Ghana government told to conduct mapping survey to solve 1.6 million housing deficit

Economists at a forum have agreed that in order for Ghana to cut down its housing deficit which stands at 1.6 million, the country must first and foremost conduct a mapping survey.

The mapping survey, according to the economists, is key to housing delivery in the country. It allows stakeholders (government, estate developers, planners etc.) in the housing sector to know the actual size of the country as well as knowing the actual owners of every piece of land.

The economists with vast interest in the sector made these known in a documentary produced by Channel Two Communications and previewed to some journalists in Accra.

Mr. Ken Corsar, Managing Director of Adehyeman Savings & Loans Ltd, believes that it is time for Ghana to undertake the exercise since it is helpful in the planning of delivery of houses.

Mr. Corsar cited Rwanda as a good example in conducting a mapping survey electronically in three years.

“Rwanda did its survey within three years electronically – It worked for them and they have good housing planning,” said Mr Corsar.

Dr. Odame Larbi, Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission, thinks that government should absorb the cost of surveying because it is part of building the national infrastructure.

If the survey is conducted, Dr Larbi says it will give the boundary demarcation for every piece of land in the country and also the owners will be known since there is no law that compels people to register their land apart from Accra and Kumasi.

Before one can register land, it has to be professionally surveyed. But because this is an expensive procedure, most people are reluctant to do it but Dr Larbi argues that government should absorb the cost.

“If we had done this over the years, by now we would have a very credible base of land owners. If government is going to do it and it has the money and it is putting the resources and the surveyors and it is absorbing the cost, then it is of necessity for the government to be able to also say that if you people are refusing to agree on the boundary, this is where I as government I am putting the boundary and then we move forward.”

He adds “If we don’t take some of these bold decisions and we say that is their land and we must go to court etc, then we will never go forward – Our cities are not planned and our developments are springing up here and there because there is no coordinated order in which they are developed.”

Mr Patrick Awuah, founder of Ashesi University – a university which started in a small location but now has a bigger compound, suggested three basic things needed – Surveying and mapping – Government to focus on infrastructure excluding building of houses – lastly, exploring new technologies for housing.

After availability of land, the single biggest factor hampering the delivery of housing is cost of construction. It is estimated that the cost of a starter house in South Africa is $20,000 – the same house in Ghana will cost $50,000 due to high prices of cement in the country with GHACEM virtually being a monopoly on the market.

But locally made cement from simple clay and palm oil husks – pozzolana – which is less expensive can help reduce the costly nature of houses built in Ghana. Unfortunately this is not patronised as Charles Hegborm Managing Director of Pozzolana says “We should be proud of it because this is a purely Ghanaian research finding that came up so we should be proud of it and take it up. It’s just like having perfumed rice; I mean many Ghanaians love eating. But everybody wants to eat perfumed rice but doesn’t want to use the local rice so it’s the same scenario we are having, people are used to the Portland cement and they don’t really understand why they should use pozzolana so that is actually resulting in lack of patronage.”

Another good alternative for cement use is the hydraform. This is the new generation compressed earth brick and a product that has the possibility to revolutionise housing delivery. Mixed with ordinary latrite, and hydraulically compressed on site, they are as strong as any concrete block, and easier to use.

While sandcrete blocks comprise 30% of cement, hydraform requires just 5% – a substantial reduction, according to Mr. Clement Kojo Amole, Site Engineer of building construction firm, PS Global Ltd.

“With the hydraform construction you only plaster the inside and you are not also using mortar to join the bricks, they are interlocking. It’s very fast to use a hydraform brick because you are just arranging it, you don’t need skilled labour to do that, you train anybody to do that – three people can finish a house within a week. It’s that fast, it’s very fast,” said Mr. Clement Kojo Amole.

“If we are not doing plastering externally, if I’m not using mortar to join the blocks then we are making savings and if you are cutting on labour its savings and now this savings will eventually amount to a lower cost of construction, therefore we can also come up with an affordable housing,” Mr. Pius Petison – General Manger, PS Global Ltd adds his comment.

Back to the Lands Commission suggestion on the land survey and mapping exercise – Executive Secretary Dr. Odame Larbi tells in an exclusive interview after the meeting and explained the importance of the exercise.

He said “All professionals in the housing industry know that the basis for good housing delivery are good maps and good maps are based on good surveys. So if the country is not mapped, planning becomes difficult and almost impossible. Mapping is a very expensive exercise.”

“Every five years you must map to see the changes in settlements and land forms in the society. Government must consider it as a basic developmental infrastructure. Mapping is at different levels – you can map 1 in 1 million; 1 in 50,000; 1 in 250,000 and 1 in 2,500.”

Survey of one plot of land costs GH¢300 at the Lands Commission, Dr Larbie said.

“Satellite imageries or flying developed photograph are used in mapping – none of them are cheap.”

According him, the exercise should be a national assignment which needs a special budget allocation but not a department’s budget.

“If we want to do it in every five years, then we must set aside a special budget for that purpose not a Department’s budget. It is supposed to be a national assignment because it is expensive than a Ministry’s budget.”

Dr Larbi indicated that they have made proposals to government several times but have not yielded results. “Anytime we’ve got the opportunity to meet government, we have discussed with them. Every budget year, we make noise about the importance of mapping the country but that has proved futile,” he said.

The last time Ghana had a housing policy was in the 1980s and the current draft has been debated upon by stakeholders since ex-President Kufuor’s regime.

Lack of political will has been a major factor hindering the provision of houses in the country. The affordable houses started in some parts of the Ashanti Region have become a white elephant with the current government still looking for finances to complete those projects.

The national housing project known as the STX Housing Project is not getting any headway since President Mills cut the sod for its commencement last year.

Mr. Ken Corsar, MD of Adehyeman Savings & Loans Ltd says “It is not possible for government to deliver housing on their own, it’s not going to happen, it’s not just failed in Ghana, it’s failed in numerous other countries and so this is not a purely Ghanaian problem.”

By Ekow Quandzie

Watch the housing documentary

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