Developer-built, mortgage-financed affordable housing is likely to remain unaffordable for most households in many African countries. Nevertheless, efforts to support affordable housing are still, in the main, directed at increasing access to developer-built, mortgage financed housing on the continent. The two tend to go hand in hand; no mortgage lender is going to offer a long-term loan to finance a structure built by a local builder using lowest cost materials. And anyone who purchases a developer-built unit is going to have to have mortgage finance¹. Because sources of long-term finance are constrained and interest rates are high, the standard strategy is to create a mortgage refinance facility or company (MRC). We have a R(wanda)MRC, a T(anzania)MRC, a N(igeria)MRC and soon will have a U(ganda)MRC. These facilities may well deepen capital markets and generate a few thousand mortgages every year at slightly lower interest rates. But they are unlikely to shift the dial on affordable housing.
Of course, we already have affordable housing. Just not the kind we (or mortgage lenders) like. It is mainly rental and mainly self-built. We tend to call this slum housing, but the truth is it is not the housing part that creates the slum. In fact, available survey data indicates that most of this housing is constructed from durable materials. Rather than the dwelling itself creating the slum conditions, it is the lack of services and infrastructure. For example, in Nigeria, 80% of urban households live in dwellings made of durable materials (roof, wall and floor materials) but without access to a flush toilet or piped drinking water (see Figure 1 below).
Figure 1: Access to services, construction material durability and overcrowding in urban areas