Abuja’s Housing Crisis: Young Nigerians Struggle as Living Options Dwindle

Adewole Kehinde
6 Min Read
Abuja's Housing Crisis: Young Nigerians Struggle as Living Options Dwindle

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria, like major urban centers globally, grapples with the adverse effects of rapid urbanization and centralization, especially a severe housing deficit.

This crisis has left countless residents in a relentless search for affordable accommodation, exacerbating social and economic disparities. In this piece, CECILIA OGEZI interrogates the many factors contributing to the housing deficit and the struggle by young people to access shelter in the nation’s capital.

Abuja’s housing deficit is a microcosm of a nationwide problem. The city, with 1.7 million housing units, accounts for 10 percent of Nigeria’s overall housing shortage. Despite this, a troubling number of houses estimated at 600 remain unoccupied in the city center. This paradox of vacant homes amid a housing crisis highlights systemic inefficiencies and economic imbalances.

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Historically, the quest for adequate shelter has been a fundamental human concern. In Abuja, government efforts have aimed to address this through various housing programs. Initiatives like low-cost housing schemes, Federal Housing Authority projects, and privately developed mass housing aim to bridge the gap. However, these efforts have yet to meet the soaring demand.

This has a great impact on the common man who for the need for a better life comes to Abuja to earn a living.

A resident in Durumi (III), Saleh Ahmed decried the rising cost of living and the devastating effect it has on the common man, according to Ahmed he was living in a high-brow area of the city until a recent increase in rent forced him to move to Durumi (III), despite his dislike for the community.

Another resident of Dakwo, a village in Lokogoma complained she had to move out of Sunnyvale Estate when the rent became unaffordable for her as a single mother.

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A recent survey by a private real estate consultant revealed a staggering deficit of over 600,000 housing units in Abuja as of early 2017. This shortage is fueled by the city’s rapid population growth and its reputation as a peaceful haven in a turbulent region, attracting people from across Nigeria and beyond.

Ironically, while new housing estates emerge across the city, many remain empty due to prohibitive rental costs.

High rents in districts like Asokoro, Maitama, and Guzape have made these areas unaffordable for most residents. Developers often prefer to leave properties vacant rather than lower rents, exacerbating the housing crisis.

The rigidity of rental costs stems from developers’ claims of high operational costs and an unfriendly property development environment. They argue for more supportive laws and regulations to ease property development and protect their investments. However, this stance has led to a market where many properties are inaccessible to the average resident.

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In response, the FCT administration has initiated reforms to make the housing sector more investment-friendly. These include streamlined processes for land procurement, building permits, and development inspections. Such policies are beginning to show promise, with a gradual reduction in rental costs and increased housing availability.

Abuja’s housing woes have not gone unnoticed by lawmakers. The Nigerian Senate recently approved the ‘Advanced Rent (Residential Apartments, Office Spaces, etc.) Regulation Bill 2022,’ sponsored by Senator Smart Adeyemi. This bill aims to ease the burden on tenants by enforcing a monthly rent payment structure after an initial three-month advance payment. This legislative intervention seeks to curb exploitative rental practices and provide relief to residents struggling to afford housing.

However, proposed solutions like rent control and price ceilings have sparked debate. Critics argue that such measures could deter new investments and exacerbate long-term shortages by creating market distortions. Balancing affordability and investment incentives remains a critical challenge.

Beyond rent regulation, experts suggest that efficient property tax administration could boost government revenue and support housing initiatives. Property tax, a reliable income source in many countries, remains underutilized in Nigeria. Enhancing tax collection methods and combating evasion could provide much-needed funds for public services and development projects.

Despite its potential, property tax administration faces significant hurdles, including inadequate property data, inconsistent valuations, and public resistance. Overcoming these challenges requires modernization of tax systems, transparency, and public education on the benefits of compliance.

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In the legislative arena, Senator Adeyemi has also advocated for property taxes on unoccupied high-end mansions to address the surplus of vacant properties. This measure aims to incentivize the use of existing housing stock and alleviate the city’s accommodation crisis.

Abuja’s housing deficit indicates the need for a multifaceted approach. Collaborative efforts among government, developers, and residents are essential to create a more equitable and sustainable housing market. Only through comprehensive reforms and innovative solutions can Abuja hope to provide adequate and affordable housing for all its residents, especially young people.

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