Ghana is following a continent-wide trend of a booming population moving towards cities. The World Bank estimated Ghana’s population at 29.8m in 2018, up from 19.3m in 2010. Meanwhile, the proportion of those living in urban areas rose from 43.9% in 2000 to 55.3% in 2017, according to the African Development Bank.
These demographic shifts are straining the housing supply. In April 2019 Samuel Atta Akyea, the minister of works and housing, announced that the housing deficit had topped 2m, up from 1.5m in 2015. To close the gap, between 190,000 and 200,000 units would need to be built at a cost of $3.4bn a year over the next decade.
A shortage of affordable housing has created a market for technologically advanced, low-cost, sustainable solutions. Through initiatives to support developers and establish a local-currency mortgage market, the MoWH hopes to ease the housing deficit. These developments are well positioned to create jobs, support the local building materials manufacturing industry and boost the economy.
The authorities have worked to mobilise private funding for several projects with an overall aim of encouraging the construction of low- and lower-middle-cost housing options. In December 2018 Atta Akyea announced plans to build 200,000 housing units across 10 regions in 2019. The ambitious project kicked off in August 2019 with the construction of 6500 units in Amasaman, about 20 km from Accra. “Home ownership within a growing working class is one of the most fundamentally integral parts of a developing economy,” vice-president Mahamudu Bawumia said in a press release announcing the project.
The project is part of an partnership between the government and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), announced in January 2019, that will build 100,000 affordable homes. All units will be constructed using local materials, equipment and expertise, and will emphasise sustainability with features such as energy-efficient solar roofs. UNOPS will mobilise resources for the project – which could cost up to $5bn – while the government will allocate land plots.
In a similar vein, in February 2019 the government signed an agreement with Hungarian engineering firm Solin for the financing and construction of 10,000 affordable housing units under a public-private partnership. The project will utilise polystyrene concrete to construct 2000 units per year from local materials. Upon completion, the units will be handed over to the government, which will then offer them to citizens through flexible and affordable mortgages.
The high cost of construction – coupled with the lack of affordable mortgages – is a persistent challenge. Property prices are usually in US dollars as a result of reliance on imported building materials and difficulty accessing long-term, cedi-denominated financing. As a result, low- and middle-income earners have limited access to mortgages.
To overcome these challenges, the Ministry of Works and Housing (MoWH) inaugurated a National Housing Committee in April 2019 to oversee the development and implementation of the National Mortgage and Housing Finance Scheme (NMHFS), announced in the 2018 budget. The NMHFS aims to provide local-currency mortgages through selected banks. These institutions would raise capital through mortgage-backed securities from pension and institutional funds in order to offer low-cost, long-term housing finance. The fund would also enable workers to use tier-2 pension contributions to acquire homes. The committee will look to establish a real estate investment trust that would mobilise long-term pension and insurance funds for the low- to middle-income segment.
The NMHFS will also be the principle housing delivery institution. Ghana does not currently have a formal social housing scheme and relies on low-cost, private mortgages to encourage development. Through the NMHFS, the government will provide private developers with long-term loans denominated in local currency.