When Governor Saraki took office in 2003, he was challenged with meeting the demands of affordable housing for an ever-increasing population. Living conditions for the vast majority of city and rural dwellers were poor as a result of the state lacking expertise in physical planning, excavation and facilities management to supervise housing. There was little preparation invested in the development of new settlements, street names were created sporadically and a data management system for keeping track of land and housing developments was non-existent. Private investors were also discouraged from entering the property market due to the bureaucracy involved in granting planning permission. Given the unacceptable standard of living, Governor Saraki and his administration set plans to redevelop both the residential and commercial property sector to ensure Kwarans had access to decent affordable housing, and to provide a boost to the economy.
Firstly, the Kwara State Housing Corporation was established and tasked with facilitating partnerships with private sector companies to deliver mass housing units throughout Kwara. To encourage private investment, land policies were reformed to expedite the process of obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy (CoO). Acquiring a CoO proved a time-consuming and arduous task, taking up to several months to obtain. The State Housing Corporation reduced its processing time to a fortnight. This enabled a more rapid system for property developers to obtain planning permission and build homes.
Property developers are now required to conduct physical development plans and building designs to ensure the safety of homes during, and following, construction. Planning and construction is also monitored by the state to prevent the likelihood of building collapse. Additional state bodies have been established such as the Surveyor General Office, the Land Information System (LIS), the Bureau of Land and the Kwara Geographic Information System (KWAGIS), all employing skilled engineers and technical staff, to enforce building regulations and ensure qualitative surveying of towns when building business spaces, homes and roads. Through these bodies the State conducted 300 field surveys and identified 1,600 plots of land for residential and commercial use. 80,000 hectares of land were also identified for commercial agriculture and this has been used by the Shonga Farms and Gil Flour Mills Ltd. The State has also invested in modern equipment to assist surveyors and machinery for land excavation.
Meanwhile, the Town Planning and Development Authority is a key state body that has been instrumental in the effective management of residential, commercial, religious and educational building developments. It has played a vital role in the distribution of genuine planning permits and monitoring the safety of building sites to ensure they meet universal guidelines. The authority also works to ensure that all homes and buildings are allocated addresses within the State grid of planning.
The results speak for themselves. Firstly, the housing estates, Mandates I, II and III, Kima, Shonga, Omuaran, Offa, Irewolede, Royal Valley and Harmony have generated 1,551 new homes for both civil servants and those on low incomes. Secondly, commercial property development has led to the refurbishment of the Kwara Hotel, and Guthrie Nigeria Limited redeveloped the old Satellite Motel in Ilorin, which was recently upgraded to a three-star facility. Thirdly, the State redeveloped two key markets, OJa-Oba and Kulende, which now benefit from demarcated walls, partitioning market stalls, and reconstructed roads. This has enhanced trading and created a more attractive environment for shoppers.
These are just some of the developments achieved in real estate throughout Kwara. The State has further plans to build 4,000 new homes per annum to meet population growth and replace the urban sprawl of slums surrounding the city, creating more liveable environments. The State is also working towards a computerised mapping system to capture all Local Government Areas, villages and forestry and will invest in the local production of building materials to save costs on imports. The State has plans to deploy Survey control points which will implement a more accurate grids coordinate system to facilitate the locations of home and offices.