Association Nationale des Consommateurs et de l’environnement
Pre-Colonial Era: Before the advent of colonialism, social housing, as it is known today, was not a familiar phenomenon. What were perhaps known then in Togo, were kings’ palaces, village halls, market squares, playgrounds, juju shines, et cetera. These should be distinguished from residential houses built through community efforts, which were expressions of communal bonds and affections. Such expressions cut across age groups, neighborhood links and family ties. This type of housing was not only a symbol of a man”s status in the society, but was also a wooing tool for suitors.
Colonial Era: This era has been a period of self-centeredness on the part of the colonial masters as far as social housing in Togo was concerned. Studies have shown that the colonial masters built empires for themselves in the so-called European Quarters. This was necessitated partly by the colonial masters” quest for quiet residential area and partly for their desire for class and exclusive life. The colonial masters never considered it necessary to provide decent housing for their black counterparts, but were forced to do so when there was a threat to their lives following the outbreak of an epidemic. An attempt was further made by the colonial masters to provide housing for the civil servants under a Plan tagged “African Staff Housing Scheme” that was to be facilitated by the Nigerian Building Society.
Post-Colonial Era: Sequel to Togolese independence in April 27, 1960, emphasis was placed on five-yearly Development Plan as a vehicle for economic growth. The first and second National Development Plan covering the period 1960-1970 did not give housing any significant place until 1973 when, during the extended second National Development Plan, housing was accorded a place following the establishment of National Housing Scheme, under which government was to build 7000 housing units by the end of 1976. Under the third National Development Plan, which covered the period 1975-1980, government took a giant stride to address the national housing deficit of the country by engaging in social housing provision. During the period, a total of 14100 housing units were to be constructed. Within this period a rent panel was set up to review the rent level in the country.
This marked the first attempt by government to recognize the housing problem of the less privileged people of Togo who had lost all sense of dignity as well as economic worth as citizens of an oil-rich country. The fourth National Development Plan, which covered the period 1980-1985, contained the most significant policy that addressed the nation’s housing problem and had an overriding objective of improving the overall quantity and quality of housing for all income groups.
Under the 1980-1985 Development Plan, provisions were made for direct construction of housing units for the low-income group, and government was to build 14000 low-cost housing units across the country. Not much of this was achieved. Most of the housing units initiated under the Plan were not completed and have become abandoned projects.
FAILURE OF SOCIAL HOUSING:
Although government took varieties of steps to curb the problems and challenges of housing in Togo, the principal among which is the provision of social housing for the urban poor, this has however, failed to proffer solution to the national shelter deficit. Some of the factors responsible for the failure are:
Non-availability of Land: Though the Togolese Land Use Act of 1948 was intended to facilitate availability of land for housing and other development projects, the process of land acquisition by government has been difficult to come by vis- -vis the tradition of native land owners that made land uneasy to acquire. In Togo, it is traditional to hold land in trust for the living and even for the unborn members of a family. This concept is contrary to the Land Use Act that vests all lands in the urban areas of each mayor solely in the state governor for allocation, and conferred lands in the rural areas on the local government councils.
These conceptual differences have continued to posed problem to social housing development in Togo, and have resulted in a number of court cases between individuals and government, especially where government employs or attempts to employ force in acquiring or taking possession of lands from their owners.
Lack of Continuity: The impact of social housing provision under civilian regimes is gradually becoming significant as expected. The clog in the wheel had been the problem of continuity that the housing sector of the economy suffered under the military. Like any other programme, government’s housing projects were politicized, as an incoming government would, in an effort to excel over its predecessor, prefer to start up new projects rather than completing the existing ones. The overall adverse effect of this was the old projects being abandoned for thieves to loot and for the destitute and wandering psychotics to take possession as their dwelling places.
Party Influence: Under civilian government, appointment of building contractors for housing projects was based on membership of the ruling political party rather than the ability to execute the contracts. The resultant effect of this was that such contracts would either be poorly performed or completely abandoned. In most cases, members of the allocation committee for the completed housing projects were drawn from the ruling political party, and the rich members of the party who do not have real need for the houses would win the allocation.