20151113 A win for affordable housing in Nigeria 370x298In May 2015, an organisation lobbying for affordable housing in Nigeria received 197 hectares of land for low-cost housing from the federal government. This success was made possible due to support from a UK government funded and Coffey managed project, GEMS2.

The Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) had been working for many years to engage the government on the issue of affordable social housing. However, it was consistently dismissed as lacking legitimacy and credibility.

In 2011, the GEMS2 project began providing advocacy training to FEDUP. GEMS2 also helped FEDUP prepare policy position papers to improve its ability to engage effectively with the government.

The following year, GEMS2 collaborated with FEDUP to organise a forum which was hosted by the Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory and attended by construction sector representatives. The forum provided participants with a platform for discussion and access to key government agencies and ministers. The project’s endorsement of FEDUP also gave the organisation greater credibility with government.

According to FEDUP President James Ugah, the advocacy training and stakeholder meetings were crucial in enabling FEDUP to have access to previously unreachable government agencies and to be viewed as a credible organisation. As FEDUP became more effective, its advocacy efforts began paying off, and in 2013 the federal government granted FEDUP an initial seven hectares of land for use for affordable housing.

Then, in May 2015, two years after GEMS2 closed and in testimony to the project’s sustainable impact, FEDUP had its greatest win yet. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development agreed to give FEDUP freehold ownership of 197 hectares, or nearly two square kilometres, of land, on four plots across Nigeria.

Nigeria has a serious housing shortage – the country needs about 17 million additional homes. The majority of Nigerians live in shanty towns or simple concrete block and iron roof houses that they built themselves. A major cause of the housing crisis is the high cost of land. By receiving ownership of the 197 hectares FEDUP overcame a major obstacle in the creation of affordable housing. Its advocacy work is continuing across the country.

The GEMS2 project, which ran from 2010 to 2013, focused on improving incomes and job opportunities for the poor by creating systemic change in the construction and real estate sector.

GEMS2 partnered with a number of advocacy organisations, from those representing the urban poor to women’s groups, and provided these with training and mentoring. The support led to greater representation of the poor by the organisations and improved technical and financial capacity to conduct advocacy.