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Over the last four decades, the world has experienced a phenomenal growth in the rate of urbanization both in developed and developing countries. The United Nations (1993) estimates showed that by mid-1990, 43 percent (2.3 billion) of the world's population lived in urban areas. In addition, the United Nations projections further showed that by 2025, more than three-fifth of the world's population would live in urban areas, 77 percent of which would be in developing countries.

Similarly, Jenks (2000) estimates show that for every one person now living in cities in developed countries, there are two in the cities of the developing countries, and by projection, it is expected that in the next 30 years this ratio will rise to I in 4, indicating that 90% of the growth in urban population will be taking place in developing countries.

In the African context, Nigeria is remarkable for its high percentage of urbanization. For the periods that figures are available, the annual rates of urbanization in Nigeria were 4.9%, 5.13%, and 6% in 1965-1970, 1970-1975 and 1975-1980 respectively. Today, Imo is becoming known as one of the fastest growing city in Nigeria. One of the consequences of the unprecedented increase of urban population is an exceptionally high demand for housing which puts a great pressure on land. A United Nations study on land use in urban areas of developing countries underscored this problem when it observed that:

The demand for urban land is growing, yet the supply is both genuinely and artificially limited. This situation radically increases land costs and, in turn, consumes scarce investment capital better used elsewhere. It also irrationally distorts patterns of urban growth and development. This latter fact leads directly to a third round of undesirable consequences; as the urban infrastructure becomes more costly and inefficient, and institutions and facilities fail to provide adequate services to their populations, urban social and economic imbalances and injustices are intensified, the quality of the total urban environment erodes and it becomes difficult to harmonize man's activities with the components of the natural environment (United Nations, 1975: 4).

Thus, the pressure on urban land arising from rapid urban population growth in a situation where there is limited supply of serviced land, poses many problems, especially when there are competing uses for the land. Where the supply of serviced land for urban uses cannot meet increasing demand, the tendency is often the indiscriminate conversion of lands meant for other uses, especially for agriculture and environmental protection at the periphery of the city's built-up area to uses that are at variance with the conceptual plans of such towns and cities.  The implication of the reality of limited supply of serviced lands for urban uses in the face of ever-increasing demand for such land is the emergence of land speculation at the peri-urban locations which drives up land prices in these locations.

Furthermore, the high cost of land in urban centres plus the imposition of regulatory standards make it difficult for the poor who are in the majority to afford even the conventional types of dwelling units. The efforts of the poor to provide shelter for themselves results in the phenomenon of squalid squatter settlements which have become a distinctive feature of the margins of cities in developing countries.


Housing need, one of the three basic human needs is considered in this project as a social problem. Like many other major social problems such as poverty, crime, population growth in relation to natural resources and housing problem has five major characteristics, namely; social causation, evaluation as a problem, citizen concern, people affected, that is the sufferer and actions taken so far to alleviate or reduce housing problem. Social policy may be define as the guidelines, decision, programme or plans and positions of government and public authorities intended to resolve or reduce the problem of housing. Social policy precedes social action which is largely interpreted through the social service. Social service depends upon financial and other resources. Besides looking at social policy on housing, an attempt will be made to examine actions taken by government to influence housing situation. In any area of social policy a major problem is the definition and interpretation of need. This is more difficult in the area of housing because of the wide range of objective and factors that must be taken into account by those responsible for the formulation, and implementing policy as well as the varied needs of the sufferer of housing problem and professionals in the housing industry. It is however useful to make a distinction between housing need and effective demands.

Housing need for government officials and planners is essentially the extent to which existing housing accommodation fails to meet in standard. This is regardless of the ability to pay or any peculiar preferences. In the Marxian term, housing need is determined by the absolute requirement


The aim of the study is to examine urban growth and housing problems in Nigeria, the effects of urban residential housing demand in Owerri municipal area on rural lands and livelihood activities of the people in the rural areas of the city with a view to generating a data base for developing informed and appropriate policies for coping with the changes being induced in the region.

This aim will be achieved through the following specific objectives:

(i)     To examine the general land use plan for the whole of imo with a view to identify and quantify which area have been set aside for urban development, agriculture and environmental protection (green belt)

(ii)    To identity the trend in residential housing demand and supply situations in owerri

(iii)    To identify the areas in the Owerri into which people are moving to find affordable land and housing in Imo


In specific terms, this study seeks answers to the following questions:

(i)     What is the general land use plan for the whole of the Owerri, in other words, which areas have been set aside for urban development and which areas are to remain rural and largely agricultural, and what is the sequence in the master plan for their development?

(ii)    What is the demand and supply situation of housing in Imo, especially residential housing?

(iii)    Which areas of the Owerri is providing vent for the pressure of housing in Imo?


Housing is a broad concept encompassing the structures that comprise the living and working habitats of people. Thus, housing as a concept covers building artefacts for residential, industrial, commercial, recreational, educational, health, administrative and other uses. This study however, focuses on the residential dimension of housing, especially for medium and low income people, because it appears to be the one most in demand in Imo right now. In terms of spatial scope, the study covers Owerri where the intensity of housing demand is very high. What effects does the invasion of rural areas of the Imo by those seeking more affordable land for housing have on the use of land and livelihood activities in these rural areas?


This study is focused on examining the effect of urban growth and housing problems in Imo in general and in the capital, Owerri, in particular. This is a departure from most previous studies that have focused on such aspects as resettlement, housing problems, population growth, etc. within specific settlement without specifically considering the effects of these variables on the hinterlands of the urban centres concerned.

The present study intends to extend our understanding of rural-urban relationships in a developing society like Nigeria. The findings of the study would be of importance to urban policy makers both in the public and private sectors. Administrators in charge of development control and regulation of land in the rural urban fringe would find the information generated in this study useful in the process of planning, development and management of land in the owerri in particular and other new towns located within a prosperous agricultural territory in general.

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