By Selorm GBORBIDZI, Accra
Rehoboth Properties Limited has opened its latest property, located at Kwabenya, to the public. The 400-unit housing project is the first phase of a targeted 1,700-unit project, which is expected to provide accommodation to the Ghanaian home buyer. One-bedroom unit with one bathroom, one kitchen is selling at $30,800. The 2-bedroom unit comprising one kitchen, two bathrooms is going for $45,000. For a 3-bedroom unit, including one kitchen and two bathrooms, the price is $50,000. All units come with a living and dining area. The facility has a tennis court, basketball court, swimming pools for residents and a commercial area for shops. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rehoboth Properties, Gideon Ayiku Akrofi, noted that housing has been a challenge over the years, with the 2020 Population and Housing Census (PHC) putting the nation’s housing deficit at around 1.8 million units. He urged government to use policy reforms as a means of promoting green housing in the country while also giving private-owned businesses incentives. Despite the desire to provide social housing for public sector workers, Mr Akrofi noted that the wages of this group of workers is an impediment to their ambitions of owning a home. He currently has under his tenancy about 70 public sector workers who have acquired Rehoboth property at the Knightsbridge, through the Ghana Housing Fund, under the auspices of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP). The Rehoboth CEO called for government to take another look at governmental risk consideration of housing schemes to enable public and private sector workers to get access to affordable housing. He called for more support for local, private builders as is done for foreign companies. The Minister for Works and Housing, Francis Asenso Boakye, pledged government’s support to the housing sector to ensure its growth, as “it holds the key to the development of our country”. He noted that the housing delivery system had so far failed to meet the needs of the low- and middle-income earners. In view of this, government has prioritised affordable housing schemes over the long term. Mr Asenso Boakye said the ministry intends “to de-risk the industry in order to meet the needs of the [most vulnerable] segments of the population.” Government, he added, plans to acquire land banks which would be made available to private sector investment. He pledged that in collaboration with the MoFEP, a home ownership fund would be established to make cedi-denominated mortgages available to the general populace, especially public servants, to enable them to afford the housing units once delivered. The Works and Housing Minister explained that his outfit had initiated processes to establish a Ghana Housing Authority. The keynote speaker at the opening, Right Rev Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, was of the view that the social housing model, as epitomised by the Rehoboth model, “is the key to housing development in Ghana”. This system, he noted, ensures affordability and promotes dignity and privacy for the occupants. He said, “The essence of the Rehoboth housing scheme is to bring the needs of modern society to one’s doorsteps. This development is a show what the private sector can do.” He entreated government to support such housing schemes with the needed infrastructural backup, saying, “We should put developments that are infrastructural at the disposal of developers.” He also called on the banking sector to come on board with soft loans to aid the development of the sector. Furthermore, he suggested that government pass a law to that would force banks to direct a portion of their profits towards housing as is done in other parts of the world. The former Speaker of Parliament urged developers to employ local materials so as to reduce the cost of housing. President of the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA), Patrick Bonful, called for deliberate direct and indirect partnership between government and GREDA to bridge the current housing gap. He called on government to help players in the industry get access to cheaper construction finance for the supply side of affordable housing while also advocating longer term cedi-denominated home finance mortgages with average tenure of 25 years, and average interest rates if about 12% per annum. Mr Bonful stressed that home mortgage financing is the least risky investment around the world, and this should incentivise local banking players to go into the housing market. He called for a review of the Home Mortgage Finance Act (Act 770) “to address the fear that deters banks in Ghana from financing home mortgages”, lest the situation worsens. The Managing Director of Ecobank Ghana, Daniel Sackey, on his part, said, “Affordability is a challenge with property acquisition in Ghana. “ The challenge is that even at a relatively low cost (compared to prevailing market rates), most middle and low income earners will not be able to afford it. It’s either the initial deposit required, or the monthly repayments that are required to meet any mortgage financing that is granted for the purchase of this.” Mr Sackey indicated the bank’s readiness to help potential homeowners with mortgage facilities to enable them to acquire some of the property available. He, however, noted that the biggest opportunity for the bank lies in the area of financial literacy, since most people do not understand the financial sector enough to access mortgage facilities.