African cities are among the fastest growing in the world, leading to rising demand for urban housing. Housing policies promoted by international organisations such as the World Bank since the 1980s have stimulated housing markets in order to address this demand. As a result, many of Africa’s major cities are being transformed by investment in urban real estate. But many also face a shortage of affordable housing for low-income residents.
In Ghana’s capital Accra, for example, there is an estimated deficit of 300,000 housing units. This is despite a construction boom in the city centre. Over 300 acres (about 120 hectares) of state-owned land have been privatised and redeveloped since the 1990s.
The explanation lies in the mismatch between costs in the formal housing market and incomes in the informal economy. In Accra, an estimated 74% of the workforce works in the informal economy. Informal workers typically have very low and unstable incomes and can’t access housing finance. Most of the city’s residents are locked out from formal housing markets: 58% live in informally-built housing, with 65% of households occupying a single room.
My research on urban redevelopment in Accra shows that policies intended to encourage a real estate boom by selling off state-owned land have failed to provide affordable housing. Instead, profit-seeking by developers and the use of land as a patronage resource have resulted in a glut of under-occupied luxury real estate.
*The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.