In April 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari refused assent to the National Housing Fund (Establishment) Act of 2018 (“the new NHF Act”). The private sector decried what it described as yet another attempt to cripple the free market with a socialist intervention. While the proposed legislation is indeed inadequate, the reaction to it also leaves much to be desired. The Act fails to recognise that government interventions are critical in developing a housing (supply) system that meets demand while encouraging economic development.

Useful discussions and efficient housing policy solutions depend on a conceptual separation of two distinct elements in the debate. The first element involves government interventions to assist the private financial and housing markets to deliver homes. The second element encompasses another set of interventions to ease the housing conditions low-income Nigerians face. The lack of distinction between these two objectives and the tools required to meet them has made interventions in housing, including the NHF Act, wasteful and ineffective.