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Nigeria begins work on 10,000-unit Rock City housing project

Work has begun on a major new homebuilding project in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Rock of Ages Properties - part of Chicason Group, a conglomerate with interests in sectors including oil and gas, manufacturing and mining - confirmed it has broken ground on the 10,000-unit Rock City development, with a target of delivering 3,000 properties ready for occupation by the end of 2015.

The entire project is due to be completed within the next 12 months, according to Dr Chika Okafor, chairman of Chicason Group.

Demand for properties in Rock City has been high, with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) among the initial raft of subscribers. Under the scheme, subscribers will put forward equity contributions based on the preferred type of house, and workers who contribute to the country's National Housing Fund will automatically qualify for these homes.

Adike Chux, executive director of Chicason Group, promised the gated communities that will make up Rock City will boast high-quality facilities and infrastructure - from good road networks and an independent power supply, to a hospital, schools, office complexes and a shopping centre.

In order to achieve the necessary standards, Chicason is collaborating with the Federal Capital Development Authority's Development Control Department to source quality building materials.

Nigeria's national house-building goals

Rock City forms part of the wider United Workers Housing Project, under which Chicason is aiming to build affordable housing units for Nigeria's government service, public and private sector workers. To this end, Rock of Ages and the TUC are aiming to deliver 100,000 homes across Nigeria's 36 states - including the Federal Capital Territory - with a focus on prime locations in each of the state capitals. 

As in many developing economies, a shortage of housing is a significant issue in Nigeria. Professor Charles Ofoegbu, a former director general of the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute, noted that more than a fifth of Nigerian citizens do not have access to adequate housing.

"Housing is a fundamental human right, everyone should have the right to own a house," he declared. "The government has the responsibility of providing houses through the use of credible estate developers like Rock of Ages Properties to meet the housing needs of its citizens and our mortgage banks should be empowered to deliver.

"Many super countries used housing infrastructure to reach where they are today; when you build a house, you build an economy. What I mean is that many lives will be touched by employing people to work on a construction site."

To tackle this shortage of supply, the federal government has launched the Affordable Home Ownership Scheme. 

The initial phase of 10,000 mortgages offered through the initiative received more than 66,000 applications across all 36 states, with 96 per cent of applicants currently living in rented accommodation. Ninety-two per cent were in stable employment, with the remainder self-employed. 

Just over half were looking for property in Abuja, while one in five preferred to live in Lagos, signifying that almost two-thirds were looking to buy a house in one of Nigeria's two most important urban areas.

A third of initial applicants were looking for two-bedroom flats, while less interest was seen for one-bedroom flats and one-bed self-contained units.

Speaking last September, finance minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala played down any fears that the scheme would be unsustainable. 

"There is enough funding to back this project, that is why we created the Nigeria Mortgage Refinancing Company," she insisted. "As long as the banking institutions and primary mortgage institutions meet the guidelines, there will be money to back this."

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