Key Reasons Why Nigeria Needs a Housing Survey

Taiwo Ajayi
17 Min Read

By: Evelyn Arinola Olanipekun

•   Overcoming Data Inaccuracy: Presently, information on Nigeria's housing situation is incomplete and lacks the precision needed for evidence-based decision-making. A well-designed housing survey provides a statistically sound overview of the nation's housing stock, addressing inconsistencies and filling substantial knowledge gaps.
•   Beyond the Deficit: Assessing Quality and Preferences: Simply focusing on the sheer number of lacking housing units is insufficient. Understanding housing quality is a crucial part of the equation. Factors like construction materials, sanitation, access to electricity, and overcrowding must be meticulously documented. Moreover, the survey should explore the preferences and aspirations of Nigerians regarding their ideal housing situation.
•   Targeted Policies to Reduce Inequality: A survey can spotlight regional or demographic groups disproportionately affected by the housing crisis. This facilitates the tailoring of policies and programs to alleviate the disparities between the underserved and their more privileged counterparts.
•   Understanding the Role of Formal and Informal Housing: Informal settlements represent a substantial portion of Nigeria's housing sector. A housing survey can detail the reasons why people resort to informal solutions, helping inform strategies to upgrade living conditions within existing settlements as well as offer pathways towards the formal housing market.
•   Stimulating the Housing Economy: Housing surveys provide a wealth of market intelligence to stakeholders in the housing sector. Insights into supply and demand dynamics, household financial capacity, and regional shortages fuel better planning and attract essential investment from both domestic and international sources.

Proposed Scope of the Housing Survey
A comprehensive approach encompasses:
• Infrastructure Mapping: Identifying areas with sufficient infrastructure support, aiding long-term housing development planning.

•   Environmental Vulnerability: Assess housing location vulnerabilities, such as flood zones, to build future resilience into housing development policies.
•   Aspirational Trends: Gauging trends towards homeownership, preferred house styles, and evolving family-size needs.

Potential Impact of the Housing Survey

• Improving Lives Through Housing: Informed decision-making ensures resources are directed to the areas of greatest need, ultimately providing more Nigerians with the safety, security, and dignity of proper housing.

•   Economic Growth: Data empowers public-private partnerships, fosters domestic and international investment, and creates jobs in the construction and associated industries, generating broader economic benefits.
•   Long-Term Vision: Trends documented by the survey enable planners to anticipate and guide future urbanisation, promoting well-structured and sustainable communities.

Call to Action
The challenges facing Nigeria’s housing sector are real and significant but also addressable. Investing in a national housing survey isn’t merely collecting data; it’s about creating a strategic roadmap to secure quality housing for all citizens and bolstering Nigeria’s overall social and economic progress.

•   Executive Summary

Nigeria, like many developing nations, confronts multifaceted challenges within its housing sector. A rapidly increasing population with persistent urbanisation strains existing housing infrastructure, resulting in a staggering deficit estimated at more than 20 million units according to a recent study by Adedeji, Deveci & Salman (2023). Access to affordable and adequate housing remains an elusive dream for vast portions of the populace. Informal settlements are widespread, characterised by overcrowding, poor sanitation and a lack of basic amenities that negatively affect individual well-being and hinder inclusive socioeconomic development.

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While the depth of the housing crisis is widely acknowledged, targeted and decisive action is severely hampered by the lack of comprehensive, reliable data about the complex nature of the problem. Currently, information on housing supply and demand across Nigeria is insufficient, inconsistent, and often outdated. This dearth of robust data undermines the ability of policymakers, developers, NGOs, and international partners to craft informed, lasting solutions.

A nationwide housing survey stands as a vital first step to closing this critical data gap. It will facilitate an evidence-based understanding of housing needs that prioritises the most vulnerable demographics and the areas facing the most acute shortages. Moreover, a well-designed survey not only quantifies the problem but delves into qualitative aspects such as housing quality, infrastructural gaps, and household preferences. This multi-layered knowledge enables stakeholders in both the public and private sectors to tailor housing solutions effectively, matching supply to the genuine needs of Nigerian citizens.

This proposal outlines the urgent need for a comprehensive national housing survey in Nigeria. The benefits of such an undertaking far outweigh the costs. Not only will it unlock essential information for the housing sector, but it has the potential to spark innovative urban planning, boost socioeconomic development, and, crucially, improve the quality of life for millions of Nigerians yearning for access to dignified housing.
• Problem Statement
Nigeria’s housing crisis is not a simple problem of numerical deficits. It encompasses a range of interconnected issues:

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• The Ever-Widening Deficit: The stark disparity between the existing housing stock and the growing population creates a vast and constantly increasing deficit. While estimates vary, most agree that the current gap exceeds 20 million housing units nationwide with the numbers escalating rapidly.
• Lack of Affordability: Even when housing units exist, they are often out of reach for low- and middle-income households due to skyrocketing construction costs, limited access to affordable mortgage financing, and broader economic pressures.
• Substandard Quality: Many existing housing units, particularly in urban slums and informal developments, are substandard. Overcrowding, lack of adequate

sanitation, unstable structures, and vulnerability to environmental hazards undermine health, safety, and dignity.
• Rural-Urban Imbalance: While the challenge is felt nationwide, there’s a pronounced disparity between urban and rural housing needs. Rapid urbanisation places unprecedented pressure on cities’ infrastructure, resulting in sprawling informal settlements (Isimi, 2024). Simultaneously, rural areas suffer neglect and a lack of targeted investment in essential housing development.
At the heart of this crisis lies an alarming data drought. Existing information on Nigeria’s housing sector is outdated, fragmented, and insufficiently detailed. This lack of empirical clarity obscures the true magnitude of the problem, its regional variations, and the specific demographics most severely impacted. Consequently, policies and interventions devised in the absence of reliable data face misalignment with true realities on the ground. The inability to accurately map the situation renders past and present attempts to address the housing crisis incomplete and largely ineffective.
• Objectives of the Housing Survey
The proposed national housing survey seeks to attain the following core objectives:
• Quantifying the True Housing Deficit:
• Establish a definitive baseline figure representing the gap between available housing units and the total nationwide demand.
• Disaggregate the housing deficit geographically, providing a localised understanding of acute areas of need across states and communities.
• Assessing Housing Quality:
• Develop a comprehensive set of metrics to evaluate existing housing stock by structural integrity, safety standards, access to sanitation, electricity, potable water, and other essential services.
• Mapping Informal Settlements:
• Document the prevalence, size, and characteristics of informal settlements in both urban and rural contexts.
• Understand why households resort to informal housing due to economic reasons, exclusion from the formal market, or other systemic failures.
• Understanding Household Housing Preferences:
• Gather data on household size and composition and how this dictates housing needs.
• Identify regional variations in housing aspirations in terms of desired ownership models, amenities, and dwelling types.
• Evaluating Housing Affordability:
• Assess the financial capacity of households across various income levels to pay for both housing construction and ongoing costs of ownership.

•   Analyse barriers to mortgage access, land acquisition, and legal titling.

•   Methodology
•   Sampling Design
•   Stratified Random Sampling: Nigeria would be divided into strata based on factors such as:
•   Geopolitical Zones (six zones)
•   State
•   Local Government Areas (LGAs)
•   Rural/Urban
•   Ward
•   Within each stratum, Enumeration Areas (EAs) from the most recent census mapping is recommended to be the primary sampling units, selecting samples using Probability Proportional to Size (PPS).
•   A two-stage approach would select an appropriate number of EAs, then a fixed number of households within each selected EA (based on desired sample size and precision).

•   Data Collection Methods
•   Household questionnaire: A comprehensive questionnaire administered to randomly selected households within each EA. This will cover:
•   Household demographics
•   Household income and Financing
•   Housing Units Characteristics
•   Dwelling characteristics (material, size, rooms)
•   Access to utilities (water, electricity, sanitation)
•   Tenure status (owned, rented, informal)
•   Housing costs and affordability
•   Housing satisfaction and aspirations
•   Perceptions of community infrastructure
•   Building Details
•   Community   questionnaire:  Administered    to  community   leaders or knowledgeable individuals in each EA. This gathers data on:
•   The prevalence of informal settlements
•   Availability of communal amenities
•   Local land/tenure practices
•   Major housing challenges faced by the community
•   Building Materials Information
•   Physical Inspection: In a subsample of communities, trained quality assurance may perform visual assessments of housing units to:
•   Verify self-reported housing quality measurements
•   Provide visual documentation of structural integrity
•   Data Management

•   Data Capture: Wherever possible, utilise electronic data collection with tablets or smartphones, reducing time and errors compared to paper-based surveys.
•   Centralised Database: Secure database for consolidation, cross-checks, and quality control of collected data.
•   Metadata: Consistent metadata standards with precise definitions for each field collected.
•   Data Analysis
•   Quantitative Techniques:
•   Descriptive statistics (percentages, averages, etc.) to describe the national and regional housing context.
•   Frequency distributions to explore variation in characteristics and affordability of housing units across households of different socioeconomic status, locations, and other disaggregating.
•   Regression analysis to investigate predictors of housing affordability and quality.
•   Qualitative Techniques:
•   Thematic analysis of interviews and focus groups to identify narratives, trends, and unique housing needs.
•   Content analysis for open-ended questionnaire responses.
•   Quality Assurance
•   Piloting: Field test instruments and training procedures in a few representative EAs, refining instruments and processes before the full survey begins.

•   Interviewer Training: Thorough training on questionnaire content, ethical considerations, and accurate recording techniques.
•   Supervision: Field supervisors to provide assistance to interviewers, verify data quality, and monitor survey progress.
•   Data Cleaning and Validation: Implement validation rules within the data collection system, run regular data checks to identify anomalies for follow-up during and after the survey.
•   Stakeholder Engagement

The success of a national housing survey rests on a foundation of collaboration and meaningful engagement of diverse stakeholders.

This project hinges on the following strategies
• Identifying Key Stakeholders:
• Government: Federal Ministry of Housing, State and Local Government housing agencies, the National Population Commission, National Bureau of Statistics and relevant legislative committees.
• Private Sector: Construction firms, real estate developers, financial institutions (banks, mortgage lenders), property consulting firms.
• Civil Society: NGOs working on housing rights, advocacy groups focused on poverty alleviation, urban development organisations.

•   Academia & Research: Universities with urban planning and housing specialisation, independent research bodies focused on policy analysis.

•   International Development Partners: Bilateral and multilateral donors supporting housing development in Nigeria.
•   Strategies for Engagement:
•   Steering Committee: Create a committee, with representation from identified stakeholder groups, to provide guidance and oversight throughout the survey process.

•   Knowledge Sharing Workshops: Hold regular workshops to disseminate preliminary findings, gather feedback, and foster a sense of ownership among stakeholders.
•   Targeted Consultations: Engage with specific stakeholder groups for input on survey design, data analysis, and dissemination strategies.
•   Community Participation: Incorporate community-level sensitization and participatory methods during data collection, fostering greater acceptance and more nuanced information.
•   Benefits of Stakeholder Involvement
•   Credibility and Accuracy: Diverse perspectives ensure the survey questions address relevant concerns and that the methodology is culturally sensitive, maximising data accuracy.

•   Data Sharing: Existing insights and data from partner organisations enrich the survey findings and reduce replication.
•   Policy Uptake: Collaboration facilitates translation of data into actionable policies, increasing the survey's impact.
•   Sustainability: A broad network of supportive stakeholders helps secure future iterations of the survey, creating a longitudinal dataset of greater value.
•   Dissemination and Utilisation of Results

The impact of the national housing survey hinges on the strategic dissemination and effective utilisation of its findings. Our approach will emphasise accessibility, multi-channel outreach, and a long-term vision for data-driven decision-making in the housing sector.
• Dissemination Plan
• Comprehensive Reports: Detailed reports encompassing key findings, trends, regional breakdowns, and visualisations will serve as the core reference document for all stakeholders.

•   Targeted Policy Briefs: A series of issue-specific summaries aimed at policymakers will prioritise actionable recommendations addressing affordability, informal settlements, infrastructure needs, and other pressing challenges.
•   Open-Data Portal: Creation of a publicly accessible, secure online portal allows responsible use of anonymized datasets for further research, innovation, and public discourse.

•   Media Outreach: Strategic engagement with national and grassroots media outlets ensures visibility and initiates wider awareness of Nigeria's housing challenges.
•   Interactive Visualisations: Infographics, maps, and data dashboards cater to both technical and non-technical audiences, fostering easy understanding and broad sharing of findings.
•   Outreach and Advocacy
•   Targeted Stakeholder Workshops: Sector-specific workshops (government, developers, civil society) translate reports into concrete strategies and drive adoption within relevant spheres.
•   Strategic Partnerships: Collaboration with established housing sector advocacy groups enhances the reach and impact of survey findings.
•   Educational Initiatives: Data and analyses will be made available to universities and research institutions, fueling future studies and the development of housing expertise among emerging professionals.
•   Measurable Impact

The survey’s effectiveness will be gauged not only by its initial dissemination but also by its utilisation over time. Indicators of success include:

• Policy Uptake: Evidence of data-driven amendments to existing housing policies or the initiation of new programs aimed at identified gaps.
• Investments: Increased flow of public and private capital towards priority areas determined by survey findings.
• Research Innovation: Uptake of data by researchers and institutions reflected in ongoing housing studies, publications, and innovative solutions.

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