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Shelter is one of the basic necessities of life and offers protection against inclement weather to the occupants. One of the problems in the provision of public housing in Nigeria and indeed other developing countries is that of the low quality of housing. Most governments have done well in public housing provision, but still, qualitative housing with attendant safety have continued to elude the populace. Qualitative housing facilitates and ensures housing safety. Attempt was made to examine the flaws in the provision of public housing in terms of quality and safety and explore the quality of construction and materials used in the Talba housing estate along Bida-Minna road, Minna Niger state. The methodology adopted in the study area empirical observation to ascertain the conditions of the housing units. The findings show that generally many of materials used are substandard and there is poor quality construction of the housing units in the study area. The paper opines that responses to the public housing problems (quality and safety wise) had failed in Nigeria largely due to the use of non-professionals or quacks likewise poor mechanisms of monitoring the implementation and construction process. The paper concludes that the use of standard materials and qualitative construction is a major antidote to quality and safe housing provision problems in Nigeria while recommending participatory process involving complex systems of interaction between institutions, professionals, artisans and residents.
Keywords: Public, Quality, Safety, Housing, Assessment
Housing can be defined as the process of providing a large number of residential buildings on a permanent basis with adequate physical infrastructure and social amenities, (services) in planned, decent, safe, and sanitary neighbourhoods to meet the basic and special needs of the population especially the low and medium income earners (NHP: 2004). Adequate, safe and qualitative housing therefore should provide protection from the negative elements, minimize the risk of disease and injury, and contribute to the physical, mental and social wellbeing of the occupants. Housing quality is a matter of great concern, especially in Less Developed Countries (LDCs) and developing countries like Nigeria. The magnitude of the housing needs of the populace in these countries rises day by day. Generally, most third world cities possesses one or more slums as a reflection of the level and context of the urban housing crisis, the degree of urban social impoverishment and the contradictions in the overall content of the urbanization processes.
Talba housing estate which is yet to be occupied as at the time of survey has attracted a lot of comments on the ability of the contractors handling the project over the quality and safety (from inclement weather) of the eventual occupiers. On the first windstorm, most of the structures that had reached an advanced stage started giving way.
The paper aims at assessing the quality of work done and materials used for the project and possibly suggest ways of improving the quality of such projects consequently ensuring the safety of the eventual occupants.
2.0 A REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
Public housing for the fact that it is usually prototype for a particular social cadre, most times is targeted towards the low income earners and the poor as the wealthy can afford better accommodation elsewhere.
Omuojime, E. O (2000) & Babade, T. (2003) cited in Atser, J. et al (2007) agreed that Nigerian Housing Policy thrust had not often been favourable to the poor and the low income earners. Such houses are rarely qualitative as the poor barely have the voice to question its conformity to design requirements and construction.
Olatubara, C.O. et al, (2006) asserted that conformance-to-design requirement approach has often been used to define quality in construction and the evaluation of this commences immediately after occupation.
They are of the opinion that if the housing sector is to improve the quality of the residential buildings it produces in meeting these needs and expectations, it then must take a proactive approach to understanding consumers’ views on the quality of the housing being produced.
Furthermore, they asserted that assessment of the performance of the housing sector should therefore be a matter of particular interest to the public and private sectors in seeking to increase the performance of dwelling houses and maximise value for their money. The achievement of the quality in any housing project is a key that contributes to the ultimate success of that project and that is facilitated by regulatory measures.
Quoting Precious, N. et al (2007), experience has shown that despite the existence of regulatory measures by the government to manage housing development, unregulated housing has created negative impacts that adversely affect both the quality of buildings and the living environment. In most cases, the statutory procedures and standards specified in the relevant laws are not taken into consideration in the process of providing accommodation.
Michael K. et al (2010) observed that there are several issues that need to be resolved when considering the assessment of housing quality. Two of the most important to specify are the contextual level and outcome areas of housing quality. The contextual level recognises that the health, safety and sustainability outcomes observed are a product of dwelling (housing) related factors as well as contributions from individual and household characteristics and features of the community and neighbourhood within wider regional, national and global contexts.
In their assessment tools developed for England and New Zealand, they are of the opinion that a housing quality-assessment tool should only measure features of the dwelling itself. This requirement immediately creates boundary issues that need to be resolved. Many health and safety hazards associated with housing can be seen as an interaction between the features of the house and the behaviour of the occupants.
The overall goal of developing a housing quality-assessment tool is to improve housing, but this goal is often achieved indirectly. One example according to Ormandy 2002, is the English Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HH&SRS), which is the statutory prescribed method for improving rental housing conditions via (the threat of) enforcement action by local councils. He further opined that there are few other examples of housing quality assessment that explicitly focus on the improvement of housing conditions which have resultant health, safety, and sustainability outcomes.
The utility of housing quality-assessment tools is currently limited by their lack of widespread use and inconsistency across jurisdictions. Internationally, the approach to assessing housing quality could be described as fragmented, reflecting a lack of national agreement about what is important in housing quality. The USA, for example has several different housing hazard assessment protocols; (Jacobs, 2006). This situation can be contrasted to international agreed standards regarding sustainability; (Jacobs 2008).
Ezenagu, (2000) subsumed all by asserting that housing is an evolutionary and participatory process involving complex systems of interaction between institutions, professionals, artisans and residents.
2.1 TRENDS IN THE PROVISION OF PUBLIC HOUSING
The housing programmes of successive Nigerian governments covering six major development periods are summarised. The periods include – the pre-independence period; First National Development Plan period (1962-68); Second National Development Plan Period (1970-74); Third National Development Plan Period (1975-80); Fourth National Development Plan Period (1980-85); Post Fourth Plan Period (1985-1990); and the current democratic dispensation.
2.1.1 Pre-Independence (Colonial Era)
Public Housing in Nigeria evolved during the colonial regime when the colonial administration embarked on the provision of staff Quarters for its staff who could not build their own houses. In most Regional and Provincial capitals, both Junior and Senior Staff Quarters were built. However, no effort was made by Governments to build houses either for sale or rent to the general public; Olayiwola et al (2010). State intervention in the form of direct housing construction evolved during this period.
2.1.2 First National Development Plan (1962-68)
The post- independent period saw the development and extension of the GRAs and the introduction of special public housing programme exclusively for the senior public servants at federal and state levels.
2.1.3 Second National Development Plan (1970-74)
This is the first post civil war plan. This plan witnessed the period of reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation. It was unique because government accepted housing as part of its social and political responsibilities. It emphasizes housing provision for all social groups whether displaced or not from the competitive housing market.
To fulfil the aim and objectives of the housing policy during the second development plan period, the military administration made the following pronouncements:
(1) “Immediate construction of housing units by the Federal Military and state Military Governments for rent at affordable prices”.
(2) “Increase in the construction of houses for government workers”.
(3) “Development and expansion of loan for private housing (This case favoured the most privileged social group who already had access to the banks through collateral security and employment stability)”.
(4) “Increase in investment in local production of cement and other necessary building material. Increase in the importation of cement to supplement the needs created in the housing construction sectors”.
At the completion of the plan period government was only able to produce
(a). Ninety Staff Quarters of various sizes in Lagos area.
(b). Four Blocks of Flats as transit residence for officials of the Ministry of External Affairs.
2.1.4 Third National Development Plan (1975 – 80)
This period is associated with real emergence of public housing. The federal government produced the first National Housing Policy for the country. During this plan period, government made policy statement on the need to bring relief especially to the low-income groups, by obtaining a situation where no urban worker paid more than 20% of his/her income on house rent.
The rise in the oil economy and local political pressures influenced the reappraisal of the National Housing Policy in 1976. Similarly, the installation of the Shagari civilian regime saw another reappraisal of the housing programme. The Federal Government involved itself in direct housing construction through the Federal Housing Authority, which was established in 1973.
2.1.5 Fourth National Development Plan (1981-85)
The Plan emphasised, among others, the need to balance development of the different sectors of the economy and of the various geographic areas of the country. To this effect, housing received more commitment on the part of the Federal and State Governments through massive investment in the housing sector during this plan period.
2.1.6 Fifth Plan Period (1986-1990)
At the end of the Fourth Plan period, the foundation for sustainable growth and development was yet to be laid. The productive base of the economy and sources of government revenue were yet to be diversified. The economy did not have its own driving force and was therefore highly susceptible to external shocks (Okojie 2002: 362).
With the enormity and perpetual nature of housing problems facing the country, the Government nonetheless, took another look at housing and thus launched the National Housing Policy in February 1991. This was a comprehensive document aimed at “ensuring that all Nigerians own or have access to quality and safe housing accommodation at affordable cost by the year 2000 A.D.” This goal is consistent with the United Nations resolution of Housing for all by the year 2000A.D. The Policy also suffered major setbacks in its implementation.
It is however important to note that 1994 marked a rethink of the Military Government to addressing housing provision. Hence in an Address on January 20, 1994 by the Minister of Works and Housing titled “The Beginning of a New Dawn” unveil a National Housing Programme for 1994-1995 to be executed under the Ministry. To ensure proper execution of this programme, the Government formed a 16- man committee to study the National Housing Policy in terms of its provision, compliance and implementation.
2.1.7 The Democratic Era (1999 to Date)
Federal Government set up a new Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to deal with housing and urban development which demonstrates government’s commitment to continue to assume a paternalistic approach to housing. Federal Government also embarked on the construction of prototype housing scheme in order to increase the nation’s housing stock and to set a minimum standard of construction. The scheme was on a revolving fund basis and ensures that proceeds from sale of completed units are ploughed back into the scheme.
2.2 PROBLEMS OF PUBLIC HOUSING PROVISION UNDER THE PLAN PERIODS
The review of government activities in housing provision was made to highlight the nature of responses to the nation’s housing problems. However, in terms of physical manifestation, the entire programme fell short of the targets set in each Plan Period. The quality of housing produced is as important as the number produced in solving the housing problem. Our past and current housing programmes have not paid adequate attention to quality and other aspect of housing need. The reasons were because of the following flaws in the implementation of the earlier stated programmes. These include the following;
2.2.1 Poor quality construction
The poor performance of contractors posed a serious problem to housing delivery as is the case of this study area (Talba Estate). This is usually aggravated by minimal, inconsistent or at worst inexistent monitoring and supervision. Houses were often poorly constructed hence endangering the intending users’ safety.
2.2.2 High monetary value
Houses built by the Federal Government and the State Housing Corporation that are meant for the low-income group (i.e. low cost housing) are very expensive and far from the financial reach of the low income earners. e.g. The 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom flats in a sister housing estate (M.I. Wushishi Housing Estate) also in Minna goes for #1.9 million and #2.9 million respectively as at the time of survey.
According to Atser, J. et al (2007), some of the housing units in Uyo were not occupied because the concepts, design and locations of those housing are at variance with the cultural needs and developmental aspirations of the target population. Many of the housing units especially the Federal Units were located at the urban fringes or outside the functional and active boundaries of the cities. This could be attributed to the availability of vast land for such projects. Ibadan, Ondo, Akure, Ife and Osun are striking examples.
2.2.4 Diversified strategy of housing construction
There are other means of encouraging home construction, e.g. site and service scheme, core housing scheme etc, apart from direct housing construction. Attention in this regard was less during the National Development Plan periods; Olayiwola et al, (2010).
2.2.5 Ineffective Programme of Action and machinery
Many government measures introduced in the past were not accompanied by effective programme of action and appropriate institutional arrangement for their execution. Examples of recommendations that were not implemented include the affordable land, especially for the poor, the provision of locally produced building materials like burnt bricks at affordable prices and supervision of construction. These recommendations will lessen the total cost of owning a house for the poor.
2.2.6 Narrow Conception of Housing Need
Olayiwola et al, (2010) were of the opinion that adequate attention was not placed on housing quality, safety and other aspects of housing need in the periods before the 1990s. Housing need in Nigeria is reflected in the socio-cultural group in the country and therefore varies with each ethnic group. The focus of housing programmes in the past particularly the low-income housing has not adopted the broad interdependence of housing need.
2.2.7 Inadequate Data Base
Housing need is the extent to which the supply of adequate housing falls short of the demand of household in terms of their psychological and physiological needs. Data needed to establish housing need in
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