The Government of Liberia is lagging far behind its African counterparts, especially its Mano River Union (MRU) neighbors, in relation to the provision of decent and affordable housing units that could bring dignity to the lives of Liberians, especially the unprivileged, and help curb the high level of slum life in the country.
Though it may be said that the country had gone through a 14-year civil conflict that left its infrastructure devastated, the government is yet to comment on the development of housing units that would help better the lives of Liberians, as has been initiated by governments in other West African countries like Ghana and La Côte D’Ivoire.
Liberians have craved decent homes for years and experts in the housing sector have continually said that increased housing activities stimulate economic growth through the growth of supplementary industries such as the provision of building materials and real estate, creating employment for professionals in these fields.
The Liberian Government has prioritized power generation and infrastructural projects like roads and bridges, which according to them will boost economic growth; the housing sector in contrast has been neglected and benefited from only minimal investment since the government came into power.
In comparison, the Ghanaian government began the construction of about 9,120 housing units to bridge their housing gap, though it is no secret that the Ghanaian economy is bigger than that of Liberia, the fact remains that they continue to provide basic necessities, like housing, for their citizens.
The Ghanaian government disclosed at the time that a total of 5,000 of the units would be constructed by the Brazilian company OAS at a cost of US$200M, the government said that this could be the biggest housing development scheme since the country gained its independence.
The government of La Côte D’Ivoire began the construction of 60,000 subsidized units, through a Public Private Partnership deal they signed two years ago. The project will be successfully completed by 2015. The cost of the construction of the 60,000 units is estimated at US$856M, which is about 428 billion Franc CFA (FCFA). An additional one hundred billion FCFA program aims to build 5,000 housing units for Police Officers, gendarmes, and the Republic Forces of La Côte D’Ivoire
The Ivoirian authority underscored that housing applicants must be Ivoirian citizens whose total household income is under 400,000 FCFA, and they cannot own or co-own property in Côte D’Ivoire.
The estimated shortage of housing in the Ivory Coast is put at 20,000 a year, half of which is in Abidjan alone. Housing for low-income households, especially young people between the ages of 25 and 40, is a priority for the Ivoirian government, which has decided to build about 60,000 subsidized housing units by 2015.
Meanwhile, the Liberian government, through the national Housing Authority (NHA), some years ago drafted a program for the construction of 5000 affordable housing units and the creation of a home ownership and mortgage program for low-to-middle income earners.
The government noted then that the program aims to ensure the achievement of economic justice by making a large quantity of affordable housing available to Liberians in the low-to-middle income brackets for home ownership within the next 3-6 years.
It proposed to start a new trend of well-zoned and better planned housing developments across Liberia, to counteract the current pattern of rapid unplanned urban sprawl and slum creation due to a prior lack of a policy focus and poor inter-agency coordination
Housing is a social good, an asset which promotes individual and collective dignity, it ensures privacy and security. In the economic sphere, housing contributes to employment creation and, labor productivity, community economic development and capital formation at both the micro and macroeconomic levels. Housing also has impact on environmental management.
Housing is an important component of the economic and social development of Liberia and the world at large. It is an important part of national infrastructural development and is pivotal to national competitiveness and economic growth. Availability of affordable housing remains one of Liberia’s most pressing social/development problems.
The NHA noted that while some middle income and most upper income housing are comparable to that in neighboring countries of West Africa, facilities for low-income groups are substandard.
However, across all income categories, the development of housing in Liberia has generally been unplanned with very little attention paid to zoning and the provision of communal sites and services such as electricity, water and sewage treatment/disposal.
The problem has been aggravated by constant migration from the rural areas to the cities due to the civil crisis and the search for better economic conditions, causing a rapid growth of urban slums. Much of the demand for housing is related to population growth and accumulated unmet needs.
According to the LISGIS National Population & Housing Census2008 report, the total population of Liberia in March, 2008 was reported as 3,476,608 persons, if only to maintain the current standard of living and provision of services to the population.