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Urban Low-Income Housing Development in Ghana: Politics, Policy and Challenges


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Globally, the provision of adequate housing has become a huge challenge for national authorities in most developing countries. More people are becoming homeless, slums and squatter settlements are increasing as the provision of housing is left to the private sector. Urban low income housing provision has not been satisfactorily handled within the formal sector. Although governments have developed housing programmes with the view of addressing urban low income housing in Ghana, the end products have been taken over by the middle to high income groups. Moreover, urban low income housing development in Ghana is not aligned to any housing policy but rather crops up in political manifestoes. They end up being abandoned and urban low income households continue to suffer the most. These households have to depend on individual petty landlords to cater for their housing needs. Urban low income housing is now being ‘facilitated’ by government for the private sector to provide housing units. This system has not functioned effectively as the shortage of affordable housing in urban centres in Ghana keeps increasing. A qualitative research approach using reports, thesis, and population and housing censuses provided the information for this paper. It is recommended that urban low income housing should be handled proactively by policy makers without much political bias since it is households that suffer. Again, globally, urban low income housing is being considered as a social policy programme which calls for more involvement of the public sector. At best there should be a public-private partnership to efficiently address urban low income housing in Ghana and other developing countries. Innovative housing forms such as multi-habited dwellings should be developed to meet the budget of the low income household instead of the colonial single-family dwellings which are more expensive to own.
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Irene Appeaning Addo
Regional Institute for Population Studies (RIPS),
University of Ghana, Legon
Globally, the provision of adequate housing has become a huge challenge for
national authorities in most developing countries. More people are becoming homeless,
slums and squatter settlements are increasing as the provision of housing is left to the
private sector. Urban low income housing provision has not been satisfactorily handled
within the formal sector. Although governments have developed housing programmes
with the view of addressing urban low income housing in Ghana, the end products have
been taken over by the middle to high income groups. Moreover, urban low income
housing development in Ghana is not aligned to any housing policy but rather crops up in
political manifestoes. They end up being abandoned and urban low income households
continue to suffer the most. These households have to depend on individual petty
landlords to cater for their housing needs. Urban low income housing is now being
‘facilitated’ by government for the private sector to provide housing units. This system
has not functioned effectively as the shortage of affordable housing in urban centres in
Ghana keeps increasing. A qualitative research approach using reports, thesis, and
population and housing censuses provided the information for this paper. It is
recommended that urban low income housing should be handled proactively by policy
makers without much political bias since it is households that suffer. Again, globally,
urban low income housing is being considered as a social policy programme which calls
for more involvement of the public sector. At best there should be a public-private
partnership to efficiently address urban low income housing in Ghana and other
developing countries. Innovative housing forms such as multi-habited dwellings should
be developed to meet the budget of the low income household instead of the colonial
single-family dwellings which are more expensive to own.
Irene Appeaning Addo
Keywords: political economy, low income housing, multi-habitation, social housing, public-
private partnership, Accra, Ghana
Globally, the provision of adequate housing has become a huge challenge for national
authorities in most developing countries. More people are becoming homeless, slums and
squatter settlements are increasing and house prices continue to escalate. The United Nations
(UN) estimates that the urban population will increase to about 5 billion in 2030 after a steady
growth from 1 billion in 1960, 2 billion in 1985, and 3.3 billion in 2008 (UNSD, 2008). In
2011, the world population reached 7 billion (UNSD, 2011). Population growth of cities has
profound implications for urban low income housing development which governments cannot
neglect. The general trend seems to suggest that such population increases have not been
matched by a corresponding supply of housing resulting in a huge backlog.
Housing issues continue to remain as one of the unresolved policies of governments in
the world after several years of housing demand (Struyk, 1988). In African cities, prohibitive
regulations and administrative barriers restricting housing supply contribute to increase
housing demand (Boudreaux, 2008). Similarly, rural-urban migration has affectedly inflated
the high demand for housing in cities (Chisholm, 1992). Over the years urban house prices
continue to be unaffordable to a significant number of urban low income households. House-
price-to-income ratios in Africa and Asia are typically seven to nine times average incomes
(Majale & Tipple, 2007). Insecure and expensive urban lands coupled with high cost of
construction have curtailed urban low income households’ quest to own a house in the urban
centres (Buckley & Kalarical, 2005; Rono, 2007). Almost non-existing mortgage market
coupled with discriminatory formal financing from banks prevents urban low income
households from accessing housing finance. Urban low income rental housing has mainly
been catered for by the private individual petty landlords in West Africa.
In Ghana (location shown in Figure 1), the housing backlog is estimated to be 1.5 million
units as at 2012.Ghana’s current residential property demand stands at 150,000 units per
annum, with a shortfall of over 100,000 housing units. Current production of residential
properties averages only 35,000 units per annum (KMA, 2013). The census in Table 1
indicates that the average household size in Ghana is 4.4 persons, with about 1.6 households
per house, and a total of 3,392,745 housing units nationwide (GSS, 2012). Housing in Accra
has become expensive and increasingly pricing middle and lower income groups out of the
private housing market (Buckley & Mathema, 2008). The result is the proliferation of petty
landlords building substandard housing with congested living conditions for a large majority
of the city’s residents in low income communities and in slums (Arku, 2012; Yankson,
The World Bank Structural Adjustment Programmes in 1980’s tasked national
governments to be facilitators of housing and not direct suppliers of housing. They were to
create a stimulating environment through tax cuts for private housing developers, make
available construction loans for developers and expand housing mortgage markets (Pacione,
2005). According to Renaud (1999), the World Bank advocated that priority should go to the
development of well-structured housing markets with sound institutions and organized
Urban Low Income Housing Development in Ghana
professions, while avoiding policies that promote direct housing provision. Global trends of
privatisation, partnerships, cost recovery, efficiency and productivity in housing provision
was encouraged in the developing countries (Sengupta & Tipple, 2007). As part of World
Bank economic policies, Ghana government was tasked to offer financial incentives to
housing developers as bait for affordable housing investment and to encourage
competitiveness within the housing market. According to Arku (2009), these measures were
seen not only as a way to increase housing supply but also as a way to provide a platform for
investment in the housing industry and, ultimately, to promote economic growth.
Figure 1. Map of Ghana showing Accra (Adapted
Although the policy attracted a huge number of real estate developers under the umbrella
of Ghana Real Estate Development Association (GREDA) with about 400 registered
members, tax incentives for private housing development in Ghana has rather encouraged
high cost housing instead of affordable housing (Buckley & Mathema, 2008). This is captured
in the Graphic Business (2013) as However, the sustained economic growth in the country,
upsurge in foreign direct investments (FDIs) and an urge for money rather than service by
most real estate companies have caused many members to build primarily for the middle to
high income earners. That leaves those in the lower end of the market to fend for themselves
or at best rent”. In addition, the lack of construction loans for private housing developers
coupled with high interest rates from commercial banks have contributed to high cost
buildings as funding for housing projects are solicited from the private financial markets. For
example, the Bank for Housing and Construction (BHC), initially set up to give loans to
private housing developers in Ghana, became liquidated in the year 2000 after it became
Table 1. Stock of Houses and Households by Region, 2010
No. of
No. of
Rural share of
Housing stock
increase in
housing stock
over 2000
per house
per house
All regions
Greater Accra
Upper East
Upper West
1.3 8.5
Source: 2010 Population and Housing Census.
Urban Low Income Housing Development in Ghana
Accra has its share of housing challenges. Being the capital city and the economic and
administrative hub of the country, Accra has seen a considerable increase in population. In
2010, Accra had about 18% of its households residing in single family houses, 14.5% living
in flats/apartments and semi-detached houses, while about 55.6% of the remaining
households occupy multi-family dwellings (GSS, 2012). The 55.6% of the regions’
population occupying multi-family housing in 2010 is a decrease from 70% in 2000 and 85%
in 1994 (Konadu-Agyemang, 2001b; GSS, 2005). Over 95% of all houses supplied in Ghana
are from the private market while only 5% are government supplied buildings (Government
of Ghana, 2013). The changing cultural practices and the ‘westernisation’ of family systems
have created individualism leading to the construction of single family dwellings without
considering the predominant multi-habited houses that has been a major source of housing
provision among low income households (Peil, 1994; Tipple and Korboe, 1998; Tipple et al.,
1998; Tipple et al., 1999; Konadu-Agyemang, 2001a). The situation is compounded by the
construction of single family dwellings by government and private estate developers rather
than multi-habited dwellings even though rental units from multi-habited housing continue to
remain the prime method of accommodating urban low income households in Ghana
(Peil, 1994).
Housing supply in Ghana is mainly from five sources; namely government sector,
corporate sector, not-for-profit sector, individuals supply and informal sector. The corporate
sector including Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA) supplies about 90% of
the national housing stock. Habitat for Humanity and Peoples’ Dialogue, a community based
NGO that was born out of the eviction crises that loomed over the residents of Old Fadama, a
squatter settlement in Accra (Afenah, 2010) and others supply just a minimal fraction of the
housing stock. However, low income housing supply is mainly achieved through middle and
low income individual petty landlords who build incrementally and rent out rooms.
According to the 2010 population and housing census, only 7.2% of all the house types
supplied in Accra are owned by the government (GSS, 2012).The most common method of
residential building is the incremental building method (Karley, 2008). Renaud (1999)
commented that households building through the incremental method often rely on informal
housing finance, personal loans and they contract small craftsmen and tradesmen to build.
Projects are done in phases and are tied to the households’ income and could take an average
of five years for a house to be completed (Tipple et al., 2004). The share of such mode of
housing supply in Accra is estimated to be 80% of all houses built (Instiful, 2004). Table 2
gives a summary of the type of houses supplied in Accra in 2010.
History shows that the genesis of this housing deficit stems from the colonial era when
comprehensive housing policy was not developed to effectively address urban low income
housing supply (Yankson, 2012b: Addo, 2013).
Unfortunately, massive urban low income housing production has been critically tackled
in just three eras of Ghana’s urban development. This paper reviews the public sector urban
low income housing provision in Ghana since the colonial era by looking at the politics
policies, and the challenges associated with urban low income housing development. It traces
the provision of low income housing from the colonial days when health was the driving
force behind such housing programmes to contemporary times when housing programmes are
stalled because of political differences and inefficient land management systems. The chapter
concludes with some policy directions to improve urban low income housing initiatives in the
Twenty First century.
Irene Appeaning Addo
Table 2. Summary of house types in Ghana and Accra
Type of dwelling
All regions
All regions:
Greater Accra
Separate house
Semi-detached house
Flat/ Apartment
Compound house (rooms)
Tent/ kiosk/containers/
living quarters
Uncompleted buildings
Total houses
Source: 2010 Population and Housing Census.
Colonial Era (before 1950)
The capital city of Ghana was first moved to Accra, a small fishing village, in 1877.
Previously, Cape Coast was the capital city of Ghana where the colonial officers built and
occupied the Cape Coast and Elmina castles. After relocating to Accra and establishing the
political seat of government in the city, European officers were recruited from abroad to help
modernize the city. These officers needed to be housed. This sparked the whole process of
providing formal housing for officials. Houses were built around the Ridge areas and the
Cantonments in central Accra, closer to the administrative areas and the Christianborg Castle,
which was the seat of government. These official houses were described by Mabogunje
(1978) as housing not too dissimilar from what the expatriates were used to in their home
country having chimneys in this tropical weather. The hope was that the similarities in the
houses constructed for the expatriates and what they left behind in England would reduce
their sense of separation from home and alienation from their own society.
Providing housing for the indigenous people was not part of the mandate for public
housing provision but rather bolstered by the discourse of health, hygiene and disease. While
the Europeans occupied well-constructed and durable houses of cement blocks in the
‘European’ townships, the people living in the ‘African’ or ‘native’ townships occupied
traditional compound houses made from mud. Songsore et al. (2004) and Grant and Yankson,
(2003) have both described the duality of the residential differentiation of the ‘native’
townships and ‘European’ towns claiming that the ‘European’ towns were located on elevated
grounds (ridges) while the native indigenous settlements were located in the coastal plains.
The housing and settlement patterns of the ‘African’ townships were described as thatched
buildings arranged in ‘a haphazard manner and separated by narrow crooked streets’ (Stanley,
Urban Low Income Housing Development in Ghana
1874) with a few ‘large, better and in-good-state’ buildings belonging to wealthy merchants,
which stood out above the rest (Dickson, 1969).
Housing provision was still not considered in the overall development of the communities
even during the 1907 bubonic plague outbreak. Rather, the plague led to residential
segregation between the Europeans and the Africans. The non-provision of housing continued
until 1924 cholera outbreak in Kumasi which necessitated slum clearance programmes and re-
housing of urban households in Kumasi and other parts of the country (Songsore et al., 2004;
Songsore, 2003; Tipple & Korboe, 1998; Agyapong, 1990). The other two major events that
required urban housing development were the return of veteran soldiers from the Second
World War who needed to be housed and the devastating 1939 earthquake in Accra. The
catastrophic earthquake set in motion the construction of estate houses in Korle Gonno,
Christiansburg, Osu, South Labadi, Kaneshie, Sabon Zongo, and Abossey Okai by the
colonial government for the affected households (Acquah, 1958).
These spontaneous interventions in the necessity-driven housing supply has been
described by Hornsby-Odoi and Glover-Akpey (1988) as housing policies that did not hinge
on the provision of mass housing but rather focused on the provision of rental bungalow
housing for the colonial bureaucracy. Moreover, the early efforts of the colonial
administration were not based on a detailed housing sector study and needs assessment
(Acquaah-Harrison, 2004). According to Jones (2011), the segregation of urban space in
colonial cities was the product of the fusion of scientific, racial and cultural theories. Not
many other urban housing developments were undertaken till the establishment of self-
government in 1950.
Major Housing Initiatives during Nkrumah’s Regime (1950 – 1966)
During the rule of self-government, the Convention Peoples Party (CPP), led by Dr
Kwame Nkrumah as the Prime Minister, launched a Five-year Development Plan from
1951/52 1957 that led to the setting up of housing-related institutions such as the First
Ghana Building Society, the Tema Development Corporation and the Ghana Housing
Corporation for the delivering of housing. Prior to independence, under the advice of N. V.
Schokbeton in the 1950’s, model prefabricated panel houses were constructed in Accra,
Kumasi, Sekondi-Takoradi and Cape Coast as part of the slum upgrading schemes
(Agyapong, 1990). However, these houses were expensive, costing about $7000 per house,
and the contract was abrogated upon the advice of the United Nations Housing Mission in
1954 (Abrams et al., 1956). Just about 64 houses out of the 1698 houses were constructed
(Agyapong, 1990).
A severe housing demand caused by the presence of both European and African officials
and migrants in the city searching for housing to rent resulted in speculative builders taking
advantage of the situation (Amoah, 1964). The increase in Accra’s population did not
commensurate with increase in housing provision leading to expensive and unaffordable
housing. The dire housing situation led to the creation and concentration of slums and the
intensification of housing demand thereby raising land prices (Abrams et al., 1956).
According to the Office of the Planning Commission (1964) the average occupancy rate by
1960 was 20 persons per house in Accra with 2.5 persons per room indicating overcrowding
among the urban households. The government could not keep up with the high influx of
Irene Appeaning Addo
migrants into Accra that needed to be housed. The United Nation (UN) recommended that
Ghana’s housing development be structured based on four levels (Agyapong, 1990; Office of
the Planning Commission, 1964; Abrams et al., 1956). These were:
Households earning more than 800 pounds per annum and could afford to build their
own houses should be encouraged to do so;
Households earning between 400 800 pounds and could not afford to build their
own houses but could afford a hire-purchase contract should be provided with
housing by government on hire purchase;
At the lower level where incomes were low and the population could not buy houses
and yet can afford to build their own houses incrementally, they should be supported
by government through land bank development and financial aid in terms of building
Government was to construct houses and subsidise rents for the population that could
not afford to occupy any sort of house in the cities without subsidy.
In 1957 under the leadership of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s CPP, Ghana attained
independence. An extensive building scheme was launched in accordance with the CPP
socialist agenda (Asabere, 1994). Government took up the challenge of providing subsidised
housing for low income persons since housing was viewed as a fundamental human right of
every Ghanaian. Though the housing policy bordered on social justice and service, this policy
was defeated in terms of the inequality in quality and quantity of houses, households’ ability
to pay, variations in the amount of subsidies and the fact that government ignored the
demographic structure of households (Agyapong, 1990).
The First Ghana Building Society was to spearhead the disbursement of loans to
households to achieve the suggestions of the UN Housing Mission. The roof loan schemes
were developed to address the housing problems in the rural areas while the wall loan
schemes served the urban centres. This category of loan schemes was to help low income
households complete houses that were yet to be roofed. Self-help housing was also introduced
as a means of helping the urban low income households acquire their own houses. The
government was to provide materials, loans and serviced sites at moderate rents to this
category of households. Unfortunately, this proposal did not achieve the desired results since
households just kept accumulating building materials without any funds for construction.
According to Agyapong (1990), the loans schemes that were set up to support the low
income households were also taken over by middle to high income groups and government
officials used the loans to finance their personal construction. Most of the loans were also not
repaid and this led to the collapse of the loan schemes. The financial demise of the country in
the 1960s as a result of the drop in cocoa prices on the global market resulted in high
economic inflation thus making it difficult to sustain the housing subsidies. Eventually, these
subsidies were withdrawn and the subsidised housing programmes were stopped in 1962.
From 1963/64 1969/70 a Seven-year Development Plan for National Reconstruction
and Development was commissioned (Office of the Planning Commission, 1964). This plan
focused on the CPP’s theme of ‘work and happiness’ and the socialist society. It had one of
its main goals as “a complete transformation of Ghana as a strong, industrialised socialist
economy and society” (Office of the Planning Commission, 1964: vi). Housing provision was
Urban Low Income Housing Development in Ghana
targeted towards the formal working force that needed to be housed. It was projected that
25,000 housing units will be built in Accra, Tema and Kumasi each while 35,000 housing
units will be built in Sekondi-Takoradi. A budget of 13.2 million Ghana pounds was budgeted
for low income housing only. The housing programme was to be financed through private
savings and investment in housing loans and mortgage facilities (Office of the Planning
Commission, 1964). Unfortunately these housing programmes were not achieved since
Nkrumah was overthrown in 1966.
Post Nkrumah Era (1966 1971)
After the overthrow of Nkrumah’s CPP government, socialist housing provision became
virtually absent from the subsequent military governments. The National Liberation Council
(NLC) came into power from 1966 1969 emphasising on the provision of low income
housing under a liberal market economy. However little was done.
Dr. Busia’s civilian government, Progress Party (PP), came into power from 1969 – 1972
promoting the liberal market economy. Rural co-operative housing developments were
introduced with the aim of mobilising capital for housing through building societies, housing
co-operatives, banks and insurance companies and private financing was also established. An
example is the Tema Housing Cooperative. The predominant policy was the aided self-help
(Harris, 2003). According to Kumar (1996) an attempt was made to encourage home
ownership among the urban low income households by legalising informal developments on
illegal land through the self-help programmes in the 1980s. It was argued that home
ownership economically empowers the household as part of the house or rooms are rented out
or a business could be operated from the home (Kumar, 1996). Hence, owning a home by a
low income household was considered a capital asset that will enable the household achieve
their livelihood outcome. A new Ministry of Housing was established to improve upon the
housing needs of both urban and rural dwellers. The Bank of Ghana set up a loan scheme
from which public servants could borrow to build their own houses. Trustees of the Social
Security Fund provided capital for the construction of low cost houses.
The aided self-help programme instituted to promote home ownership in the urban
centres targeted urban low income households with financing support from the government to
help households build their personal homes. Harris (2003) and Choguill (2007) have
described it as unsuccessful because it left the lowest one-fifth of the population unattended.
Acheampong’s Low Cost Housing Provision (1972 – 1978)
Another milestone in the provision of low income housing was during the Acheampong
era. After the civilian rule came another military rule, the National Redemption Council
(NRC) and the Supreme Military Council (SMC I and II) under the leadership of Colonel
Acheampong from 1972 1978 and General Akuffo from 1978 1979. It operated a laissez-
faire economy. A low cost housing scheme was developed under a Five-year Development
Plan (1976 1980) which led to the construction of 2300 experimental low cost houses in
Accra, Kumasi and Sekondi-Takoradi by SHC. This was in an attempt to remove the social
Irene Appeaning Addo
and economic injustices prevailing in the housing sector and in recognition of housing as a
social service (Agyapong, 1990).
The State Housing Corporation (SHC), the Tema Development Corporation (TDC) and
the State Construction Company (SCC) were all tasked to construct about 2000 low cost
dwellings in all the regional capitals in Ghana (Sarfoh, 2010; Agyapong, 1990). The houses
were initially given out on rental basis but because of the rent control policies, market rents
were not charged and that led to huge losses (Tipple, 1994). The capital base of the
corporations depleted which led to the discontinuation of the social housing programmes. The
large tracts of government lands that had been acquired for these housing projects were sold
out to private developers. The houses were also sold out and they were acquired by the high
to middle income households. The low income households could not afford to purchase them.
The locations of these estate houses became attractive after a period of time inviting ‘raiding’
or gentrification from the higher income groups since the lower income groups could not
afford to purchase them (Tipple, 1994; Mabogunje et al., 1978). In 2010, Social Security and
National Insurance Trust disposed of 750 two bedroom housing units for about 25,000 Ghana
Cedis ($13,0001) (Ghana News Agency, 2010).
The Bank for Housing and Construction (BHC) was established in 1974 with the mandate
to mobilise and channel individual savings and resources into housing investment to promote
house ownership and fund public housing. Similar to the other loan schemes, individuals and
building contractors who borrowed money for construction defaulted in the repayment of
loans. Operations of the bank were mixed with politics as government officials sought to seek
loans for themselves as well as their relations (Agyapong, 1990). BHC was finally liquidated
in year 2000. Since then, there have been several attempts by various governments to initiate
social housing programmes but to no avail due to lack of political will and lack of operative
housing policy in Ghana (Agyapong, 1990).
Other Housing Policies and Programmes (1979 1982)
In 1979, a coup-d’état, led by Flight-Lieutenant Rawlings under the Armed Forces
Revolutionary Council (AFRC) came to briefly reinforce the rent control laws, establish State
Houses Allocation Implementation Committee (SHAPIC) and seized properties with the
notion that ‘one man one house’ policy should operate under a Marxist economy (Sarfoh,
No housing developments were carried out since the AFRC regime lasted for only three
months then came Liman civilian government from 1979 1981. There was no initiation of
new housing programmes. This political environment was not favourable to Rawlings who
through another coup-d’état seized power from 1981 – 1992 under a military rule and
changing to civilian rule from 1992 2000.
1 The exchange rate of the United States of America Dollar to Ghana Cedi is now 1:2.4 (2014). However, in 2010,
the exchange rate was 1:1.4.
Urban Low Income Housing Development in Ghana
The Structural Adjustment and Economic Recovery Programmes
(1983 2000)
The Structural Adjustment and Economic Recovery Programmes started in 1983 after the
country had experienced deterioration in the macroeconomic base of the country (Yaro,
2004). The structural adjustment was to realign the economy, reduce the cumulative budget
deficit and rehabilitate the economic and social infrastructure of the country (Sarris & Shams,
1991). President Rawlings, under the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC)
government initially operated the Marxist economy which gradually changed into the market-
driven and laissez-faire economy. After the failure of the site and services approach to
housing provision in the 1970s, international institutions including the World Bank advocated
for a shift in housing policy in Ghana and other developing countries. Governments were
encouraged by the Bank to adopt the ‘enabling environment’ approach by facilitating housing
provision by the private sector and avoiding interventionist provision of public housing by the
state (Keivani &Werna, 2001; Harris, 2003; UN Habitat, 2005). Luginaah et al. (2010)
mentioned five neo-liberal housing policy changes in Ghana including:
Withdrawal of government from direct housing production and financing;
Stimulating growth of real estate sector (i.e., private sector);
Liberalizing land markets and building material industry;
Encouraging formal private sector to construct rental housing units;
Reforming housing institutions.
According to the authors, the objectives of the policy reforms was to open the housing
sector to competition, improve efficiency in housing finance system, and increase housing
supply through commercial development, foreign investment, and self-building. By this
approach, it was anticipated that the formal private housing markets will work more
efficiently and produce affordable housing. However, Yankson (2012a) in a study on urban
low income housing situation in Accra observed that economic liberalisation did not address
the housing needs of low-income households in Accra. In a study of the housing conditions
and socio-economic circumstances of landlords and tenant households it was observed that
tenancy dynamics in Accra are conditioned by changing socio-economic circumstances of the
country and that of the individual household (Yankson, 2012a). The highly privatized housing
market did not determine the tenancy dynamics in the country. The author concluded that
economic liberalization is not the solution to the housing needs of low-income households in
Attention was thus directed towards devising ways of providing the economic, financial,
legal and institutional environment that was needed to support the housing sector (Choguill,
2007). Thus the Economic Reform Programme (ERP) and the Structural Adjustment
Programmes (SAP) were put in place as part of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and
the World Bank conditionality. Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA) was
formed in 1988 to encourage private participation in urban housing delivery.
Unfortunately the desired impact was not achieved since severe housing shortages are
still experienced in Ghana and houses built by GREDA became unaffordable to many of the
middle to low income households and the prohibitive policies prevented the low income
Irene Appeaning Addo
groups from accessing mortgages (Konadu-Agyemang, 2001c; Bank of Ghana, 2007).
Erguden (2001) has described some of the challenges associated with the facilitative policy
adopted by the public sector in urban low income housing provision after about 20 years of
implementing such a policy. The author states that “despite considerable progress achieved in
developing countries in the past two decades in policy formulation, facilitating a shift of the
public sector’s role to strengthening of enabling strategies and focusing on the utilisation of
the potential and capacity of informal sectors, there is a widening gap between policy
formulation and the implementation process, and the status of low-income housing delivery is
far beyond being satisfactory(Erguden, 2001, p. 1). Constraints such as lack of effective
implementation strategies, poor promotion of security of tenure, inadequate supply of
affordable land and infrastructure, inadequacy of housing finance systems, poor utilisation of
local building materials and technologies, lack of support to small-scale construction
activities, inappropriate standards and legislation, inadequate participation of communities
in shelter development process and support to self-help, lack of focused research and
experimental projects, poor utilisation of research findings, are amongst such major
constraints” (Erguden, 2001, p. 1).
During the PNDC rule a draft National Shelter Strategy (1987 1992) and a draft
National Housing Policy and Action Plan (1987 1990) were drawn up. They were to address
urban housing provision but none of them was passed as a working document (MWRWH,
2009). UN Habitat (2005) suggested the incorporation of housing within the wider economic
environment rather than dealing with it as a special sector requiring attention out of welfare
consideration. This whole sector approach to housing contributed to the establishment of the
Housing Sector Reform Program by the World Bank. The World Bank funded Urban II -
Housing Sector Reform Program (1990 1998) which was the only housing program that
came into fruition since it had a donor funding attached (MWRWH, 2009).
The establishment of the Home Finance Company (HFC) in 1990 was to generate
secondary mortgage funds to be accessed by middle to higher income households to promote
home ownership. By the year 2000, approximately 2000 housing units out of the anticipated
4100 units were disbursed through mortgage funding (World Bank, 2000). As usual, the low
income households were not included in the system since government’s urban low income
housing finance has a high non-cost recovery component and the government was not in a
position to carry the burden of heavy subsidies (World Bank, 2002). The number of
mortgages disbursed over the years have been decreasing from 2402 mortgages at a value of
192 billion Cedis disbursed in 2001 to 1595 at a value of 260 billion Cedis in 2006 (Bank of
Ghana, 2007).
The national shelter reform proposed that rental housing built by SHC and TDC should
be sold out through mortgages from the HFC/SSNIT. It was cost ineffective for government
to maintain the housing units while renters were not paying economic rents. Rents charged
were less than the cost of maintaining the houses (Tipple, 1994, World Bank, 2000). Mass
estate housing development, initiated in 1987 and ending in 2000, built by SSNIT, and of
high quality had a highly subsidised interest rate which would have de-capitalised the Trust
(World Bank, 2000). All these were to be sold out instead of renting. Moreover, it was
estimated that inefficient and bankrupt housing parastatals (SHC and TDC) were sitting on
valuable assets worth in excess of 2% of GDP, and that some fortunate civil servants were
enjoying government housing benefits valued at several times their gross emolument (World
Bank, 2000). In lieu of this some government houses were sold out.
Urban Low Income Housing Development in Ghana
The urban land administration also began under the URBAN II projects where land banks
were to be created for government holding.
The SAP, which has been described as bringing untoward hardship on the population, at
the same time fostered the liberalization of the economy which favoured the provision of
housing for the middle high income groups in the free urban housing market (Songsore et
al., 2004; Boafo-Arthur, 1999; Barwa, 1995). On the other hand, the bottom 60 70% of the
urban population who could not afford these costly housing became the losers as the state and
private developers moved away from the unprofitable low income segment of the housing
market (Songsore et al., 2004). The World Bank housing reform project did not cater for the
provision of either housing finance or provision of housing units for the urban low income
households since it was advocated that the government of Ghana would require too much
subsidy to cater for that income group. According to Yankson (2012b), about 85 per cent of
the national housing stock is provided by numerous small builders and individual owners and
only 15 per cent is provided by quasi-public corporations, which operate like commercial
developers, guided by the policy and programs of the government, and the private real estate
developers who operate under the umbrella of GREDA.
In 1995, a 25-year National Development Policy Framework, developed under the NDC
regime, codenamed ‘Ghana VISION 2020’ had an aim ‘to transform Ghana from a poor,
undeveloped low income country into a vibrant middle income country within a generation’.
The strategy was to implement this program over five-year periods. In this policy framework,
low cost housing was to be directed towards improving the shelter conditions of the urban
low income household. According to Acquaah-Harrison (2004), the framework provided for
the introduction of a new facility under the Social Security Scheme allowed contributors to
withdraw a part of their contributions to the fund for the purpose of purchasing a house.
However, none of the housing strategies were implemented due to lack of funds, lack of
private sector participation, lack of political will and change in government that resulted in a
change in policy directions (Acquaah-Harrison, 2004).
Contemporary Urban Low Income Housing Situation (2000 present)
When the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government took over from the National
Democratic Congress (NDC) in 2000, the ‘Vision 2020’ was replaced with the ‘Ghana
Poverty Reduction Strategy I (GPRS)’ in 2001. This policy was to address the provision of
affordable low cost houses through labour intensive methods. Site and services land projects
were also to be developed along the urban fringes for urban low income housing. This was to
be led by the private sector while the government provides the necessary support with regards
to basic infrastructure provision (National Development Planning Commission, 2002). As
part of the GPRS I programme, slums were to be upgraded. However, constraints such as
inadequate housing finance, costly and cumbersome land markets, lack of adequate physical
planning and infrastructure, costly building materials, design and construction hampered the
housing delivery efforts (Acquaah-Harrison, 2004). An ISSER report (2004) also stated the
challenges in housing provision as; lack of adequate financing, high lending rates, high prices
in land and building materials and lack of adequate land for large scale housing projects. In
2005, the estimated shortage of houses was 1.2 million and about 140,000 new units were
required to be delivered annually (MWRWH, 2009). However, in 2005, only about 30,000
Irene Appeaning Addo
housing units were produced leaving a deficit of 110,000 (MWRWH, 2009). The actual
number of houses produced could not be accurately accounted for because of ineffective and
uncoordinated planning regulations (MWRWH, 2009).
As part of the agenda to address urban housing issues in Ghana, several draft housing
policies have been drawn up including; the Draft National Housing Policy (2009) which is
still in the offing, the National Housing Policy and Action Plan (1987 1990), the National
Shelter Strategy Volumes 1 and 2 (1993), the Istanbul Declaration and The Habitat
Agenda’(June 1996), the National Shelter Strategy Part Two (revised in June 2000) and the
report on ‘Housing Programmes and Action Plan to Implement the National Shelter Strategy’
(2003). The goal of these policies was to provide adequate, decent and affordable housing that
is accessible and sustainable with infrastructural facilities to satisfy the needs of the
Ghanaian. The recent draft housing policy identified three major changes that needed to be
- Encourage the formal sector to serve a much larger segment of the income
- Build and finance housing for households with average incomes through
- Public sector housing solutions targeting households with incomes below average as
a complement to informal individual housing provision and,
- Encourage Community Based Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations
to provide quality housing for the low income.
In line with the new draft national housing policy, 100,000 low cost houses were to be
built at a unit price of GHC9000 ($90002) (Mahama & Adarkwa-Antwi, 2006). In year 2009,
government officials were accused of taking up the few completed units for their families and
themselves (Daily Graphic, 2009). The change in government in 2008 led to the reign of Prof.
Atta-Mills as leader of the NDC party. The initial housing project started in year 2006 stalled
and the new government sought a loan to implement a different 200,000 housing units STX
(South Korea)-Ghana Government low income/public officials housing units. In this case, the
proposed cost of houses ranged between $50,000 and $70,000 per unit making them highly
unaffordable to both the low and middle income classes. In addition to these housing projects,
the NDC government has also committed private housing developers, WALLTECH and
KAMPAC, to build 100,000 and 10,000 low income houses respectively (Ghana Web, 2010).
However, in December 2011, the STX-Ghana Housing deal was abrogated due to internal
wrangling within the company (Daily Guide, 2012).
Draft National Housing Policy (2009)
The 2009 draft national housing policy is currently the draft policy guiding the
production of housing in Ghana. The policy sought to address the following issues in urban
housing development in Ghana:
2 The exchange rate of the dollar to the cedi was 1:1 in 2006.
Urban Low Income Housing Development in Ghana
Land cost and accessibility;
Lack of access to credit;
High cost of building materials;
Lack of effective regulatory and monitoring mechanisms;
Research and Development;
Institutional Coordination;
Governance for Housing Provision;
Environment and housing;
Energy and housing.
The aims for the housing policy include, first, to facilitate access to land for the low-
income population to pave the way for an increase in housing stock through their own efforts
and also assemble and allocate land so as to reduce overcrowding in slums and informal
settlements and provide for new household formation. The second aim is to establish a
sustainable housing process which will eventually enable all Ghanaians to secure housing
with secure tenure, within a safe and healthy environment and viable communities in a
manner that will make a positive contribution to a democratic and integrated society, within
the shortest possible time frame. Under the overall aims the following specific objectives of
the policy are:
To accelerate home improvement, the upgrading and transformation of the existing
housing stock;
To improve the environment of human settlements with a view to raising the quality
of life through the provision of good drinking water, sanitation and other basic
To make housing programmes more accessible to the poor;
To promote greater private sector participation in housing delivery by creating an
enabling environment through the elimination of constraints and improving access to
resource inputs;
To create an environment conducive to investment in housing for rental purpose;
To promote orderly consolidated urban growth with acceptable minimum provision
of physical and social infrastructure;
These aims and objectives are guided by the following principles;
Housing as a basic human right;
The role of government;
People centred development
Freedom of choice;
Urban and rural balance;
Sustainability and fiscal affordability;
Consumer protection and education
Accountability and monitoring;
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Housing Delivery Process
Although the 2009 draft housing policy spells out in detail the aims and objectives of
housing development in Ghana, the processes involved in housing provision in Ghana is
fraught with many challenges. According to Karley (2008), housing delivery in Ghana is
characterized by high cost and cumbersome land acquisition, lack of mortgage financing,
utility infrastructure issues, inability to procure building materials at lower costs and
inadequacy of labour. The nuances associated with urban housing development defeats
government objective of making housing programmes more accessible to the poor and
improving the quality of life of the urban poor.
Access to Urban Land
The proportion for the cost of land is estimated to be around one fifth of the total cost of
housing construction (Karley, 2008). For example, land prices in residential areas such as
Cantonments, Labone and the Airport Residential Area ranged from US$250,000 to
US$500,000 for about a 30metre by 25metre plot of land in 2013. Usually, cost of land in the
urban peripheries is lower in price selling between US$1500 to US$5000 for a similar size of
land. The price of land is dependent on the location and the infrastructure available. In
addition to the high cost of land, the process of land acquisition in Accra is saddled with
litigations as a result of multiple sales by different families claiming ownership over the same
parcel of land. Litigations associated with land acquisition has led to destruction of houses,
court cases over ownership of land and unreliable documents which financial institutions have
rejected as collateral in sourcing for housing loans (Payne, 1997; Tipple & Korboe, 1998;
Gough & Yankson, 2000; Karley, 2008). The issue of land litigations has not promoted
greater private sector participation and a favourable environment for housing investment.
Access to and ownership of urban formal land is effectively precluded to all but a
minority of affluent and influential people (Rick, 2004). Urban low income households’
access to urban land in Accra is fraught with a myriad of challenges. Apart from the fact that
urban lands within the central part of Accra are almost completely used up, the other areas are
designated as high class residential areas while the price of available land in the urban
peripheries is prohibitive to the urban low income household. Hence, urban low income
households are compelled to buy cheaper lands in peripheries of Accra and non developed
After acquiring a piece of urban land, the buyer has to satisfy both customary
requirements and enacted legislation present (LAP Coordination Unit, 2007). This results in
cumbersome land acquisition and registration. In a bid to streamline the problems associated
with urban land acquisition, a National Land Policy was formulated to address the problem of
land acquisition in Ghana.
Urban Low Income Housing Development in Ghana
Previously, registration of land in Ghana involved several departments until recently
when the Land Administration Project (LAP) was established coordinating the various
institutions involved in the registration of land in Ghana. Generally, land acquisition in Ghana
has been described as laborious involving several complex processes (Gough & Yankson,
2000). The bureaucracy in land registration and the lack of transparencies have resulted in
multiple registrations of lands in Ghana. Some officials working in the Lands Department,
through corrupt practices, expunge the names of original land owners and introduce new
owners in the lands records. While all these happenings are ongoing, the buyer with funds
quickly develops the land asserting that ‘the one who builds on the land is the first to occupy
the land’. With this knowledge, a number of households begin constructing their buildings as
a sign of occupying the land before registering the lands at the Lands Commission. This is
contrary to the requirements of the building regulations.
Accra is the hub of Ghana’s political and economic activities. It is the headquarters of
both international and national organisations. By virtue of these administrative resources,
individuals and organisations desire to own a piece of land in Accra. Very few lands in Accra
are owned by Government while a majority is customarily owned by families and chiefs.
Until recently, land in Accra was sold out as freehold as compared to lands in the Ashanti
Region that are vested in the Ashantihene3 stool. Hence, land in Kumasi is leased out and
this has brought about some form of control and proper management. In the case of Accra,
even vested lands owned by government are being sold out to individual politicians who may
buy the state lands at reasonable prices and sell them at high prices (Daily Graphic, 2012).
Speculative buyers and real estate developers are also contributors of the high cost of
land in Accra. These people acquire large tracts of land at cheap prices from the family heads
or the chiefs and later resell them at very high prices. In some instances, individuals and
speculative buyers have exchanged large acres of land for a car. After a period of time when
families realise that family lands are almost sold out, then other family members try to resell
the already sold out land to another person resulting in litigations. Multiple sale of land in
Accra as a result of ‘disintegration’ and division of the family unit is a huge challenge in
urban land management. Land in Accra has been monetised, attaching a high premium to it.
The phase one (2003 2008) of the Land Administration Project (LAP) had the
following goals; (1) to harmonise land policies and the legislative framework with customary
law for sustainable land administration, (2) to undertake institutional reform and capacity
building for comprehensive improvement in the land administration system and (3) to
establish an efficient, fair and transparent system of land titling, registration and valuation
(LAP Coordination Unit, 2007). It was anticipated that this process would stall the litigations
associated with land acquisition but that result was not achieved (Mahama & Adarkwa-
Antwi, 2006). Recently it was recorded in the media that the Ghana Police had a clash with
landowners in a suburb of Accra over the ownership of a piece of land (Daily Graphic, 2013).
Access to Housing and Mortgage Finance
The second major challenge associated with urban low income housing delivery in Accra
is the lack of access to mortgage finance or housing loans. The housing finance situation
3 The paramount chief of the Ashanti Kingdom
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prevailing in Ghana defeats the policy objective of promoting private sector-led supply of
affordable urban housing. An insignificant number of households purchased their houses in
Accra because mortgage housing finance is inaccessible to the majority of the households
especially the lower income groups. The haphazard planning of low income housing in Accra
with less durable materials affects the financing options available to urban low income
households. Renaud (1999) argues that cities are built the way they are financed claiming that
the visual outlook of a community tells how housing units and neighbourhoods are financed.
The 2009 draft housing policy identified that among the numerous difficulties associated with
urban housing provision is the low capital base, absence of long-term borrowing options, high
commercial lending rates and low household incomes (MWRWH, 2009).
According to a financial report prepared in 2009 by the Ghana Business News,
macroeconomic instability, reflected by high and intractable inflation, high interest rates with
huge spreads and a weak and volatile local currency, has characterized the Ghanaian economy
over the past two decades thus creating disincentives for investments in long term instruments
such as mortgages for sustainable housing development. The macroeconomic environment
defeats government private sector involvement in affordable urban housing supply. The main
strategy adopted by government currently is to provide greater access to credit particularly for
the medium to low income groups through savings schemes (MWRWH, 2009). This was to
be achieved through housing bonds by the locality, land for equity swap, incentives to
encourage Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) and Community Based Organisations
(CBO) committed to housing provision for the low income groups and improved incentives to
housing developers to attract investors. Private estate developers have also developed
‘flexible’ terms of repayment where an individual interested in purchasing a house makes
about 30 50% down payment while the house is delivered over a two year period. The
remaining amount is spread over a 10-year period. A significant number of households are
not able to raise the required deposit.
The collapse of the Bank for Housing and Construction in 2000 also stifled the housing
construction and mortgage market for both contractors and prospective home owners. In
recent years short to medium term financing are the main products given by the banks. Other
non-conventional financing such as savings schemes and cooperatives also generate
inadequate funding to begin a new project except to complete projects already started. In
Accra, there are three main types of housing finance operating, namely the private
commercial banks, the informal savings and loan schemes, and the state financing sources
through work places.
Commercial banks, financial institutions and mortgage agencies, such as HFC, offer
limited housing mortgagees targetting only high income households. Urban low income
households do not have access to these mortgages because first, their income would not
qualify them for a mortgage considering the stringent repayment procedures, second about
80% of low income households’ work in the informal sector without a defined monthly
income. Fluctuating macroeconomic conditions and high inflation rates have resulted in high
interest rates charged on loans. Loan disbursements are tied to formal employment systems.
The Home Finance Company (HFC) was the main supplier of mortgages in the 1990s and
2000s until recently when their financial base decreased and they reduced the allocation. For
example, in 2004 only 85 new loans were made by HFC (Tomlinson, 2007). In recent times a
privately owned company, Ghana Home Loans (GHL) limited also disburses mortgages to the
market for a repayment period of 15 years. GHL is a mortgage finance institution with key
Urban Low Income Housing Development in Ghana
aim of providing competitively priced long term mortgage finance to facilitate home
ownership as described in Box 1.
However, the conditions required to access these mortgages for houses are stringent and
prohibitive to both middle and low income households. For first time owners, applicants are
required to contribute at least 25% of the cost of house with an additional $200 mortgage
processing fee as at 2010. The company advertises houses built by private real estate
developers and these houses are very expensive and unaffordable to low income households.
The company also offers medium and long term mortgages for the completion, rehabilitation
and upgrading of homes of mortgagees.
Box 1. Ghana Home Loans housing mortgage financing
First Time Home Buyers: Applicants looking to buy their very first home. These are
typically individuals or young couples (joint applicants) looking to establish a home.
Applicants will be required to contribute at least 25% of the property value towards the
Target: Borrowers looking to acquire their first property
Interest Rate: Fixed or Variable
Maximum Loan: subject to credit profile
Maximum Term: 15
Loan to Value: up to 75%
Minimum Deposit: 25%
Facility Fee: 1%
Processing Fee: $200 (or Cedi equivalent)
Conditions: The property must be owner occupied
Source: Ghana Home Loans website, 2010
In accessing such a facility, the home owner is required to provide registered documents
of the land coupled with building approval documents. However, most of these documents are
absent when a low income household decides to build. Litigations over urban land in Accra
have propelled a number of developers to quickly establish their presence on the land before
the necessary documents are processed. The absence of all these necessary documents
coupled with the informality of the nature of businesses engaged by the urban low income
household as well as the low income levels serve as points for disqualification in applying for
housing finance opportunities. In addition, formal banking institutions also require
households to provide addresses and other utility bills to indicate a permanent location which
disqualifies a number of urban low income households renting from a compound house to
open a formal account. Due to all these encumbrances, a number of urban low income
households involved in informal businesses are turning to informal micro finance or susu
collectors. ‘Susu’ collectors are informal savings collectors who usually visit the low income
individuals doing any informal job and collect monies from them daily with the intention that
individuals will be saving. However, there have been incidents when the susu’ collectors
have bolted with the savings of individuals or have not been able to refund the savings of
Informal funds are generated from non-conventional microfinance sectors such as small
scale savings, credit unions, cooperatives and Rotating Savings and Credit Associations
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(ROSCAS). Informal finance relies on small, very localized, mutual and irregular forms of
finance which are pooled through ROSCAS (Renaud, 1999). This source of generating funds
is not adequate for immediate housing construction but rather for incremental building and
extensions where the house is built in phases over a period of time. Most of the private
households in Accra, both lower and higher income households, do not use mortgages to
finance their housing construction.
State financing of urban low income housing in Accra is minimal especially when
governments have adopted the enabling housing market strategy. According to the 2010
Population and Housing Census, the share of government supplied housing in Accra was just
about 7.5% of the total housing stock (GSS, 2012). This proportion is highly insignificant and
the government built single family bungalows are inadequate with just about three bedrooms
at most. Renaud (1999) describes such houses as being of high standards with very high cost
but low value for occupants.
Building Regulations and Standards
The restrictive building regulations and standards limits the production of urban low
income housing in the cities in Ghana. The National Building Regulations, 1996 (L.I. 1630),
applies to ‘the erection, alteration or extension of a building.....’. They set out regulations for
constructing a building in Ghana with regards to design, permit, construction and
requirements. In the case of a housing construction, it is expected that the developer submits
detailed plans indicating floor plans, foundation details, sections, elevations, roof plans,
structural drawings, electrical drawings and plumbing details to the planning authority. In
addition to these plans, the developer has to submit a signed site plan by a Licensed Surveyor
indicating the plot size and the layout on the ground before approval is given.
These detailed plans should be designed by an architect, a qualified engineer, a
draughtsman, a licensed building surveyor or a building technician. However, the regulation
also states that any house that is in excess of 120 square meters or a two or more storey
building in the urban or metropolitan areas shall be designed by an architect in consultation
with a qualified engineer but excludes the professional builders and draughtsmen. However,
this requirement is overlooked by a considerable number of households especially in lower
income groups since they cannot afford the services of the professionals. At best, most of the
houses are designed by a draughtsman who pays for a chartered architect to sign the drawings
they produce.
The building regulation stipulates that a minimum of three months is required for an
applicant to get a building permit before construction. However, this time period can often
extend to over one year even after much lobbying. The delay serves as an excuse for illegal
construction without building permit. During housing construction it is expected that the
building should not be located on a recently reclaimed site, flood prone areas, water courses
and on a site area smaller than 450sqm (330sqm when bounded by roads on three sides) with
a frontage not less than 15m. Recently urban land of 15 metres by 24 metres defeats the
requirements of the building regulations. The building regulations require that a minimum of
2.4 metres is left at the sides and the back of the building. No building housing development
on a plot of land should exceed 60%. The national building regulations stipulate site coverage
for various types of houses as follows (National Building Regulation, 1996):
Urban Low Income Housing Development in Ghana
Single storey detached 50%
Two and three storey detached 40%
Single storey semi-detached 60%
Two and three storey semi-detached 50%
Two and three storey terrace 50%
Building Materials
Although the use of traditional building material is not banned in housing construction in
Ghana, approval for use of unconventional building material such as mud and laterite in
buildings is subject to the discretion of the district planning officer. This requirement in the
building regulations is usually overlooked in informal housing construction. In Ghana, the
suitability of a building material is standardised and regulated under the Ghana Standard
Code of Practice (GSCP) derived from the British Standard Code of Practice (BSCP).
The era of modernity has greatly impacted the housing construction industry in Ghana by
having the market flooded with imported building materials such as floor and wall tiles from
China and Spain, doors, ironmongery, roofing sheets and acrylic paints mainly from China.
Although some of the components of the building have locally manufactured materials, the
high import content of the raw materials such as ingots for roofing sheets and clinker for
Portland cement increases the cost of production. In 2009, a communiqué issued at the end of
a two day national housing conference in Accra, observed that there was about 65% import
content in the construction industry. This percentage may be higher in 2012 when almost
every building component is now imported from China. Currently, the dollar to cedi exchange
rate is 1:2.4. This means that every item imported has to be sold about three times the cost
price if taxes are factored into the overall cost. In 2009 the price of cement was sold for 10.50
Ghana Cedis ($4.00) but is now selling for 19.50 Ghana Cedis ($8.00) in January, 2014 in
Accra. The over reliance on imported building materials has led to high cost of building in
Ghana.The only two main building components that are accessed locally are sand and stone
Although, Gidigasu (2005) suggests that 70% of Ghana land surface is covered with
laterite and that the dominant lateritic materials in Ghana range from rocks, boulders, cobbles,
pebbles, gravels, fine-grained sandy, silty, and clayey soils, use of traditional building
materials such as laterite, clay and mud are almost absent in urban houses. The 2010
Population and Housing Census estimated that only 4% of the buildings in Accra are
constructed out of mud/laterite-based material while about 60% of all the buildings are
constructed out of cement-based material (GSS, 2012). Yeboah (2005) in a study comparing
the cost of construction for different building materials showed major differences in
construction cost in peripheral Accra as standards of materials and finishes vary. The UN
Habitat in 2011 also compared the cost of construction for adobe, cement screed floor finish
and Terrazzo finish and observed considerable differences (UN-HABITAT, 2011).
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Other Constraints in Housing Provision
Other constraints in urban low income housing delivery in Accra include inadequacy of
skilled labour leading to lower quality jobs (UN-HABITAT, 2011). In most newly developing
urban areas, infrastructure provision lags behind building development. According to
Songsore (2003), nationally about 74.2% of all households have access to improved water
supply which includes 41% with access to pipe-borne water (including public outdoor pipes
and water piped into dwelling), 26.3% with access to borehole water with 6.9% relying on
protected wells. The remaining 25% rely on other sources of water supply.
Reviewing the political economy of urban low income housing provision since the
colonial era, revealed that although urban low income housing provision was the centre of
most housing policies, the governments have not had the political will and finance to
implement such policies on a large scale. Tracing through the historical provision of urban
low income housing provision in Ghana, it is obvious that urban housing development is
spontaneous, unplanned, unmanaged and unsustainable. No proper housing policy has served
as a roadmap for governments in Ghana with regards to urban housing production in Ghana.
Programmes for urban low income housing are tied to political gimmick and not policy
driven. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president and Colonel Acheampong were the two
political figure heads who attempted addressing urban housing challenges and especially for
the low income households although most of the houses were taken over by the middle to
high income households.
In addition to the lack of a housing policy in Ghana urban housing development, the
housing sector is bedevilled with a myriad of challenges which need to be efficiently
managed to achieve a sustainable urban housing supply in Ghana. Ineffective urban land
administration, absence of housing mortgage finance, unfavourable macroeconomic
environment affect both investors’ and individuals’ quest to develop a competitive housing
market. They are saddled with land litigations and high interest rates due to increasing
inflationary rates. The cost of housing construction in Ghana is relatively high compared to
the income levels of households and the national minimum wage. The high component of
imported building materials in Ghana’s housing construction has made the buildings
expensive and at the same time stifled the small scale building manufacturing industries.
Again, urban households are faced with the high building standards and regulations that
city authorities impose on them limiting efficient urban usage and creating expensive urban
infrastructure. It is recommended that urban low income housing should be handled
proactively by policy makers without much political bias since it is the household that suffers.
Recent public housing programmes have demonstrated political bias by being abandoned by
subsequent government and leaving them uncompleted. This situation is fuelled by the
absence of a national housing policy. The recent draft policy is still in the offing and it has not
been passed to law.
Urban Low Income Housing Development in Ghana
Challenges in Urban Land Management
Urban land should be managed efficiently by getting landowners and families partnering
with government in the allocation of land to housing developers. A data base of urban land
should be developed which will monitor the allocation of lands in the urban centres. A law
should be passed to have all public and family lands logged in the data base. This will ensure
that every parcel of land allocated is captured in the data base and prevent multiple sale of
land. Monies accrued from the registration of such lands will serve as royalties for the
families and the custodians of the land.
Unfavourable Financial Macroeconomic Environment
There is the need to stabilise the inflationary rates of Ghana into a single digit number.
This will in turn lower interest rates on loans and mortgages to developers and mortgagees.
The microfinance sector should be resourced to give reasonable loans to clients since these
microfinance institutions serve about 80% of the population who make up the informal sector.
Workers contribution to the national social security scheme could also be used as collateral
for mortgages.
High Building Regulations and Standards
Innovative housing forms such as multi-habited dwellings should be developed to meet
the budget of the low income household instead of the colonial single-family dwellings which
are more expensive to own. Culturally, economically and socially, urban low income
households dwell in multi-habited dwellings so as to take advantage of the low cost, informal
social relations and family networks existing in such living arrangements. The informal social
relations often play a key role in a household’s coping strategies as they strive to achieve their
livelihood needs.
Use of Locally Available Building Material Instead of Imported Building
Pozzolana cement, clay bricks, stones and sand are locally accessed building materials
that should be encouraged in urban housing construction in Ghana. Tibaijuka (2009) observed
that houses with high component of locally produced building material and low skilled labour
creates employment for a majority of artisans compared to luxury building with industrialised
building techniques.
Compact Urban Development Assisting Infrastructure Development
Compact urban development, according to Jenks & Burgess (2000) is the way forward in
developing a sustainable urban form in developing countries. This form of development will
ensure effective planning and efficient use of scarce urban land. This development will be
achieved in Ghana if it is backed by an urban development policy that considers the totality of
urban development as a whole and not as units. Peripheral and dispersed development is
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characterised by poverty, reduced quality of life for the poor and environmental degradation
as agricultural land is used up. In addressing compact urban low income housing, multiple
level multi-habited accommodations should be provided which will increase densities but
avoid overcrowding as found in most low income communities in Ghana. Multilevel multi-
habitation should be included in Ghana’s urban low income housing development to ensure
efficient urban land usage and infrastructure development.
Policy implications for both state and non-state interventions in urban low income
housing development in Ghana are summarized in the table below.
Table 1. Summary of the policy implications for state and non-state sectors
Policy implications
State sector
Non-state sector
Ensure access to secure
land tenure.
Provision of serviced
urban land.
Allowing smaller land
Cross subsidy of
infrastructure provision
Subsided land from
Provision of
multihabited dwellings.
Provision of supporting
community facilities for
the multihabited houses.
Promote vertical
development as against
the horizontal
Mixed development with
some shared facilities
Housing management
Fraction of houses
built for low income
households as tax
Housing Cost
and Financing
Promotion of savings
and credit schemes
specifically for housing.
Establish national
housing fund.
Mobilization of
community resources.
Direct involvement of
government in provision.
Encourage hire-purchase
through renting.
Formation of
MDAs to build for
the lower levels
(provident fund, end
of service benefits)
Access to housing
finance by petty
and Standards
Lower building
standards for
multihabited dwellings.
Promote the use of
indigenous building
materials and skills
Approve multihabited
Allow larger coverage
on land.
Re-zoning for cross
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... Two mid-term development plans from 1951-1964 were rooted in a socialist philosophy and primarily aimed at providing adequate and subsidized housing for low-income households (Ansah & Ametepey, 2013 (Ansah & Ametepey, 2013). Also, the Roof and Wall Loan Scheme which was started in 1955 advanced the aided self-help housing idea (Addo, 2014). The government provided materials, loans, and serviced sites at moderate rents to low-income households. ...
... The government significantly retreated from direct housing production and lost grips of the housing market. According to several scholars (e.g., Addo, 2014;Songsore et al., 2004), this period kickstarted the substantial housing deficits faced in the country (see Table 1.3). ...
... Urban poor households are having to contend with higher rents and land prices which affects their ability to participate in the formal market. They are thus "pushed" and "pulled" to slums where affordable housing is provided (Addo, 2014;Takyi et al., 2020). As Grant (2006, p. 13) From the foregoing, it is right to argue that Ghana's unproductive housing policies profoundly influence informal urbanization by poor households. ...
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For years informal urbanization by the urban poor and its spatial outcomes—i.e., slums—have become ubiquitous in Global South cities, particularly Africa. Consequently, authorities are engineering strategies that could arrest and slow down its proliferation in the quest for resilient and sustainable cities. Within the complex discourse of informal urbanization, one very crucial piece of evidence that appears to be unclear pertains to its driving factors. Using Ghana—particularly rapidly urbanizing southern Ghanaian cities—as an empirical case, this paper untangles the complex and multidimensional drivers of slum growth beyond the traditional population-heavy approaches. Using the push-pull theory as a conceptual and analytical prism, analyses reveal that poorly designed housing policies, the informal economy, weak urban planning, political interferences and political clientelism accelerates slum growth. The article argues that coping with unplanned urbanization by the urban poor may be extremely tenuous if these complex factors are not well-understood and seriously considered in policy circles. The findings of the article also lend credence to arguments that call for a shift from population-heavy readings of urban challenges in Africa to more institutional, political, and historical perspectives. The paper concludes by recommending that states and city authorities ought to recognize and address their institutional culpabilities in contributing to slum growth. A critical starting point could be the re-examination of draconian policies and the adoption of inclusive, pro-poor, and proactive urban strategies.
... Instead, the Private sector participants are cashing on the acute shortage of accommodation and thus selling at high prices, the units provided by the private sector can only be demanded for, by the few privileged high income group and political office holders in Nigeria. Addo (2014). ...
... The housing shortage in that city/state. Addo (2014) suggested that housing should be recalled back to its social policy programme status and that the public sector should not leave such a social programme completely in the hands of the profit focused private sector. The study also advocated for effective Public Private Partnership application to housing sector to give deserved attention to the low income housing. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The projection of 2billion urban dwellers by the year 2030 is capable of turning into greater challenge in the face of inadequate and unaffordable houses especially in the cities. The problem on housing affordability in the developing countries in particular, is becoming an insurmountable problem of many Africa nations. Therefore there is a need for a holistic review of all contributing factors to housing provision. This paper attempts to analyse the place of social housing in the current capitalist economies and REIT subscribers home ownership system towards reducing the home prices. The study adopted a qualitative method comprising content analysis of existing research on housing and a focus group discussion with 13 experts in the built environment sector who are also in the academia. The result indicates that the Public Private Partnership (PPP) strategy adoption in housing development/supply produces unaffordable housing units beyond the reach of the majority of the citizens in many countries. Social housing policy and implementation towards the target group of low and low-medium income will impact significantly oh housing affordability in developing nations. Involvement of REIT in housing development, purchase and management of social housing wherein the occupants are subscribers of the REIT companies will create a sense of ownership to the occupants and reduce non affordability.
... Ghana is faced with this housing crisis because of astronomical increments in the prices of affordable housing, lack of housing finance, painful delays in housing construction projects, increased gentrification of liveable property given successive governments' penchant for re-planning and re-development as well as the increasing price of land in urban centres (GhanaWeb News, 2020;Gillespie, 2018;Wuni et al., 2018). The problems escalate and are seen in housing shortages, obsolescence, overcrowding, homelessness, evictions, urban slums and a general aporia among poor people and the low earning workers concerning accommodation (Addo, 2014;Cann & Kweiba, 2018;Gillespie, 2018;Kamete, 2006;King et al., 2017;Turok & Borel-Saladin, 2018). ...
Full-text available
The urgent need to develop and increase housing units has always featured prominently in electioneering campaigns in Ghana. Successive governments have developed countless programmes to deal with the housing deficit, but there has not been a significant improvement. As we write, the government of Ghana is grappling with a housing deficit of over two million units. But why has this problem remained intractable despite what seems like concerted efforts by various administrations to provide affordable housing for Ghana’s more vulnerable populations? Focusing on the 2015 National Housing Policy, this article critically reviews Ghana’s various housing policies and reforms, exploring how colonial policies and neoliberal reforms are separately and jointly implicated, in fundamental ways, in Ghana’s currently engulfing housing crisis. Our findings reveal that the yawning gap noticeable in Ghana’s overall effort at housing provision for the populace, is rooted in the colonial logic of piecemeal intervention. This same logic has continued to traverse successive Ghanaian housing policies through the immediate postcolonial era, the adjustment years, and the current period.
... The overpatronage of and increasing preference for foreign building materials has affected the construction of low-cost housing and has increased the prices of houses in Ghana. Even under government affordable housing projects, final building projects have ended up with prices beyond the reach of low-income households (Addo, 2014;Kyessi & Furaha, 2010). When imported building materials are used for housing development, the high prices resulting from high construction costs also mean that mortgage repayment amounts become very high, pricing low-income households out of the mortgage market. ...
High mortgage repayment-to-income ratios and unavailability of adequate and secured collateral are major setbacks for low-income households in accessing housing finance. This notwithstanding, few studies have examined housing finance strategies that are available to low-income households within a secondary city context amidst the complexities of customary land tenure. This study examined the housing finance strategies adopted by low-income households in Kumasi, Ghana and suggested alternative strategies under informal tenure. The mixed methods approach was adopted, using a survey of randomly selected households and semi-structured interviews of financial institutions. From the data analyses, the findings suggest that low-income households are priced out of formal mortgage markets, and hence they relied on the incremental building process. This approach is unsustainable and inefficient because it takes longer periods to complete, and such houses lack basic sanitary amenities. To mitigate the situation, there is the need for government social housing drives using cheaper and locally produced building materials as a long-term measure. In the short-term, urban poor can rely on rental housing options for their housing needs. There is also the need to create serviced neighborhoods in the peri-urban fringes of the city to supply cheaper and accessible housing parcels for the poor.
... Although some studies (Ansah, 2014: 1;Wuni, Boafo, Yeboah & Dinye, 2018: 2;Obeng-Odoom, 2014: 357) have been conducted on the extent of housing shortage in Ghana's urban cities, none focused on Swedru Township. Other similar studies (Boamah, 2010: 1;Appeaning, 2014;Gillespie, 2018: 64) did not consider how decent or non-decent households are being accommodated, as far as the provision of housing is concerned, in terms of room occupancy rate and housing facility per person. This article investigates the state of housing conditions relative to overcrowding and the availability of in-house facilities, and examines how decent households are accommodated in the Swedru municipality, as measured against the SDG11 and the UN-Habitat's housing standards. ...
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Adequate supply of housing remains a challenge in developing countries. This article assesses the extent of housing poverty in developing countries and its implication for decent accommodation1 in Swedru, Ghana. Using a cross-sectional survey design coupled with stratified and systematic sampling techniques, 1,161 household participants were selected. Questionnaires and interviews were used to collect raw data from 496 houses in 16 neighbourhoods in the Swedru Township, Ghana. Findings showed that the vast majority of houses in the Swedru Township share common housing facilities such as bathroom and lavatory. This has compelled some households to resort to bathing in open spaces, while practising free range especially in the morning where households have to queue for bathing and using the toilet facility. A room occupancy rate of 5.51 indicates that households are congested and a population of 4,603 accommodated in 496 housing units is evident. It was revealed that the high level of non-decent accommodation in the municipality is attributable to ill-enforcement of building laws that has allowed houseowners to supply housing without lavatories with impunity. Hence, effective implementation of the L.I.1630 was recommended.
... The PNDC military Government, therefore, under IMF/World Bank's supervision, liberalized the housing sector in the 1980s (Boamah, 2010;Arku, 2009). The liberalization made the already insignificant state role in housing delivery even more invisible as the World Bank's Structural Adjustment Programs compelled the government to only play facilitating role by stimulating the growth of the private real estate sector; liberalizing the land markets and building material industry; encouraging the formal private sector to construct rental housing units and reform housing institutions (Pacione, 2005;Addo, 2014;Arku, 2009). The reforms, which handed enormous tax holidays to private companies successfully attracted a substantial number of real estate companies and unprecedented private capital into the sector. ...
Urban discourses in Africa have long followed the conventional pathological–indeed Malthusian–view that the continent’s urban problems are the result of overpopulation. This study examines how this diagnosis holds up against evidence on specific urban problems systematically collected and forensically analyzed. The study assembled detailed empirical data on building collapses in cities in Ghana, via interviews and focus group discussions, from a range of professionals, including building inspectors, planners, architects and researchers in the country and draws on data from various secondary sources. The data was knitted together and interpreted within the political economists’ methodology of accident research framework. Based on this analysis, the study found that the population-heavy approach to urban problems in Africa totters badly. Not only is it too focused on problems internal to Africa, but it also overlooks the systemic underdevelopment conditions (i.e. inherited and externally-imposed factors) which interplay with the internal factors created the present socio-political-economic order determining life chances of people in cities in the continent. Africa’s urban problems, the study will argue, do not stem from population characteristics, but the prevailing socio-political-economic systems that shape, dictate and structure access and the distribution of resources and exercise of power. The socio-political-economic systems are, however, not natural creations – they are the legacies of colonial and post-colonial national policies and the neoliberal-capitalist programs of international bodies implemented in the continent. The present-day conditions in cities in Africa are, therefore, best understood not in the context of their population characteristics, but the various colonial and post-colonial national policies and programs of international bodies that organized and continue to organize the continent’s urban systems for particular purposes.
... Compound residents in village homesteads were often related by blood or marriage. The advent of rapid urbanisation and the introduction of property rights have, however, combined to weaken the bond of family relations in urban places so that the inhabitants of compound houses, especially in Ghanaian cities, may have little or nothing in common (Addo, 2014;Amole et al., 1993;Schlyter, 2003;Tipple, Amole, Korboe, & Onyeacholem, 1994). Arguably, such living arrangements provide a congenial atmosphere for the promotion and consolidation of cooperative engagements among low-income households. ...
Housing mobility is an overlooked aspect of pro-poor housing policy debates despite the growing complexities of downstream housing sectors in cities of the global South. Stable housing regimes confer multiple socio-economic advantages on households and the incidence of housing relocation, especially involving very poor families, foists a considerably disruptive consequence. In the mainstream academic literature, residential mobility of the poor is believed to be firmly rooted in the agency of households and the associated housing outcomes arguably reflect their considered choices. Scholars have contended that residential mobility is a progressive practice in which people seek improvement in housing outcomes in terms of unit price, quality and tenure. This notion led to the suggestion that poor households are unlikely to move housing due to resource constraints. These perspectives may have overlooked the complex matrix of spiritual beliefs and practices which condition housing consumption and residential mobility decisions in the pro-poor housing sector. This paper analyses the sociocultural and spiritual enablers of housing mobility decisions in the pro-poor housing system of Tamale, Ghana, using data from in-depth interviews with selected survey participants. The analysis suggests that mistrust and socio-cultural practices in which people seek alternative interpretations to life events and misfortunes in the spiritual realm, deepens the sense of dissatisfaction with respect to safety and security of the homes they live in. We argue that spiritual interpretations of life circumstances create and sustain anxiety in the pro-poor housing sector and mark the subject on which housing relocation decisions are predicated. Housing policy debates ought to be broadened beyond the objective aspects of housing and environmental services to include the socio-cultural contexts shaping housing practices in the pro-poor sector.
... One of these interventions is the adoption of the Private Public Partnership arrangement since 2002. Addo (2014) was of the opinion that housing should be revisited as social policy programme and that the public sector cannot leave such a social programme completely in the hands of the private sector and advocated that an effective Public Private Partnership application to housing sector can efficiently address the low income housing, if sincerely pursued towards innovative multiple (high-rise/multifloor) dwellings against the single family houses introduced by the colonial masters. Jolaoso, Arayela, Taiwo and Folorunso (2017) underscored the importance of the deployment of integrative informal housing and social housing as strategy towards addressing the housing needs and supply for the different categories of citizens, especially for the urban poor. ...
Full-text available
This paper focuses on finding answers to the reasons why people keep living in the slums and why they cannot get out of their precarious conditions. This paper looks into different reasons for people being stuck in slums from a religious perspective. Reasons for different religious groups being stuck in slums are not explored fully in the literature. The analysis draws on qualitative research with a sample of 53 semi-structured interviews conducted in 8 katchi abadis in Islamabad, Pakistan. The study shows that slums are nonhomogenous entities and are regarded as a living organism that provide safety, security, and a sense of belonging to some of the residents. The results revealed that both Christian and Muslim slum residents had different reasons for living in slums. There were not only inter-religious differences in the choice of living but intra religious differences had also been found. In the process, the paper highlights that most Christians lived in slums by choice due to strong social capital, with an exception of a few. On the other hand, Muslim slum residents lived in poverty which was a major reason most of the slum dwellers are stuck in slums. Policymakers should meet the needs of the people before implementing any policies. This is because relocation policies can bring misery to some of the slum dwellers. Finally, the paper demonstrated that slums play a pivotal role in the lives of the slum dwellers in keeping them.
This book is a much-needed account, with numerous detailed examples, of the role of housing in economic growth and development by an author in a unique position to understand its importance and the practical measures for delivering that growth. While the linkages between housing and the macroeconomic environment in developed countries has been studied, the case of developing and transitional countries has been mostly overlooked. The author establishes these linkages with great clarity, supported by detailed case studies chosen to reflect regional diversity as well as differences in socio-economic development and political systems. On the basis of this analysis, the author goes on to develop specific policies and practices to enable governments to enhance the contribution of housing in economic growth.
Following the collapse of the Communist bloc, it has virtually become conventional for developing countries to embark on the simultaneous pursuit of structural adjustment and democratization. Some countries such as Ghana started with adjustment for almost a decade before democratization. However, the joint pursuit of adjustment and democratization has engendered intense debate among academics and policy-makers. Given the “mechanisms” adopted by governments with the support of the World Bank and the IMF to impose adjustment policies on many developing countries prior to political liberalization, and given the underpinnings of democracy, some argue that the two processes are antithetical. The seemingly embedded determinism of the incompatibility thesis is challenged by the Ghanaian case study. The Ghanaian case demonstrates diat domestic sociopolitical dynamics may facilitate the pursuit of adjustment and democratization pari passu. These dynamics revolve around the general receptivity to adjustment by critical societal groups, the strength of associational groups, the absence of viable alternatives, and the continued support by the international donor community for adjustment.