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Opinion | Dec 14, 2017

Food For Thought: Should We Not Have A National Conversation About Creatively Funding An Affordable Housing Initiative - Without Overburdening Taxpayers?

It is totally unacceptable that our country apparently has as many as 300,000 street people in urban areas across Ghana.

That figure was revealed recently by the minister for gender, children and social protection, Hon. Otiko Afisa Djaba, when launching a phased initiative to get vulnerable people off urban Ghana's streets.

It is obviously data from official sources - and thus can be relied on to a certain extent. In that regard, it is heartening to learn that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is actually in the process of creating a database of street people in Ghana.

Ms. Djaba is also said to have stated that a regional census in Greater Accra Region - conducted to find out the number of street children in the region in 2011 - revealed that as many 60,495 children lived and worked on the streets of Accra.

As a people, we must harness the undoubted energy and sense of initiative possessed by the street sellers one comes across hawking sundry products to passengers in vehicles caught in traffic jams daily, along roads in urban areas of our country.

One of the most urgent needs of marginalised Ghanaians - from society's base-of-the-pyramid demographic - is decent and affordable accommodation.

If we all accept that no democracy in Africa can continue to remain stable and peaceful, if it has large numbers of its citizens living in penury at the fringes of society, then we had better come up with creative solutions to the problem of providing well-designed and well-built, affordable housing in well-planned green communities across Ghana, quickly.

Alas, the problem we face, is that far too many politicians approach the problem of effectively dealing with Ghana's huge housing deficit, from the wrong perspective - when what is needed is lateral thinking: in which we think the unthinkable and plan to do the impossible.

The key is to use rent as installment payments towards ownership - and to insist that to qualify for computer allocation of an affordable house or flat one would have to purchase a lottery ticket.

The question is: What disaster would befall our homeland Ghana, were the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) to be restructed, by regularly inviting bids from around the world to select world-class, reputable and experienced private-sector lottery companies (and their Ghanaian partners) to run the NLA for set periods of say 5 years, with the objective of providing funds for affordable housing nationwide?

An agreed percentage of the profits from the restructured NLA would go to the selected private lottery operator - as is the case in the UK for example - and the rest ring-fenced and set aside as a fund to provide private-sector real estate developers with long-term capital to build new green cities, across Ghana.

Flats and houses in such green cities would be paid for in monthly installments as rent - at rates set as low as GHc250-500 per month, so that they are eventually paid for between 25-30 years: which, incidentally, is the length of time one can borrow long-term infrastructure funds for from Japan (at 3 percent).

Furthermore, are there not cutting-edge overseas construction companies such as Italy's Styl-Comp (Via Stezzano 1624050 Zanica (BG) Italia, P.IVA 00211080163, Telephone +39 035 671 013, Fax +39 035 672 265, Email [email protected]), which could partner Ghanaian entrepreneurs in the real estate sector, to build prefabricated buildings nationwide in new green cities, I ask?

And could we not kill two birds with one stone, as it were, by using the innovative precast concrete technology of companies like Styl-Comp to build new dormitories, classrooms, dining halls, modern toilets, bathhouses, etc., etc. for second-cycle and tertiary educational institutions nationwide? Ditto quickly build hospitals and clinics nationwide? Haaba.

We must definitely have a national conversation about how to creatively fund an affordable housing initiative, without overburdening taxpayers by borrowing money at ridiculous rates of interest, and mortgaging the future of our younger generations in the process.

Finally, that was this blog's humble two pesewas. What is yours - on the subject of finding creative ways of funding an affordable housing initiative in Ghana: without overburdening taxpayers unnecessarily? Food for thought.

Kofi Thompson
Kofi Thompson, © 2017

This author has authored 265 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: KofiThompson

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