Leilana Fartha, UN special rapporteur on the rights to adequate housing, says the federal government should introduce vacant home taxes to address housing challenges in the country.
Speaking at a news conference in Abuja on Monday, Farha expressed concerns over the poor living conditions of Nigerians saying informal settlements house about 69% of the urban population.
“Most residents in Nigeria’s ballooning informal settlements live without access to even the most basic services, like running water.
“And they lack any security of tenure, forcing them to live in constant fear of being evicted.
“My 10 days fact findings visit to Nigeria has presented an economic inequality in the country, which has reached an extreme level and is playing itself out clearly in the housing sector.
“There is an estimated housing shortage of 22 million units.
“At the same time, newly built luxury dwellings are springing up throughout cities and made possible often through the forced eviction of poor communities.
“These units do not fulfill any housing need, with many remaining vacant as vehicles for money laundering or investment.”
In addition, Fartha said the federal government must take urgent measures to address forced evictions.
Speaking on the rent control bill that failed in the national assembly, the UN official said the bill died because it wasn’t ripe.
“The idea of controlling rent caps is hotly debated in many countries.
‘New York just tried to have rent control laws passed; Barcelona is close to getting rent-free as rent is actually frozen for some period of five to seven years.
“So, in many jurisdictions, they have started to impose vacant home tax.
“I support that kind of move from a human rights point of view only where that money from the tax is directly put into the creation of affordable housing.
“In the case of Nigeria, it could be used as a fund to upgrade informal settlements.”
Fartha will present a comprehensive report of her visit to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2020.
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