Searchlight on State Housing Company Limited
I have learnt a valuable lesson from the recent call for the dismissal of the Finance Minister by a cross-section of parliamentarians. That was a cue for result-oriented Ghanaians that public office holders can be assessed by the public and be recommended for sanction. By that logic, ministries and companies can also be assessed for their performance and be helped with steps for improvement.
For development-oriented Ghanaians, one constant source of annoyance is shoddy infrastructural works that cause loss, not development for Ghana. A candid assessment can reveal that the construction sector can typify works that imply losses. The appraisal torch now swings full beam on the State Housing Company Limited (SHC).
In the last quarter of 2022, SHC served a notice of ejection to a cross-section of tenants owing commercial ground rent. The tone of the letter can, at best, be labelled as sanctimonious, since the SHC itself has reneged on its obligation to residents. The warning letter conveniently quotes State Housing Corporation (Ejection) Act 1970, Act 322 to legalise its demand.
Lately, it has become a major pain to reside on property of SHC due to environmental hazards. Churches and business dot such premises and are major sources of noise pollution. Churches organise all night prayer sessions, bars and restaurants can play music deep into the night without the slightest regard for other residents’ needs. Street preachers heartlessly start their operations at ungodly hours, making miserable the lives of residents.
SHC properties have become an eyesore for unplanned and inconsiderate extensions, which continue to transform once beautifully planned and landscaped real estate into slums. The extensions are not only major inconveniences and intrusion for neighbours, but they are springing up right under the noses of uncaring SHC and Assemblies that collect property rate from tenants. Apparently, SHC slights its own rules governing extension on its properties.
The intrepid defence of one SHC employee regarding Company neglect is that when they see obstructing structures, they mark the structure red, order a halt to the work, then request the developer to submit plans. However, the culprits defy orders and continue work at night or on weekends. In other words, SHC is a stagnant entity that cannot revise its operational strategy to meet changing tides. A proactive entity would set up a task force for night and weekend operations to halt the menace of illegal construction on its properties.
However, despite changing times and degenerating attitudes, the SHC maintains the regular Monday-Friday, 8a.m.-5p.m. work status. If the same aggression characterising debt collection also characterised SHC vigilance and property monitoring culture, the estates would still be ideal in structure, environment and landscape. Sadly, tenants must endure hideous extension, noise pollution, other forms of environmental degradation, to mention these. The SHC has the upper hand because homelessness is not an option for tenants. Helplessly, they endure landowner abuse.
The SHC’s response to the taskforce suggestion would be the typical contemptuous “no funds”. Ironically, the Company would vastly improve its internal revenue collection if it insisted on Company Acts and Bye laws, struck a collaborative monitoring with the local assemblies. Both would generate revenue for submitted plans, which might cumulate into major revenue due to the rapidity of extension on SHC properties.
A proper monitoring system would also protect the original structures, the environment and residents’ rights. SHC has a culture of a solid drainage established on its properties. It had deep drains lined at the back of the homes for wastewater, whilst shallow drains in front of the houses catered for rainwater. In the dry season, the shallow drains remained dry, contributing to good sanitation on the properties.
The amorphous extension culture has reversed the sanitation culture. Stores developed in front of the estates direct dirty water to the shallow drains. Currently, on one SHC property, wastewater from one salon creates filth for an entire block, jeopardising residents’ health. That eyesore situation is replicated on all SHC properties. The Company does not resist wilful destruction of its properties. The Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) is also culpable for collecting license fees from such destroyers without checking poor sanitation conditions.
An indifferent SHC looks on whilst unscrupulous tenants wilfully and gleefully destroy others’ property and peace through intrusive extensions. Amidst such anomaly, the Company threatens to prosecute defaulters of property rent. The legal officer does not find it ethically conflicting to demand rent where services are not rendered, charges unfairly distributed sometimes. Neither SHC nor defaulters stand justified. Each must honour responsibility.
SHC must end the culture of focusing on money and target humanity and service. When other communities get rid of slums, SHC neglects its duties to endorse slum conditions on hitherto excellently planned real estate. The SHC Management, Minister for Housing, and SHC legal Officer must honour their respective mandates not only to build, but also protect good tenants from recalcitrant ones who wilfully destroy property.
The writer is a Senior Lecturer, Language and Communication Skills
Takoradi Technical University,