Generally, housing is a major component of household wealth, especially for low to middle income households, and no doubt, housing wealth is increasingly giving importance to most Ghanaians, this is evidenced by the surge in demand for ownership.
Consequently, Ghana’s long awaiting housing policy has finally been launched with a vision to enable everyone access safe, secure, decent and affordable housing either owned or rented.
The national housing policy seeks to promote greater private sector participation in housing delivery, create the enabling environment for investment in the housing sector, especially for rental purposes and to involve communities and other non-traditional interest groups in the design and implementation of low income housing initiatives among others.
Apparently, past interventions and responses to formulate direct policies in the sector were challenged; examples are the National Housing Policy and Action Plan of 1987 – 1990 and the Comprehensive National Shelter Strategy document which suffered a similar fate as the first one.
The situation did not create the right momentum for the sector’s development.
However, with this new national housing policy in place, I believe Ghana stands at the threshold to revamp the sector towards a vibrant and sustainable housing industry. The new National Housing policy, I am happy, has pointed out, an “enabling framework” whereby the state will play a less direct role in the housing sector in future while encouraging the private sector developers and other actors to take the lead in facilitating housing provision.
The new housing policy has also recommended the establishment of a National Housing Authority to facilitate the total development of the sector.
The Authority will among others operationalise the housing policy through strategies and initiatives which will be implemented by the MDAs, MMDAs and other stakeholders.
Just as the GETFUND is for the education sector, the new national housing policy has proposed a National Housing fund to help attract direct investment to strategic areas of the housing market.
It is also welcoming news that the policy has taken account of the Draft Rent Bill that seeks to reform the existing rent regulations, remove the numerous constraints on housing supply while protecting low-income and vulnerable tenants from abuse and arbitrary actions by landlords or house owners.
We are aware that rapid population growth, and especially urbanisation, has made shelter one of the most critical challenges currently facing the country.
The absence of a comprehensive policy response in the past created a vacuum with its effects flowing from the national to local level.
Shelter is, therefore, a basic human need hence operations or initiatives that will promote the housing sector to provide adequate shelter to the population should be welcome at all times.
Thus, a well designed policy which supports the production and consumption of housing services have a significant impact on development.
In view of this, I commend the immediate past Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing, Alhaji Collins Dauda, past Ministers, the team from the Ministry, the UN Habitat and other key stakeholders whose tireless efforts have seen the policy document come to fruition.
Initiatives such as the New National Housing Policy do not only promote the expansion of the construction industry, they also help to increase the welfare of the population, particularly the poor, by improving their living conditions and expanding their physical assets.
In this regard, I am of the view that the new national housing policy will go a long way to help Ghana in its quest to reducing the current housing deficit estimated to be in excess of 1.7 million.
By Abraham Otabil