National Rental Assistance Scheme good but….

 Our lead story yes­terday was about the launch in Accra of a GH¢30-million rental assis­tance scheme dubbed the National Rental Assistance Scheme (NRAS).

The government says it is meant to increase access to safe, secure and affordable rental housing for lower-in­come households and youth across the country.

For a start, the scheme is going to be rolled out in six regions, namely the Great­er Accra, Ashanti, Western, Eastern, Bono East and Northern, because of the pressures for affordable housing in these places.

Eligibility for the scheme has been provided, including proof of being 18 years and above, Ghanaian nationality and verifiable employment and earned income.

Also, the benefits of the scheme have been provided.

For instance, it would help solve the problem of land­lords demanding two years’ or more rent advance, which deprives many people, es­pecially the youth, access to low-income hous­ing.

Some suggestions regarding its implemen­tation have also been provided.

For instance, the Trades Union Congress thinks one good step in its im­plementation is to priori­tise single mothers as they are financially disadvan­taged.

We think the whole idea of the NRAS is excellent but certain related points must be explained and questions answered.

What does it mean when the government says the scheme is meant to provide low-interest loans to eligible Ghanaians “to enable them to pay rent advance and repay the loan in monthly install­ments to match the tenure of the rent.”?

The Ghana Rent Act states that a deposit of six months is the maximum that a landlord can request from a tenant and that any landlord who requests more than that commits an offence.

In the face of this, can it be concluded that the government is going to give loans equivalent to six months’ advance charges as the case may be?

We think the country’s rent act must be reviewed because if that is what is going to remain and be applied, then there will arise more rent issues than we have now.

Do we think about how long landlords can recoup the money invested in the construction of their housing facilities?

Granted such landlords took loans to construct the houses, would the bank offers be made flexible enough to accom­modate the “maximum six-month rent advance” law?

We do not support the idea of certain land­lords burdening tenants with the payment of huge rent advance, but we think the six-month cap and related issues must be reviewed.

It is clear the rent law is to assist the tenant first and foremost but we should not lose sight of the fact that since in reality, there is no afford­able housing provided by the government for the people in general, the landlords come in to help the state.

On that score, the govern­ment must think of motivat­ing capable citizens to help meet a need which the state has failed to meet instead of applying a legal provision which can cause some house owners to refuse to rent their facilities to the public.

The most important thing the government should do in the housing sector now is to address the problems there such as the limited land sup­ply, cost of capital, and rising cost of building materials, which, as concluded by others, contribute to the high cost of housing in the country.

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