Ghana provides a pertinent example of the affordability challenges facing African countries.
A recent report, Housing as a Strategy for Poverty Reduction in Ghana (2010), highlights how the Ghanaian housing problem is ‘a national development crisis’ as there is a current annual need of 70,000 units, in addition to the accumulated deficit of 250,000 units ‘needed to de-crowd urban households from over 10 to 7’ occupants per house. In the coming twenty years an average annual delivery of 133,000 is needed, far more than the current delivery rate of only 28,000 units (equating to only 21 per cent of demand).
Housing in Ghana is simply too expensive and incomes are too low. A low-cost government housing project house costs a minimum of 9,000 USD. However, this is prohibitively expensive for low-, and even many middle-income households. The report states ‘given the current minimum wage is 1.3 cedis per day (0.87 USD), it will take someone on the minimum wage 17 years to service the loan, excluding interest, and committing his or her entire salary to it’.
Therefore, a quick calculation indicates that if he or she spends half their income on servicing the loan (still a considerable proportion of income), it will take 34 years to pay off the principal only. Furthermore, this assumes he or she has formal, reliable fixed employment contract, has the required down-payment, and has the credit worthiness to secure a loan in the first place, all of which are not common for many Ghanaian households. In Ghana and throughout Africa, even for a ‘low-cost’ government house, there are evidently many obstacles to obtaining and retaining housing that households can afford.
The most vulnerable groups are the urban and rural poor, most of whose houses are built with poor quality materials and with little or no basic services and infrastructure, such as adequate drainage and waste disposal systems. Key factors hindering the effective delivery of housing in Ghana include the following:
Therefore, the ultimate goal of the country’s housing policy is to provide adequate, decent and affordable housing that is accessible and sustainable with infrastructural facilities to meet the needs of Ghanaians. This will be complemented by the following policies that address the challenges listed above.