Persistent land litigation hampering housing sector – GREDA

Patrick Ebo Bonful

The glut of land-related cases that go before the courts, some of which are as old as 15-years or more, have become a major hindrance to growth of the housing sector, the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA) has said.

According to a Bank of Ghana survey dated November 2007 on the State of the Housing Market in Ghana, about 31 percent of real estate developers are embroiled in one land litigation or another – while about 50 percent face challenges of access to litigation-free land.

“This has a telling effect on residential housing delivery by real estate developers, and this has given advent to the menace of land guards in our dear country – a situation that threatens law and order in our young democracy,” said Patrick Ebo Bonful, the association’s president.

Mr. Bonful therefore called on security agencies to rise up and deal with the menace with the same force and determination with which the issue of galamsey was tackled in this country. He also offered his association’s willingness and readiness to join efforts with the law enforcement agencies in this drive.

“It has been suggested elsewhere that, if need be, those who engage the services of these land guards should be arrested and prosecuted along with the land guards to serve as an example to others. Among others, notable hot-spots where land guard activities are prevalent are Dawhenya, Afienya, Apolonia and Kasoa,” he added.

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Ghana is said to have a housing deficit in excess of 1.7 million housing units, and to address the deficit there is need for a minimum annual delivery of about 85,000 housing units over the next 20 years.

Minister for Works and Housing, Samuel Atta Akyea, stated that 200,000 housing units are set to be erected this year – adding developers are more than eager to pre-finance the buildings, only requiring that government offers guarantees.

Statistics from Ghana’s leading mortgage financing bank, GHL Bank – which merged with FNB Bank, reveals that there is a growing interest and demand for mortgages by young professionals looking to own a home and prove that mortgages are not the preserve of offshore Ghanaians.

GREDA has, however, come under scrutiny for failing to bridge Ghana’s housing deficit by concentrating on building mansions for the upper-tier of the middle- and high-income earners, and not exploring the development of basic structures for low-income earners to scale-up the supply of houses.

But Mr. Bonful is of the view that without access to litigation-free lands, the dream of building affordable housing for low and middle-income earners cannot become a reality.

He therefore called on government to explore the possibility of registering lands for allodial owners of lands across the length and breadth of this country, and taking a percentage of the land as payment in lieu of stamp-duty – since most of the allodial owners of lands do not have the economic and financial wherewithal to register their lands.

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“These lands should serve as litigation-free lands for real estate developers, as well as investors and individuals who need litigation-free land for various economic activities,” he said.

He added that government will realise more than 500 percent revenue increase as compared to stamp-duty for the same land, since those lands will be sold to real estate developers and investors at prevailing economic rates. “Needless to say, if that happens government will not be paying compensation for those lands – another source of major saving for government.”

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