Ghana’s Capital, Accra, Faces Serious Housing Crisis

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Written by Kevin Mwanza

From Norwegian Council For Africa

When filmmaker Leslie Amponsah was shown round a squalid and waterlogged property up for rent in a suburb of Accra, Ghana, she was quoted a monthly rate that was barely affordable, even on a decent income, and was told that the landlord wanted two years up front. The estate agent would also be charging a 10% commission, she was reminded, and was already being paid a fee for every viewing.

As frustrating as this experience was, it is nothing out of the ordinary in Accra. Amponsah endured fruitless searches for months before finding a new home, and tales of middle-class Ghanaians looking aimlessly for suitable properties in Accra are common. “Even when you have the money to rent, it’s terrible,” says Amponsah, “that is how ridiculous it is.”

Accra is in the grip of a serious housing crisis. Ghana’s economy has been one of the fastest-growing in the world in recent years, but growth has completely outstripped investment in infrastructure. Despite rising incomes, the housing market has been neglected and this has led to a yawning gap in middle-income properties. On the one hand, 90% of Ghana’s urban housing is informal, much of it in slums on the outskirts of cities; on the other hand, plush gated communities and mansion complexes have sprung up to cater for the new super-wealthy.

Many middle-income Ghanaians, faced with a choice between exorbitantly-priced real estate and slum conditions, have thus been forced further and further out to the edges of cities where house prices and landlords may be more reasonable. The resulting commute, however, can stretch to three hours, and many leave their homes well before dawn to beat the heavy traffic.

Profit-seeking rent-seeking

Around half of Ghana’s 25 million residents now live in urban areas, and suburban sprawl has subsumed towns near major cities. To deal with these growing urban populations, UN Habitat estimates that 5.7 million new rooms – or 2 million new households – will be required by 2020; “If these are to be successfully supplied, 3.8 new rooms must be completed in every minute of the working day for ten years,” the report calculates dramatically.

Writing by Yepoka Yeebo | Read more at Norwegian Council For Africa