The joint venture housing scheme between the Social Security and National Trust (SSNIT) and Metro Ikam Sdn Bhd of Malaysia has been priced out of the reach of the ordinary worker.
According to a brochure advertising the Meridian Gardens Project, a Type A- two bedroom house will sell between $20,000 (186 million cedis) and $22,000 (204 million cedis), a type B -three bedroom house will sell between $30,000 (279 million cedis) and 35,000 (325 million cedis), while a type C-four bedroom house will go for $75,000 (697.5 million cedis) and $80,000 ( 744 million cedis), using last week's exchange rates.
A conservative estimate shows that a worker must be earning around a 100 million cedis annually to be able to afford such a house. These prices have therefore virtually ruled out those in low-income earning groups who are contributors to SSNIT scheme. The high cost of the house also conflicts with the government's highly publicized plan to provide affordable houses to Ghanaians.
In the 2005 budget, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Kwadwo Baah- Wiredu said government would build 5,000 houses nationwide over a five year-period. The two -phase scheme will start at Ashalley Botwe in Accra with over 300 houses, 600 in Kumasi, 400 in Second-Takoradi, 300 in Tamale and 700 in 20 selected district capitals.
And just last week the Minister of Works and Housing, Hackman Owusu Agyeman announced that government would work out a scheme to subsidise interest rates on mortgage houses to ensure that workers acquired their own houses after retirement. He was speaking at the sod-cutting ceremony of the controversial Meridian Housing project at Tema community 19.
The minister rightly said that the present cost of building would make it difficult for an average salary earner to put up a house and cope with the ever-rising cost of living.
In a reaction to the 2005 budget statement, the Integrated Social Development Center (ISODEC) argues that the government's policy on housing as contained in the 2005 budget, though modest, lacks focus on the poor and makes no provision for the more vulnerable and needy in the society.
"The question is how many of the middle and lower income earners today in Ghana can afford these houses?", ISODEC asks.
In the view of ISODEC, government's economic policy for 2005 also failed to address the problem of slums in the country. ISODEC says in 2001 the slum population for Ghana was estimated at 4,993,000 people, growing at an annual rate of 1.83 percent per annum in all the major cities of the country and is expected to reach 5.8 million by 2010. This rising slum population calls for careful planning if Ghana is to achieve MDG 7, which states that by 2020, a significant improvement would have been achieved in the lives of at least a 100 million people. "But to meet this target requires a national urban policy, slum upgrading, institutional strengthening and budgetary provision", ISODEC points out.