It is estimated that there are about 165,000 people working within the public sector with an estimated average salary of GH¢1,000.
This gives a hint to the beginning of housing unaffordability in Ghana.
So, the vision should be to tackle the problem in such ways as to improve workers productivity, as well as salary increments, not just budgeting and contracting loans to construct the so-called affordable homes, which do not support the income of a larger section of the Ghanaian population.
For this vision, many countries have shifted from affordable housing schemes to sustainable social housing strategies, which have yielded amazing results. France, the Netherlands, Finland Sweden and Austria are good examples.
Effective social housing policies can expand employment in the building sector and foster local economic development and lead also to the attainment of larger development goals in ecology, economic development, health, and social cohesion.
Social housing is viewed differently in various parts of the world. In the European context, social housing is defined in terms of tenure, the provision of the service, beneficiaries and funding arrangements.
In the African context, social housing is a housing solution that can be both a rental and a home-ownership tenure, which is provided by local government or the private sector to low-income households that cannot afford a house in the market and/or to households, which are excluded from the housing market because of their perculiar vulnerabilities.
Funding is provided by the national government and can be complemented by local government budgets.
In addition, (semi-) government agencies, such as, the National Housing Authority provides further financing arrangements to complement social housing.
Social housing is guided by the principles of availability, accessibility, affordability and the adequacy of the overall housing package. It involves various actors, including: self-help entities (mutual aid cooperatives, civic associations and social entrepreneurs); specialised non-profit producers (housing cooperatives, housing-NGOs, technical corporations linked with social movements, philanthropic organisations, etc.); and institutions supporting social housing production and habitats.
Literature and various housing policies of countries give the major players in the supply of social housing as including workers cooperatives, NGOs, housing cooperatives and the local governments.
Currently, there are 18 trade unions in Ghana, with a membership of about 500,000.
The overall goal of these unions is to seek the welfare of its members.
Therefore, if indeed these unions exist to seek the welfare of its members, then housing must be central to its agenda, since housing is a basic and essential catalyst of productivity.
There are also about 254 municipal, metropolitan and district assemblies (MMDAs) in the country with essentially huge potential revenue generation capacities, which could be used in support of the central government in the supply of housing.
It would, therefore, be necessary for Ghana, faced with the huge housing challenge, to study the models used by countries that have been able to provide homes for people of various income groups.
It should also collaborate with all in fighting the housing deficit in the country.
International models give one conclusion in solving the housing deficit.
Housing cooperatives, NGOs, workers unions and local governments, supported by the central government, must coordinate to offer real social housing that can be available, accessible and affordable to the ordinary Ghanaian.
From the international housing best practices, countries with housing deficit must consider social housing strategies.
Because the existing affordable housing projects embarked upon in the country did not benefit the population in need of housing.
Research on the issue points to certain challenges that can potentially hinder social housing policy.
Recommendations to be considered include the following.
First, there is an inadequate and unclear understanding of the housing problem in Ghana, even as more experts hold discussions on the issue, the more it becomes complex and, therefore, confusing policy alternatives are drawn.
Because there is an inadequate understanding of both the supply and demand sides of the housing market, it is vital to understand that housing provision is a network of interrelated organisational activities, which must both respond to and help shape the changing social, economic, environmental, technological and political context in which housing bodies operate.
To that end, an appropriate policy approach can be formulated.
There is, therefore, the need to carefully study the housing market to understand the problem, with social housing as an alternative policy approach.
Secondly, one of the main hindrances in the formulation of effective social housing policies is the lack of systematic data and analyses supported on the data.
It is important to establish a system that would enable the collection of data, for the periodical analyses of the data in each local unit of the country.
Ghana is a country that has a huge data challenge, as it places less importance on research. So, for the country to successfully adopt social housing policy, there is a need for investment in research and data building.
Thirdly, for the government to provide social housing, it must coordinate with NGOs, workers’ unions, pension schemes, voluntary housing bodies, the local authorities and other public bodies and seek private investors.
Finally, strengthening of the financial sector is critical in making social housing a success. Ghana has a serious challenge in providing financial instruments that support both private housing developers, individuals and groups with the disadvantage of obtaining accommodation.
The current financial sector does not have the strength and security to provide instruments that meet the needs of the excluded groups. The government should channel efforts to empower the financial sector.
The writer is a Real Estate Developer,
Writer’s E-mail: email@example.com.