F or low income earners who generally find it difficult to build or buy homes within a short period of time, it is a new dawn as Lafarge Africa Plc, the continent’s leading housing and infrastructure solutions company, is out to make it easy for them to build and own homes with its Easy Home initiative.
Affordable housing is used in several contexts, but it is chiefly associated with low cost housing. To Lafarge, it goes beyond that even though the company sees it as “housing for people who do not have access, by usual financial ways, to decent housing”. In most economies, especially in a challenging one like Nigeria’s, low income earners normally build their homes bit-by-bit for upwards of five to 10 years, not by choice but by circumstances that they cannot easily control.
Lafarge’s Easy Home initiative is out to take care of this. Officials of the company explain that Easy Home seeks to not just meet the need for affordable housing, but also ultimately accelerate its delivery to a three-month to two-year period, depending on the capacity of whoever has the need.
“Easy Home is Lafarge Africa Plc’s pragmatic affordable housing solution; with it we are building a business initiative with positive social impacts”, said Aurélien Boyer, Lafarge Africa’s Affordable Housing Development Manager, who spoke at a media roundtable on affordable housing in Lagos recently. He added that the objective of the initiative is to build new markets for LafargeHolcim and improve housing conditions, pointing out that it is an investment vehicle launched with CDC Group / UK – DFID to take affordable construction solutions to scale with a focus on Africa. Easy Home is an ambitious housing solution which involves 25 countries globally. In 2016 alone, over 445,000 people were impacted and it is targeting to impact 25 million people by 2030. In Nigeria, about 30,000 people have benefited from the initiative and still counting.
“Lafarge Africa is committed to facilitating affordable housing across Nigeria with its Easy Home initiative, a home construction solution which has so far benefited over 30,000 people since it began three years ago”, explained Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, the company’s Director, Communications and Public Affairs, at the media roundtable. She informed that the solution was an opportunity available for all.
“We will provide you with technical support as long as you have a building project because we vouch for our cement and concrete solutions”, she said. Continuing, the director noted that “based on the long term aspiration of the affordable housing value proposition at the group level, LafargeHolcim hopes to positively impact about 25 million around the world by 2020; we hope that Nigeria would represent a significant portion of the projected beneficiaries”. Easy Home looks at how people build facing the challenges of finance, artisans, project execution and land acquisition. It offers builders the opportunity to leverage its partnerships such as the one it has with Lapo Micro-finance Bank which provides housing finance for those that come through this initiative. It also provides free technical advisory services and assistance and, according to Boyer, “we deliver a construction estimate such as the number of cement, blocks and their unit cost in just 10 minutes”.
These technical advisory services are offered unconditionally, but the beneficiaries are expected to use Lafarge cement and blocks because those are the materials the company is confident to use. The technical support is also available to anybody who has his own source of funds other than the one offered by LAPO Micro-finance Bank. Boyer said that anyone, whether he is a business owner, a salary earner or civil servant can apply for this solution, but he has to show evidence of stable source of income. To access the loan, he added, the borrower has to bring a deed of agreement or transfer showing that he is the owner of the landed property and a proof of income as the primary criteria. Within the three years of operation, the Easy Home has impacted people in some states of the federation including Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Kwara, Ondo, Osun, Nasarawa, Niger, Calabar, Abia, Akwa Ibom, and Rivers. It has enabled about 10 per cent of its beneficiaries to build business structures such as shops, schools, clinics, bakeries, etc and is creating opportunities for these businesses to generate billions of naira and thousands of jobs. “This is the only home construction solution for low income earners; it is the solution for this class of people who earn from N20,000 to N300,000 and are aiming to build their homes. The solution is accessible to everybody including petty raders, civil servants, taxi drivers, barbers, etc”, Boyer observed. (BusinessDay)