ABUJA, NIGERIA —
Nigeria's real estate market has been expanding rapidly, but so has the number of people in need of housing in Africa's most populous country. Nigeria's Central Bank says the country has a growing deficit of at least 22 million homes.
Fashion designer Precious Nwajiaku moved to Abuja in late January in search of better opportunities. Without much money, she settled for a one-room apartment in a sandy village on the outskirts of Abuja.
She said she paid $300 for one year's rent.
For that budget, Nwajiaku said, the house does not even have basic comforts such as water and electricity.
"You pay for water, there's no water inside,” she said. “As you can see there's no light, there's nothing, there's no good road."
Nigeria’s real estate market grew by 3.85% in the second quarter of last year, its highest rate in six years.
Experts say cities such as Lagos and Abuja have the kind of buildings and architecture that are in high demand.
As demand for higher-priced real estate increases, though, access to affordable housing is more difficult for millions of citizens.
Nigeria's housing disparity reflects the country's huge economic divide.
The World Bank says 22 million people in Nigeria do not have the housing they need, the highest number in the world.
For years Nigerian authorities have been pledging to address the issue but without much result. In 2019, government officials pledged to supply 1 million affordable houses each year to help meet the demand.
Housing development advocate, Festus Adebayo said the housing programs are not keeping up with Nigeria’s population growth each year, though.
"If Nigeria is producing to the rate of 5 million every year, how many units of houses has the government or private sector produced in a year?” he said.
Adebayo runs an advocacy campaign for affordable houses and hosts an annual gathering and housing show in Abuja. The show aims to bring government and industry together to address the lack of affordable housing.
He said through the show, hundreds of citizens have been given suitable homes at affordable prices.
He warned that housing gaps will worsen by the time Nigeria's population doubles to 400 million, as it is estimated to do by experts in 2050.
Property developer Banji Adeyemo cites several factors for the high cost of building homes.
"This is an era where foreign exchange has taken a new toll entirely and most of the construction materials have foreign input,” he said. “Governments needs to bring down the cost of land and it will reflect on the cost of production by developers for houses. Because other materials you don't have control over them."
Nigerian lawmakers this month began considering a bill that calls for rent to be paid monthly instead of once a year to ease the financial burden on tenants.
Experts say unless more houses are built, the gap will only widen, and millions will lack affordable shelter.