Author ~ Ebuka Onunaiwu
In our previous review of “Nigeria’s journey towards sustainable housing provision”, we highlighted several housing indicators in the areas of housing deficit, mortgage interest rate, mortgage down payment rate and repayment period, policy reforms, cost of housing, which were used to explain the current state of the housing in Nigeria. In this second edition of the review, a simple comparative analysis of housing in China is done to further explain the dire need for the complete overhauling of Nigeria’s housing sector.
China is a socialist state, with a government with crystal clear vision of its role. China is the most populated country in the world with a population of about 1.4 billion people. Given this population, one would assume that China would suffer from extreme housing deficit, but the numbers in China’s housing sector are fairly good. While Nigeria has a housing deficit of 17 million, 90% of families in China own their homes and 80% of these families acquired the homes outrightly, without mortgages or loans.
China has seven of the world’s top ten most expensive cities for residential property. The prices of houses in China are very high when compared to their income, price-to-income ratio (PIR). This however, does mean that the country is in a severe housing situation, the system can be said to have been managed almost effectively by forces of “government policies” and “way of life”.
The process and qualification for getting mortgages in China is relatively straight forward and low, respectively. At most, the mortgagor will need to have a monthly salary that is at least twice the monthly repayment rate of the loan. The outcome of this is that mortgages perform well in China, and in 2013, default rate was a mere 0.17%. Usually, a down payment of 30% is made on mortgages, which is 5% higher than that of Nigeria. However, interest rate on mortgage in China is about 6%, almost 4 times lesser than Nigeria’s. It is important to recall that mortgages are uncommon in Nigeria due to high interest rate and the arduous process of getting a mortgage.
Majority of the Chinese don’t mortgage, just 18%, as earlier mentioned 80% of homeowners acquire their homes outrightly. Hence, mortgages contributed 15% to China’s GDP in 2012. This is still higher than Nigeria’s 0.5% mortgage contribution to GDP in 2012.
China also has a Housing Provident Fund. In a way, the Fund works like the Nigerian pension system in which employees and employers co-contribute to a pension account. A part of the Housing Fund, included a savings plan initiated by the government in which employees are given the option to contribute a portion of their monthly wages and have it matched by their employer to assist them with buying a house. This has contributed positively to mortgage acquisition in China, as prospective home owners are able to make the required 30% down payment.
Just like Nigeria, China has had several housing policy reforms, but so far, the difference in both countries has been the approach. While Nigeria’s style is for each administration to come up with a policy that can be attributed to the office holder, without good reference to learning points from previous reform(s) as every effective policy reform should do, China has transitioned from one policy reform to another with the soul aim of scaling up successful practices and downscaling non-performing ones. For China, policies have resulted from current realities. Among the latest drive by the government of China, is to regulate the rising rent cost in cities.
The success story of housing in China is as a result of an interplay between culture and systemic and intentional policies driven by its government to ensure sustainable housing provision for its citizenry. The government has largely charted housing in the country onto a sustainable path. Housing policy reform after reform, the government’s aim has simply been to provide adequate housing for its people. As for culture, the Chinese treasure home ownership, to many of them it could be their lifetime’s biggest achievement and they would work diligently towards saving up to buy one. Parents go out their way to support their children in getting their own homes, owning a home is somewhat of a yardstick for being fully prepared for marriage.
We have seen where Nigeria stands from the comparison, we can also deduce who/what the major actors in China’s housing sector have been. The last article in this series will be released in two weeks from today and will basically feature solutions to Nigeria’s housing woes. It will involve a mix of adoptable policies, low cost housing option and many others, till then, please stay tuned.