October 5, was World Habitat Day,
a day set aside by the United Nations to reflect on the state of
our towns and cities in general and the basic right of citizens
to shelter in particular. It was also intended to remind the world
of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.
The United Nations chose the theme — Planning our urban future
— to raise awareness of the need to improve urban planning
to deal with challenges of the 21st century. The Institute for Infrastructure
Development is taking advantage of this occasion to explain how
Ghana can deliver three million houses by 2025.
From the report of the 2000 population and Housing census, Ghana
has 3.88 million dwellings and 3.7 million households. The census
report projection indicates that from 3.7 million households in
2000, the number of households will increase to 6.0 million by 2025,
growing at about 1.97 per cent per annum, which is less than the
rate of population growth – 2.7 per cent.
The report continued that given an assumed dilapidation rate of
three per cent per annum for the existing houses, the actual number
of dwelling units needed to take care of new households and at the
same time replace the dilapidated ones is four million or an average
of 160,779 additional units per year.
To date, Ghana has only managed to construct about 41,000 houses
per year, or a total of 370,000 since 2000. This leaves an annual
deficit of 120,000 each year over the past nine years, or a total
of one million as of 2009. Therefore out of four million houses,
Ghana has constructed only 370,000, and 3.6 million more is needed
for the next 16 years.
The analysis in the census report is simple and straightforward.
The document used the term dwellings for the structures instead
of houses. Almost 60 per cent of the dwellings in Ghana do not qualify
as houses, let alone homes. Philip Moffitt, the founder and president
of New Life Balance Institute, a think tank in California said “A
house is a home when it shelters the body and soul”.
Fifty-two per cent of the dwellings in Ghana are made up of —
(i) wooden structures like that seen at Sodom and Gomorrah in Accra,
(ii) mud houses like what got washed away during the floods in many
of our villages,
(iii) kiosks, metal containers and other temporary structures commonly
found in the cities and rapidly developing urban areas like Ashaiman.
The report stated that 1.9 per cent of all dwellings are shops and
containers, a whopping 74,000.
There is great demand for houses yet the country has left the sector
too longer than public policy could allow. It is not surprising
that this country has low indicators on facilities related to a
For example, according to the Little Data Book on Information and
Communication Technology published by the World Bank 2009 edition,
Ghana has lower percentage access for telephone lines, Internet
subscribers and personal computers than Senegal, Equatorial Guinea,
Kenya, Gabon, Cote d’ivoire and even Gambia. The only facility
we scored better was access to the television set.
The reasons are not far-fetched. Apart from the telephone set that
can be installed in any structure, telephone lines, Internet and
the PC cannot just be installed in any structure at all. These facilities
are housed in better structures that are largely inadequate in Ghana.
On the other hand, Ghana scored well in the number of mobile phones
per subscriptions, which is not entirely a home-based facility.
This clearly shows there is a huge Potential to develop the housing
In the non-ICT sectors, poor planning and housing situation are
some of the causes of the waste management problems in our cities,
high water losses of 50 per cent, high crime wave in our cities,
poor accessibility in the neighbourhood, low revenue from property
rates, etc. The state of the housing sector is one of the reasons
why seventy percent of Ghanaians do not have toilets, and Ghana
is rated the second country with poor sanitation access in Africa.
I have taken time to highlight some of the challenges we face as
a nation. The housing situation in Ghana is that bad, no wonder
the social cohesion and moral integrity of the populace are fast
Andrew Johnson, a former president of the United States said “without
a home there can be no good citizen, with a home there is no bad
one”. Good housing ensures that citizens sleep well, and think
better for themselves and the nation, and help to innovate. A good
house is not only a status symbol, but also a symbol of security
All over the world, the housing and Real estate industries were
at the backbone of the economic transformation of nations. It was
not surprising that the collapse of the housing market triggered
the current world economic meltdown. A house is the largest investments
most individuals make in their lifetime. Housing brings in its wake,
investments in building materials, household gadgets and equipment
(stoves, fridge, utensils, etc). Housing is a big job creator.
Better planning institutions
If we want to create an economic stimulus in Ghana, we must look
at housing. The demand is there as Ghana needs 3.6 million houses
in 16 years, an average of 225,000 per year. The good news is that
we can do it if we adopt a cohesive and comprehensive approach,
some of which are highlighted below.
The acute housing problem in Ghana is as a result of failed policies,
rapid urbanisation and population growth, economic growth and a
function of all these factors. This is worsened by poor and conflicting
planning laws among the existing legislation instruments in the
country, the Town Planning Ordinance CAP 84 of 1951, the Local Government
law Act 462, and the National Development Planning Act, Act 480.
Poor planning is one of the reasons why we have major challenges
in our land tenure system, and also why in 15 years, between the
period 1985 and 2000, the built-up area of Accra expanded by 300
per cent while its population increased by 66 per cent. The planning
laws are conflicting each other and we need to harmonise them to
improve land delivery.
High demands in materials
The provision of 3.5 million housing units by 2025 requires substantial
amount of land and material resources. Demand for building materials
like timber, sand and chippings, cement, PVC, tiles, glass, etc.
will be overwhelming. Ghana has less than one million hectares of
forest left and at the current degradation rate of 65,000 hectares
per annum, we do not have timber to meet current demands, let alone
accelerated housing delivery.
If we build as we are doing now, we would need more land, equivalent
to 600,000 hectares or twenty times the land area of Accra to deliver
our housing demands by 2025.
New vision and strategy needed
So how do we do it? The problem cannot be solved by one government.
To address the housing deficit, we need a vision for the country
that should run for a minimum 20 years, eg. Vision 2030 or 2040.
When we plan over a longer term, we take population growth, demography
and other social factors into consideration.
Under the vision, we need to adopt a better identification system
for Ghanaians. We must know ourselves, who we are and what we do,
and adopt a comprehensive database system for ourselves. We must
improve trust among ourselves and people must be what they say they
This is the basis of a viable credit system. Without an efficient
credit system, we cannot meet our development needs. The M&E
specialists normally say what we do not know we cannot measure,
and what we cannot measure we cannot fix. If we do not know ourselves,
we cannot solve our problems.
Then we adopt an industrialisation strategy. Industrialisation
is inextricably linked to development. Tackling industrialisation
will ensure the availability of cheap construction materials needed
to build infrastructure and housing sectors.
Indeed there is almost no country that has addressed its housing
demands that has not gone through an industrial transformation.
Industrialisation can push our limits in infrastructure development,
agriculture and manufacturing.
Industrialisation will produce the cement, clay, steel, glass, aluminium,
granite, tiles, etc. needed to meet the demands of the housing industry.
Fortunately, Ghana has large deposits of these materials in raw
form. We need to start a programme to develop our steel, aluminium,
glass, cement, clay and tile industries.
In the mining areas, a lot of mining tailings from mining processes
which should have been diverted to the housing sector have been
spread over arable land, in what is term land reclamation. In this
case, the country is not only denied good materials for the manufacture
of bricks and sandcrete blocks, but these materials are also used
to cover our arable and fertile soils – thus discontinuing
farming activities in the mining areas.
Under the foregoing programme, all mining tailings should be excavated
and the material used as aggregates, base or sub-base material in
the construction of houses and roads in every part of the country.
These materials could constitute savings of about 10 to 20 per cent
in the construction boom that the state shall credit to building
and road contractors, as well as real estate developers. This will
reduce the pressure of sand-winning at Amasaman and along our beaches.
With the discovery of oil and gas, we can use our gas to fire our
high quality clay that is needed in the housing sector. We can also
manufacture several materials needed in the building industry, for
example, PVC, which is manufactured from salt and ethylene gas is
used extensively in the housing and real estate industries. Then
we get bitumen to tar our roads.
As a nation, we have everything we need to develop, more than 99
per cent of what we need. If we get together to identify the linkages,
we then establish a credit system, where people and companies may
be credited with materials to enable them to produce the needed
products. The Credit system shall be backed by National Credit Act.
The land question can also be solved in a similar manner. A Lands
and Equity Act should be passed by Parliament where land owners
would credit the state with lands for the delivery of infrastructure.
In turn, the owners, mostly traditional authorities, on behalf of
the people, obtain equity in the facility that will be developed.
Land is never sold. Why should a chief sell a piece of land with
no basic amenities for $2000 when that same piece of land can be
improved with all the social amenities, well laid-out plans, water,
telephone, central sewerage system, good roads, underground drains,
wireless broadband, etc. and have a value of $50,000. Everyone then
benefits, jobs are created, and we would be able to collect property
rates to maintain the facilities.
This is where land financing comes in. Ghana must use advantages
of land financing as part of the funding mix for the development
of the housing sector.
With land financing, there is upfront generation of funds which
reduces the burden of borrowing. Land developments should be priced
to reflect costs of accommodating growth as contained in a World
Bank publication by George E. Peterson – Unlocking land values
to finance urban infrastructure.
The publication shows how Cairo raised $3.12 billion from the sale
of 2100 hectares of desert land, and another $1.45 billion from
3,300 hectares all without financial cost to Government. In Mumbai,
$1.2 billion was obtained from only 13 hectares. Currently, several
billion dollars are being raised in Cape Town, Bangalore, Khartoum,
Luanda, Bogota, Istanbul, etc, to finance infrastructure.
Developing the construction sector and skilled manpower
Ghana must build its skill manpower to accommodate demands from
the infrastructure and housing sectors. Work is the only way out
of poverty and increased access to work through skills training
is essential for improving the construction and productive capacity
of the country.
Ghana needs to train a large number of middle level personal and
skilled manpower to the economy, skilled personal in construction-related
occupations, such as electricians, carpenters, construction managers,
bricklayers, plumbers, masons, tilers, etc. The Government should
come up with a programme to assure Ghanaians of the importance of
the skill trades in the economic development of the country and
send the message that careers in the skilled trades will be plentiful,
lucrative, and fulfilling.
The building and construction sectors should not be left out in
the transformation process. Ghana should create a competitive construction
industry that delivers quality infrastructure, and promote economic
growth and ensure sustainable development.
The construction industry is bedeviled with multiple problems that
hinder the prosperity of contractors and the nation as a whole.
To effectively mobilise the industry to contribute its quota to
the development of the country, the industry must be overhauled.
This can be done by:
(i)improving the classification system of contractors.
(ii) putting in place effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms
to measure the performance of contractors and real estate developers.
(iii) establishing a body, a regulator, by an act of parliament
to classify contractors in Civil Engineering, Building and Road
Institutions, regulations and research and technology.
As indicated above, Ghana must harmonise its conflicting planning
laws and strengthen the Town and Country Planning Department to
come up with better and efficient planning system.
The country must put in place a regulatory and research institution,
National Housing Authority to advocate and provide knowledge and
leadership in the housing sector.
We need to use modern computer technology to design the space and
model the skyline infrastructure, to meet modern trends and preserve
land. Current horizontal housing development must give way to vertical
For the particular case of the mining areas, the Government should
set housing standards required for mining communities, and every
mining town should be planned and modelled into a community or township
comparable to those in developed countries.
This whole arrangement can be put into what I termed a Grand Deal,
an agreement between the state, Corporate Ghana and the people.
Most of the issues raised above are elaborated further elsewhere.
They have worked elsewhere, and they should work in Ghana.
Ghana can build three million houses in 16 years. A lot depends
on the role of leadership and the support of the government to make
this a reality, and our organisation is ready to support the government
step by step and brick by brick to achieve this aim.
Credit : Charles Kwame Boakye
Institute for Infrastructure Development, Accra