure it would not take much for our governments to lift them up with the most basic decent housing. Using the simplest technology, is it not possible to build and maybe rent out a simple two bedroom wooden apartment complete with potable water, toilet and bath which will certainly represent an upgrade from the Shanty town I saw? Our leaders know about cheaper pozzolana cement, they know about landcrete blocks and adobe bricks, and compressed earth bricks but they can neither build nor facilitate the construction of modern wooden houses for the people?!

President Kufuor came closest to fondling the problem with construction projects actually commencing. He reportedly started constructing 3500 flats at Borteyman and Kpone in the Greater Accra Region, Asokore-Mampong in the Ashanti Region, and Koforidua in the Eastern Region. This was commendable although none has been known to have been actually completed. Even so, a list of planned beneficiaries of these Kufour housing units published by The Insight in 2009 exposes our collective greed. As it turns out, some in the political elite are simply so poor in their own minds they must satisfy all their wants before addressing our needs. With beneficiary addresses reading ““Office of the President, Castle, Osu, VVIPU, Castle, Osu,Office of the Vice President…etc…” do I need to say more?

When do you reckon our politicians will finish distributing the palaces among themselves before building truly affordable houses for us?

Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey
14th July, 2014