The Minister for Works and Housing, Hon. Francis Asenso-Boakye is leading his ministry to explore areas of collaboration with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to enhance government’s efforts aimed at providing sustainable solutions to the Works and Housing Sector of the country.
To achieve this, the Minister, together with a team of experts on Tuesday, 17th May 2022, met with the Vice Chancellor of the KNUST and authorities of the College of Art and Built Environment.
The Minister for Works and Housing who is an alumnus of the university, indicated that his coming to meet the leadership of the school was firstly, to join his alma mater in the celebration of its 70th anniversary, and also, to find ways to effectively collaborate towards building a robust and sustainable Built Environment.
In his remarks, Mr. Asenso-Boakye noted that, “KNUST as the foremost institution responsible for training and research when it comes to the built environment industry in Ghana; offering an array of programmes in key disciplines which includes Architecture, Building Technology, Planning, and Land Economy.
Likewise, the Ministry of Works and Housing is the ministry responsible for the built environment industry of the country, covering engineering, architecture, construction and several other works. The time has, therefore, come for the Ministry of Works and Housing and the KNUST to collaborate to impact positively on the lives of Ghanaians.”
Under this collaboration, Mr. Asenso-Boakye explained, “our job as a ministry, is to formulate policies, and you are also in the area of teaching and research, and there is no doubt that, as a foremost institution of higher learning for the built environment; there are possible areas that we can collaborate to better the lives of Ghanaians”.
He announced that currently, the Ministry of Works and Hosing is going through series of policy formulation and programmes which he sees as an area to collaborate with KNUST.
The minister acknowledged that currently, with an urban population of about 57% and urbanization rate of 5.8%, housing and urbanization have become one of the most critical development issues Ghana is facing. This makes housing a big deal for all Ghanaians. “Already we have a housing deficit of about 1.8 million housing units. And further studies also indicate that 60% of Ghanaians require some sort of support from government before they can access housing, and there are even 35% of Ghanaians who cannot access housing if even government provides some support to them in terms of subsidies – which means that it is only 5% of Ghanaians who can afford their own accommodation”, he revealed.
Hon. Francis Asenso-Boakye again noted that high cost of building materials is one of the striking reasons government has not been able to provide housing at an affordable rate for a significant section of the urban population, adding that most of the building materials used in the country are imported. “The use of pozzolana, a highly active cementitious material, made from local clay and a good substitute for clinker which is used for cement production could be employed to replace clinker which is imported for the production of the ordinary portland cement currently in the market”, the Minister added.
Additionally, Asenso-Boakye invited the College of Art and Built Environment and the School of Engineering to join the ministry to develop sustainable planning schemes and designs that will maximise spaces as well as construction methods that will ultimately lead to the reduction in the cost of construction.
Speaking on the laws that govern the Works and Housing sector, the minister noted that the legislative and institutional framework of every sector play a key role in establishing the platform for good practices. For this reason, the Ministry has formulated various bills required for the sector to operate efficiently. One of such bills that the ministry would like to seek collaboration with KNUST is the review of the Rent Act of 1963. Significantly, this Act has been in existence for almost 60 years and needs to be reviewed. Thankfully, policy approval has been received from Cabinet for the Act to be reviewed.
Related to this, the minister noted that apart from the cultural values that have influenced the preferred housing options in the past, home ownership has been a great source of security for most Ghanaians. This has led to lateral development which has been assessed to be unsustainable. Consequently, there is increasing demand for the development of high-rise properties towards maximizing limited land space. The development of a Condominium Bill to regulate shared and communal spaces has therefore become necessary.
Hon. Asenso-Boakye who also serves as Member of Parliament for the Bantama Constituency was optimistic that the collaboration between the Ministry of Works and Housing and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology would have a great effect on the performance of the ministry in ensuring a drastic reduction in Ghana’s housing deficit.
In a response to the Minister’s address, the Vice Chancellor of KNUST, Professor Rita Akosua Dickson expressed joy over the Minister’s resolve to collaborate with the university regarding the mandate of the ministry. She said KNUST believes so much in such partnerships and collaborations.
She assured the Minister that the University is ever ready to partner with the ministry to find sustainable solutions to all the issues raised that are meant to solve the housing challenges of Ghanaians. She further appealed to the minister to assist the university address the housing needs on its campus for both students and the university staff. “Over 70% of the student population live in accommodation facilities outside the four walls of the university, a situation which creates all sorts of challenges, including security for students”, she indicated.
Professor Rita Akosua Dickson stated that, “We have free WiFi on campus and students would always want to use it for their studies. As a result, most of the students stay on campus till ungodly hours, creating a lot of security challenges when they are done and are returning to their hostels outside the university”.
She noted that the university operates a Build, Operate, and Transfer model. We want to use this opportunity, to appeal to private organizations to partner with the university to provide accommodation for students on campus. We have the land, they should come”.
She again, appealed to the minister for accommodation for the staff of the university as the current structures are not able to house the over 4,000 staff population.