Sus­tain­able ur­ban­iza­tion re­quires vi­able ur­ban master plan

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents -

In Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria's spe­cial se­ries, “Voices for Sus­tain­able Ur­ban­i­sa­tion,” Bachir Abba, Ag. Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer, Ur­ban Shel­ter Lim­ited, speaks on the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties of sus­tain­able ur­ban­i­sa­tion in Nige­ria. He also high­lights the projects of Ur­ban Shel­ter, which are de­signed to con­trib­ute to the uni­ver­sal goal of pro­vid­ing hous­ing for all. Mr. Abba holds a dual Master's de­gree in Struc­tural and Me­chan­i­cal En­gi­neer­ing from Drexel Univer­sity, Philadel­phia, USA; and has an ex­ec­u­tive cer­tifi­cate in Real Es­tate Man­age­ment & Fi­nance from Har­vard Univer­sity. Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria (FN): How does Ur­ban Shel­ter view the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties of sus­tain­able ur­ban­i­sa­tion in Nige­ria through hous­ing?

Bachir Abba (BA): The United Na­tions re­ported that an ad­di­tional 2.5 bil­lion peo­ple are ex­pected to live in ur­ban ar­eas by 2050. This will re­quire ef­fec­tive ur­ban plan­ning pro­grammes for cities, where nearly 54% of the world pop­u­la­tion cur­rently re­sides. The re­port em­pha­sizes that Africa and Asia "will face nu­mer­ous chal­lenges in meet­ing the needs of their grow­ing ur­ban pop­u­la­tions, in­clud­ing hous­ing, in­fra­struc­ture, trans­porta­tion, en­ergy as well as ba­sic ser­vices such as ed­u­ca­tion and health­care." Ac­cord­ing to John Wil­moth, di­rec­tor of the UN's pop­u­la­tion di­vi­sion, new de­vel­op­ment should pri­or­i­tize com­pre­hen­sive smart towns with suit­able in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices for all res­i­dents.

Ma­jor cities in Nige­ria such as La­gos, Kano and Abuja, among oth­ers, have seen tremen­dous in­flux of peo­ple within the past five years. The ma­jor rea­sons for this mi­gra­tion to cities are pre­dom­i­nantly poverty and in­se­cu­rity. Man­ag­ing ur­ban ar­eas has since be­come the most im­por­tant chal­lenge for govern­ment in­sti­tu­tions.

I be­lieve part­ner­ing with the pri­vate sec­tor, by cre­at­ing in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, can pro­vide re­lief to the govern­ment in man­ag­ing our ur­ban ex­pan­sion. For the past 30 years, Ur­ban Shel­ter has been de­vel­op­ing in­clu­sive hous­ing es­tates with ap­pro­pri­ate in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices. De­vel­op­ments like ours will not only help in re­duc­ing the hous­ing deficit, they will also help or­ga­nize the ex­pan­sion of our cities. In­no­va­tive part­ner­ship agree­ments like the ones Ur­ban Shel­ter is in­volved, in­clud­ing Land Swap, Es­tate De­vel­op­ment Loans, Site and Ser­vices, and Af­ford­able Hous­ing Schemes should be en­cour­aged in or­der for the coun­try to meet the rel­e­vant UN Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals.

FN: What are the key projects of Ur­ban Shel­ter Lim­ited?

BA: Ur­ban Shel­ter Lim­ited is a prop­erty de­vel­op­ment com­pany of about 30 years. We are fo­cused on pro­vid­ing hous­ing for all. This means we de­velop res­i­den­tial es­tates for the lower in­come, mid­dle in­come and the high-end con­sumers. We have a shel­ter for ev­ery­body that walks in through our doors.

In the low in­come di­vi­sion, we are cur­rently de­vel­op­ing the Brick City Es­tate, lo­cated in Kubwa, Abuja. It is a 1,200-units fam­ily es­tate, sell­ing from N5 mil­lion. It has been a high­light in the FCT. The pri­mary ma­te­rial utilised in build­ing the houses is the burnt red bricks. They are aes­thet­i­cally ap­peal­ing, made from lo­cal ma­te­ri­als, cheap, durable, and pro­vide fire pro­tec­tion, ther­mal and sound in­su­la­tion, and mois­ture ab­sorp­tion. I think this is one of the rea­sons the project has been very suc­cess­ful.

In the mid­dle in­come, we are de­vel­op­ing the Prom­e­nade Res­i­dences, which is a 600-house es­tate lo­cated in Loko­goma District – about ten min­utes' drive from the Cen­tral Area. The project was specif­i­cally de­signed for mid­dle in­come young pro­fes­sion­als. It con­sists of two bed­room semi-de­tached, three bed­room semi-de­tached and four bed­room semi-de­tached units, as well as ter­races, start­ing from N15 mil­lion. The Prom­e­nade Res­i­dences prom­ise to be the epit­ome in mod­ern con­tem­po­rary liv­ing, blend­ing the out­doors and in­doors.

We haven't for­got­ten about the high­end de­mand of cities like Abuja and La­gos. We are de­vel­op­ing the Bellavue Res­i­dences, sit­u­ated right by the big Life Camp Round­about, in the heart of Abuja. The 200 units, lux­u­ri­ous de­vel­op­ment was de­signed as the ideal set­ting for a priv­i­leged life­style. With prices start­ing from N50 mil­lion, the es­tate com­prises three-bed­room con­do­mini­ums, fourOne bed­room Vil­las & Town­houses, and fivebed­room Vil­las. It has been an iconic project in this town. More­over, we are de­vel­op­ing the Oniru Con­dos, lo­cated in Vic­to­ria Is­land, La­gos. It is a su­perb, high­end res­i­den­tial tower by Land­mark, off the coast of La­gos. The apart­ments are de­signed for di­rect sale and for long-term leases by com­pa­nies and in­sti­tu­tions.

can­not talk about Ur­ban Shel­ter's projects with­out men­tion­ing the Queen Amina Gar­den de­vel­op­ment. Over 190,000 sqm, it will be Abuja's new­est des­ti­na­tion for fam­ily fun. Lo­cated on the banks of Jabi Lake, the Queen Amina Gar­den takes Abuja's unique gar­den cul­ture to the next level. A se­lec­tion of ex­cep­tional hos­pi­tal­ity, pre­mium food ven­dors, con­ve­nient re­tail out­lets, a mini golf course and other sport­ing fa­cil­i­ties, and lush sur­round­ings all come to­gether to cre­ate the best leisure ex­pe­ri­ence in the na­tion's cap­i­tal.

This is in few words some of the de­vel­op­ments Ur­ban Shel­ter is work­ing on. More de­tails can be found on our web­site.

FN: Within the con­text of the global agenda that puts hous­ing at the cen­tre of ur­ban poli­cies, what are your rec­om­men­da­tions for pol­icy re­form to drive sus­tain­able ur­ban­i­sa­tion in Nige­ria?

BA: First, the process of ac­quir­ing land should be made fool-proof and sim­ple. An open bid sys­tem should be put in place. In this in­stance, sev­eral lands owned by the govern­ment should be ad­ver­tised to the pub­lic. Some cri­te­ria should be set for bid­ders to meet. The high­est best bids should win. Land al­lo­ca­tions should be elim­i­nated al­to­gether.

Sec­ond, the process of reg­is­ter­ing land ti­tles should be made sim­pler and less costly. Cur­rently, it costs 4% of land value to reg­is­ter with Abuja Geo­graphic In­for­ma­tion Sys­tems. This is ex­ceed­ingly high – eas­ily among the high­est in the world. This cost should be re­duced to less than 1%.

Third, the Min­is­ter of the Fed­eral Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory signs all deeds for per­fec­tions. The process takes far too long be­cause of ad­min­is­tra­tive bot­tle­necks. If the cri­te­ria have been met, deeds should be signed in max­i­mum four weeks. (I be­lieve the sign­ing could be del­e­gated.)

Fourth, the cost and time for se­cur­ing de­vel­op­ment ap­provals should be min­i­mized. I am glad that the cur­rent Di­rec­tor of the FCT De­vel­op­ment Con­trol depart­ment is al­ready work­ing to­wards this. All construction ap­provals should be given in 10 - 14 days, where the cri­te­ria have been met. Also, the fee should be re­viewed down­ward, strik­ing a bal­ance between af­ford­abil­ity – ul­ti­mately for hous­ing con­sumers – and needed in­come for the au­thor­i­ties.

Fi­nally, and this strikes at the core of the topic, sus­tain­able ur­ban­i­sa­tion re­quires vi­able ur­ban master plan, which should be reg­u­larly re­viewed. This will en­able plan­ners to ad­dress ur­ban sprawl be­fore it be­comes un­con­trol­lable. Sus­tain­able ur­ban­iza­tion also re­quires in­fras­truc­tural pro­vi­sions in an­tic­i­pa­tion of ur­ban growth in or­der to san­i­tize the over­all de­vel­op­ment of ur­ban ar­eas over time.

All construction ap­provals should be given in 10 - 14 days, where the cri­te­ria have been met. Also, the fee should be re­viewed down­ward, strik­ing a bal­ance between af­ford­abil­ity – ul­ti­mately for hous­ing con­sumers – and needed in­come for the au­thor­i­ties.

Bachir Abba, Ag. Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer, Ur­ban Shel­ter Lim­ited

Pro­to­type of Prom­e­nade Es­tate, Loko­goma District, Abuja - a mid­dle in­come de­vel­op­ment of Ur­ban Shel­ter

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