Increasing housing affordability in Aba metropolis: a panacea for healthy living environment

  • Ben Ugochukwu Iwuagwu
  • Stephen Ikpendu Nwankwo
Research Article
  • 78 Downloads

Abstract

The prime reason why people live in slum is because of their inability to afford decent and adequate housing. Housing is considered affordable if a household can live in it without sacrificing essentials such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care. A commonly accepted guideline for housing affordability is a housing cost that does not exceed 30% of a household’s gross income. When the monthly carrying costs of a home exceed 30% of household income, the housing is considered unaffordable for that household. Income and cost are the primary factors that determine housing affordability. Therefore, understanding affordable housing challenges requires understanding disparities in income and wealth. In the study area income and cost are the primary causes of poor housing affordability, reason why majority of low income earners seek refuge in slum neighbourhoods. This paper studies five selected slum neighbourhoods in Aba Metropolis with the aim of improving housing affordability and healthy living environment for low income earners in Aba. Mixed research approach (quantitative and qualitative) was adopted in this study. Copies of questionnaire were administered to sample size of 400 respondents drawn using stratified systematic random sampling technique from the five selected slum neighbourhoods. The responses from the respondents were analysed using frequency table and bar chart. Findings of the paper are that, most of the urban population in the study area live in dehumanizing housing environment because of poor income and high cost of house rent while those that have access to decent housing do so at abnormal cost as the market has been unable to meet the growing demand for housing at affordable price. To reduce the cost of housing and increase its affordability in the study area the paper concludes by recommending use of alternative building materials for cost reduction in building construction in the study area to increase housing affordability and healthy living environment.

Keywords

Housing affordability Alternative building materials Healthy living environment Slum 

1 Introduction

Housing is much more than a mere shelter which [1] described as a permanent or makeshift structure designed basically to protect the occupant against unwanted elements and intruders. Housing embraces the quality, comfort, social, and community amenities—all the social services and utilities that go to make a community or neighbourhood a liveable environment [2, 3] defined housing as the process of providing a large number of residential buildings on permanent bases with adequate physical infrastructure and social services in planned, decent, safe and sanitary neighbourhoods to meet the basic and special needs of the population.

Housing choice is a response to an extremely complex set of economic, social, and psychological impulses [4]. For example, some households may choose to spend more on housing because they feel they can afford to, while others may not have choice. According to [5, 6] the prime reason why people continue to live in slum is poverty or simply, the inability to afford decent and adequate housing. However, the term ‘‘affordable housing’’ is used in different ways and can have different meaning in a variety of settings. Housing is considered affordable if a household can live in it without sacrificing essentials such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care. [7] defined the term ‘affordable housing’ as that which costs no more than 30% of the income of the occupant household. However, according to [8] the Nigerian housing policy does not want any Nigerian to spend more than 20% of his or her income on housing, in which reverse has been the case. In Australia, the National Affordable Housing Summit Group developed their definition of affordable housing as housing that is, ‘reasonably adequate in standard and location for lower or middle income households and does not cost so much that a household is unlikely to be able to meet other basic needs on a sustainable basis’. In the United Kingdom, affordable housing includes social rented and intermediate housing, provided to specified eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. A commonly accepted guideline for housing affordability is a housing cost that does not exceed 30% of a household’s gross income. When the monthly carrying costs of a home exceed 30–35% of household income, then the housing is considered unaffordable for that household.

According to [9] income is the primary factor, not price and availability that determine housing affordability. In a market economy the distribution of income is the key determinant of the quantity and quality of housing obtained. Therefore, understanding affordable housing challenges requires understanding trends and disparities in income and wealth. It has become increasingly glaring that most of the urban population live in dehumanizing housing environment while those that have access to average housing do so at abnormal cost [10]. The market has been unable to meet the growing demand to supply housing stock at affordable prices. Although demand for affordable housing, particularly rental housing that is affordable for low and middle income earners, has increased, the supply has not. Potential home buyers are forced to turn to the rental market, which is under pressure.

This affordability issue has increase the number of persons per dwelling particularly in high density and slum areas of the city. It is common to find cases of more than 30 persons to a dwelling as against permissible 10 persons per dwelling in Nigeria [11]. The income of the urban poor is only enough for their sustenance, this according to [12] makes them to choose living up to 4–6 in a room so as to collectively afford the rent. Poor households cannot afford more than two rooms no matter the size of their households which is usually large in Nigeria.

2 Statement of the problem

Unaffordable housing supply by the government and public private partnership (PPP) which is as a result of cost of imported building materials in the study area affected rental value by increasing the rent value of the available housing stock beyond the reach of the urban poor. This is the primary reason why the urban poor seek refuge in the slums of the study area, hoping to move out when things improve.

According to [13] survey of the slum neighbourhoods show that about 18% of the total population in Aba metropolis live in slum at the present. This trend would seem to increase if nothing is done to improve housing affordability and supply in Aba metropolis. According to [13] Evidence abound that the rate of crime, overall health and well-being and general planning and development in these slum areas are not in consonance with the desired levels for human habitation. This study therefore seeks to uncover the causes of poor housing affordability in the study area and with a view to recommending positive solutions to that regards.

3 Methodology

The National Population Commission (NPC) 2006 Population Census puts the population of Aba South Local Government and Aba North Local Government Area at 427,421 and 106,844 respectively, a total of 534,265. Applying a growth rate of 2.85%, 2016 projected figure was arrived at as 707,614. The respondents were determined randomly by taking the sample size of the entire population. [14] came up with a model for determining a sample size from a population. His formula is defined by:
$$ {\text{n}} = {\text{N}}/( 1 + {\text{N (e)}}^{ 2} ) $$
where, n = sample size, N = population size and e = decision level. By inputting the data for this study into the formula with the decision level, e, as 0.05, the sample size n will be 400. A set of 400 questionnaires were prepared and 80 copies were randomly administered across each of the five selected slum neighborhoods in the study area namely, Ngwa Road, Obohia, Ohanku, Uratta and Omoba Road. Out of the 400 questionnaires successfully administered, 318 questionnaires were retrieved, representing a response rate of 79.5% as the slum inhabitants find it difficult to accept or return copies of questionnaire claiming we are government agents.

4 Findings

From the survey (Table 1) majority of the respondents in the study area (53.6%) live in one room or two room’s accommodation shearing kitchen and toilet facilities. Only 48.7% of the respondents are using water closet, the rest are majorly pit latrine while some do not have toilet facilities at all. Must of the water closet systems are not functional as the occupants fetch water to flush the system which is very difficult as they have water supply challenge (Table 2). Field survey as tabulated in Table 3 shows that majority of the respondents (53.5%) are traders who do petty trading close to their houses or in front of their houses, while only 7.2% of the respondents are civil servants. Other respondents are farmers, transporters and artisans. The Data in Table 4 shows that only 13.8% of the respondents earn twenty-five thousand naira and above (#25,000) monthly which is equivalent to 68USD at the present exchange rate of #364–$1, one of the reasons why they choose to live in slum where they can afford house rent and attend to other family needs at the same time. From the information in Table 7, it is observed that the majority of the respondents (82.4%) pay nothing or pay three thousand naira (#3000) at most as rent per month, reason why they continue to live in the neighborhood despite the challenges being encountered as to enable them attend to their other needs. Data in Table 5 shows that in Aba majority of the respondents live in the slum neighborhood because of closeness to their business, seconded by poverty (40.3%) which was reason why occupancy ratio of 67% of the respondents in the study area is between 4 and 6 persons per room. This is not health friendly and there is possibility of facilities being overstressed. Data in Tables 9, 10 and 11 show that the majority of the respondents are not satisfied with the environmental quality of their neighborhoods as well as the drainage and refuse disposal in their neighborhoods.
Table 1

Housing typology in the selected slums in Aba.

Source: Author’s fieldwork, August to October, 2015

S/N

Which type of house do you live in

Aba

Frequency

Percentage

1

One room

117

36.8

2

Two rooms

101

31.8

3

One bedroom flat

42

13.2

4

Two bedroom flat

41

12.9

5

Three bedroom flat

17

5.3

 

Total

318

100

Table 2

Toilet facility available in respondent’s building.

Source: Author’s fieldwork, August to October, 2015

S/N

What type of toilet facility do you have

Aba

Frequency

Percentage

1

Pit toilet

125

39.3

2

Water closet

155

48.7

3

No toilet

38

12.0

 

Total

318

100

Table 3

Occupation of the respondents.

Source: Author’s fieldwork, August to October, 2015

S/N

Occupation

Aba

Frequency

Percentage

1

Artisan

48

15.1

2

Farmer

13

4.1

3

Trader

170

53.5

4

Transporter

16

5.0

5

Civil servant

23

7.2

6

Others

48

15.1

 

Total

318

100

Table 4

How much respondents earn in a month.

Source: Author’s fieldwork, August to October, 2015

S/N

How much respondents earn in a month

Aba

Frequency

Percentage

1

N1–N5000

17

5.4

2

N5001–N10,000

42

13.2

3

N10,001–N15,000

69

21.7

4

N15,001–N20,000

83

26.1

5

N20,001–N25,000

51

16.0

6

Above N25,000

44

13.8

7

Nothing

12

3.8

 

Total

318

100

Table 5

Why respondents live in the slum neighbourhood.

Source: Author’s fieldwork, August to October, 2015

S/N

Why do you live in this neighbourhood

Aba

Frequency

Percentage

1

Poverty

128

40.3

2

Close to business

140

44.0

3

Personal reason

50

15.7

 

Total

318

100

Comparing data in Tables 5, 6, 7 and 8, it was observed that the slum inhabitants are living in the slum majorly because of poverty and closeness to their businesses, and that about 67.6% of the inhabitants are renters in the slum who could not even afford to build a shack, but pay between #1000 and #5000 monthly, while others are illegal occupants who pay nothing monthly because of their financial status. Data in Table 8 proves that the majority of the slum inhabitants live between 4 persons to 6 persons and above in a room, as a result of their monthly earning which is majorly between #1000 and #20,000 as captured in Table 4. This is the single significant factor why the occupancy ratio in the study area is very high and has affected the living environment.
Table 6

Tenure/residency status.

Source: Author’s fieldwork, August to October, 2015

S/N

Your tenure/residency status

Aba

Frequency

Percentage

1

Squatter

5

1.6

2

Renter

215

67.6

3

Owner occupier

81

25.5

4

Multiple ownership

17

5.3

 

Total

318

100

Table 7

How much respondents pay as rent in a month.

Source: Author’s fieldwork, August to October, 2015

S/N

How much do you pay as rent(month)

Aba

Frequency

Percentage

1

N1–N1000

60

18.9

2

N1001–N2000

95

29.9

3

N2001–N3000

50

15.7

4

N3001–N4000

28

8.8

5

N4001–N5000

15

4.7

6

Above N5000

13

4.1

7

Nothing

57

17.9

 

Total

318

100

Table 8

Occupancy ratio of respondents’ house.

Source: Author’s fieldwork, August to October, 2015

S/N

Occupancy ratio

Aba

Frequency

Percentage

1

1 Person

29

9.1

2

2 Person

27

8.5

3

3 Person

49

15.4

4

4 Person

61

19.2

5

5 Person

90

28.3

6

6 Person and above

62

19.5

 

Total

318

100

5 Causes of poor housing affordability in the study area

5.1 Urbanization and overpopulation

According to [13] urban centres of Nigeria, seem to be growing rapidly and planned housing no longer accommodates the growing urban population. Inadequate housing supply by the government and public private partnership (PPP) and cost of imported building materials in the study area have affected rental value by increasing the rent of the available housing stock beyond the reach of the urban poor. This is the primary reason why the urban poor seek refuge in the slums of the study area, hoping to move out when things improve.

5.2 Income

According to [9] Income is the primary determinant of housing affordability, not price and availability of housing. A recent study based on the salary structure of public servants in Nigeria showed that no public servant in Nigeria below salary grade level 13 in the federal civil service and salary grade level 16 in the Imo state civil service can afford a property costing N 4.75 m on a 25 years mortgage at 6% if he devotes 50% of his salary per annum to housing [15]. At 18% mortgage rate, it is only a federal permanent secretary or his equivalent on grade level 17 can afford the same house. This shows that in the absence of some affordable strategies, adequate housing is unaffordable to most law abiding Nigerians.

5.3 Non utilization of local building materials and technologies

It is estimated that the cost of building materials alone can take up to 70% of the total cost of a standard low-income formal housing unit. In the study area, despite the fact that they are endowed with abundant natural resources that can meet their need for building materials, they depend solely on imported building materials and technologies. These imported building materials are very expensive when converted to local currency at a ridiculous exchange rates. It is no wonder that most housing units produced by the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mass housing come at prices beyond the affordability limit of the target population.

5.4 Inadequate supply of affordable land

Land has been described as the fulcrum of all types of development in any society, the constrain poses by its inaccessibility has reduced the provision of affordable housing for about 70% of whom live below the poverty line. The case is not different in the study area as lack of adequate land for urban development particularly for low-income housing is perhaps the single most significant impediment in achieving the goal of shelter for all. In the study area scarcity of land decreases housing affordability, leads to escalating land prices, overcrowding of existing neighborhoods, illegal invasion of vacant land and growth of squatter settlements. According to [16] this trend can only be reversed by the provision of adequate and affordable land for low-income housing.

6 Some alternative local building materials in the study area

Imported building materials such as cement, steel, glass, tiles etcetera, have become conventional in the study area. The cost of these imported building materials are very high as a result of the outrageous naira to dollar exchange rate in Nigeria, which has affected adequate housing affordability by the slum inhabitants in the city Centre of Aba. Cement, steel and concrete blocks constitute the major cost of a conventional building in Nigeria. Alternatively, some local building materials such as adobe, bamboo etcetera which are available, affordable, sustainable and environmental friendly have the potentials to reduce the cost of housing construction in the study area, thereby, making adequate housing affordable.

6.1 Adobe

The cultural practice of the rural people indicates that adobe surely has been one of the most common and abundantly obtainable materials that influenced and sustained the rural villages in Africa. Local earth technologies of Africa have spanned form the employment of raw-earth, to refined earth brick. Generally employed was wattle-and-daub earth technology; a method that uses solid wooden post frame which is first made then filled with adobe balls to create a wall.

6.2 Bamboo

Bamboo is one of the oldest traditional building materials used by mankind and as a member of the grass family, unlike wood, regenerates very quickly. It is, in-fact, one of the fastest growing plants in the world, with the fastest growth rate reaching 100 cm in a 24-h period [17]. In contrast to tree harvesting, there is simply no comparison to the replenishment rate of growing bamboo. Bamboo can be harvested every 3–6 years for construction purposes (depending on the species); whereas trees range from 25 years (for softwoods) to 50 years (for hardwoods). Major Advantages of Bamboo include: Strength and Durability; Affordability. Other materials include but not limited to stone, thatch, and timber etcetera.

7 Advantages of the alternative local building materials

These alternative local building materials in the study area are not just affordable, they are also available and energy efficient. Adobe as a building material has the potential to reduce heating and cooling in a building especially in the tropics such as Nigeria. The advantages of these alternative local building materials such availability, energy efficiency and reusability makes building construction and its running cost affordable.

7.1 Availability

Traditional African building materials are abundant in nature. These materials include Earth, Stone, thatch, Coconut fibre Bamboo etc. that exist in abundant supply in all part of the study area. These materials have been used by our fathers and fore-fathers to erect buildings without addition of any other reinforcing materials and most of them are still standing till date.

7.2 Affordability

Because of high cost of these imported building materials, housing construction and rent have been unaffordable. The availability of these alternative local building materials makes housing construction and rent affordable especially for the low income earners.

7.3 Energy efficient

Environmental protective measures ensure reduction of operational energy in construction. Study according to [18] reveals that the building sectors consume more than one-third of the world’s energy, and contribute to global warming. The study shows that a typical traditional building of earth emits fewer greenhouse gases, consumes less energy, and maintains a high level of internal thermal comfort.

7.4 Ozone friendly

The built environment contributes ultimately to global warming by its high rates of greenhouse gases emission through energy use (for cooling, heating, and lighting) and construction. Local building materials projects a possibility of total reduction to a near zero carbon emission of buildings. Local building materials are eco-friendly, climate responsive and as well minimize impact of buildings on the environment.

7.5 Reusability

Reusability is a function of the age and durability of a material. Very durable materials may have many useful years of service left when the building in which they are installed is decommissioned, and may be easily extracted and reinstalled in a new site. Adobe can successfully be reused.

7.6 Biodegradability

The biodegradability of a material refers to its potential to naturally decompose when discarded. According to [19] organic materials can return to the earth rapidly, while others, like steel, take a long time. An important consideration is whether the material in question will produce hazardous materials as it decomposes, either alone or in combination with other substances. Traditional African building materials exhibit this characteristic, example include, earth, thatch, bamboo, timber etcetera.

8 Discussion of the findings

8.1 Housing affordability in the study area

Findings showed that the slum inhabitants in the study area comprise artisans, farmers, traders, transporters and civil servants who live in different types of accommodation where they pay little or nothing as rent monthly. Some live in one room, two rooms while others live in one bedroom flat, two bedrooms flat and three bedrooms flat. From Table 5 it was noted that the majority of slum inhabitants in Aba, 40.3%, claimed to live in the slum because of closeness to their business. Actually Aba is a business district, but when the nature of their businesses and amount earned per month is considered, their choice to stay in the neighbourhood translates to poverty. This agrees with the research of [5, 20, 21].

8.2 Occupancy ratio in the study area

Findings from the field survey showed that the occupancy ratio in the slum neighbourhood is very high. Analysis of Table 8 shows that majority of the slum inhabitants in Aba, 28.3%, sleep five persons to a room, 19.5% sleep six persons per room while only 9.1% of the slum inhabitants sleep alone in a room. This is in line with the finding of [12]. This high occupancy ratio is the major factor that leads to modification of structures in the slums to relieve the inhabitants of their accommodation problem. This agrees with the research finding of [10, 22, 23].

8.3 Residents’ satisfaction with their housing condition in the study area

Findings from the research generally show that the residents are not satisfied with their present housing condition in the slum of Aba and seek housing improvement in their various neighbourhoods. This dissatisfaction is the single significant factor that leads to the housing modification going on haphazardly across the length and breadth of the slum neighbourhoods in Aba. The result of this study is in line with previous research by [13, 24, 25].

9 Conclusion

Findings from the research, according to data in Tables 3 and 4 prove that the majority of the slum inhabitants are traders and artisans, who earn not more than #25,000 monthly. They therefore end up living in the slums where their income can carry their rent as well as their family upkeeps. Data in Table 8 shows that there is high occupancy ratio in the neighbourhood, where majority of the slum inhabitants live between four (4) persons and above in a room. This high occupancy ratio in the neighbourhoods has led to various housing modification and unhealthy construction in the neighbourhood. Data in Tables 9, 10 and 11 also show that the slum inhabitants are not satisfied with their environment based on the quality of refuse disposal facilities available in the neighbourhoods, drainage and overall quality of their environment, as they hope to relocate to better neighbourhoods if things improve (Figs. 1, 2, 3, 4).
Table 9

Respondents satisfaction on environmental quality

Source: Author’s fieldwork, August to October, 2015

S/N

Environmental quality

Aba

Frequency

Percentage

1

Satisfied

101

31.8

2

I don’t know

22

6.9

3

Dissatisfied

195

61.3

 

Total

318

100

Table 10

Residential satisfaction on drainage.

Source: Author’s fieldwork, August to October, 2015

S/N

Drainage

Aba

Frequency

Percentage

1

Satisfied

81

25.5

2

I don’t know

19

6.0

3

Dissatisfied

218

68.5

 

Total

318

100

Table 11

Respondents satisfaction on refuse disposal.

Author’s fieldwork, August to October, 2015

S/N

Refuse disposal

Aba

Frequency

Percentage

1

Satisfied

104

32.7

2

I don’t know

12

3.8

3

Dissatisfied

202

63.5

 

Total

318

100

Fig. 1

Occupation of respondents

(Author’s Cartographic mapping of fieldwork data, October, 2015)

Fig. 2

How much respondents earn in a month

(Author’s Cartographic mapping of fieldwork data, October, 2015)

Fig. 3

Monthly rent of respondents

(Author’s Cartographic mapping of fieldwork data, October, 2015)

Fig. 4

Occupancy ratio of respondent’s household

(Author’s Cartographic mapping of fieldwork data, October, 2015)

10 Recommendations

Literature review shows that since independence in 1960, governments in Nigeria have demonstrated commitment to addressing the housing problem in several ways. But due to cost of imported building materials and political challenges, public housing agencies have so far provided insufficient number of poor quality and unaffordable housing units in the country. The paper notes that despite several efforts towards ensuring adequate and affordable housing to the citizenry, the poor urban dwellers are still deprived access to decent and affordable housing. Policies and practices of housing provision by governmental agencies to the urban poor have failed in Nigeria. Because of income which is the major determinant of housing affordability, it has been practically impossible for a lot of urban dwellers to afford decent housing in healthy environments. The paper therefore, recommends that Government should encourage the use of local building materials in their projects to promote these materials. This has been successfully done in countries like Tanzania, and Sweden. Entrepreneurs wishing to go into the production of local building material should be encouraged through tax relief and incentives. Government should not be engage on direct housing construction and should allocate land to individuals and allow them construct their own home. Direct housing construction by the government is costly; still the quality of the houses is in doubt.

It is therefore believed that the findings and recommendations emanating from the study have advanced our understanding on the causes of poor housing affordability and possible solution to poor housing affordability in the study area. The adoption of the various recommendations made above will go a long way in tackling housing affordability problem in the study area.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ben Ugochukwu Iwuagwu
    • 1
  • Stephen Ikpendu Nwankwo
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ArchitectureAbia State PolytechnicAbaNigeria
  2. 2.Department of ArchitectureFederal University of TechnologyOwerriNigeria

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