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4 Public Housing Concept in Nigeria, Conflict in User and Providers’ Views

4 Public Housing Concept in Nigeria, Conflict in User and Providers’ Views

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1 The Concept of Cultural Character in Public Housing Design

In a related situation, Olowoyo and Khan (2012) identified three concerns with

respect to trends in public housing in Nigeria. These include non-occupation of

housing by targeted beneficiaries due to inconsistency of provisions with social

activities of potential users. Also, some group choose to abandon the houses when

they are stressed up and these houses can no longer be adjusted to meet their desired

spatial needs, hence subjecting the household to undue stress (Seek 1983). A third

group, who cannot afford to move and change dwelling resolve to ignore existing

building standards experts’ guide and plot density in adjusting their dwelling units.

The outcome presents a confuse sprawl with unhealthy living environments that are

hazardous to the community, which this study believed to be a crucial challenge to

the urban setting and requires an empirical study. Accordingly, Oakley et al. (2010)

acknowledge that such situation exacerbates the poor liveability of inhabitants by

increasing their housing stress.

Meanwhile, since initial architectural designs did not accommodate indigenous

social desires, residents embark on spontaneous public housing transformation to

satisfy spatial needs and social liveability which appears in transformed units.

Moreover, Mberu (2005) linked the situation with urban residents’ lifelong link

with their root.

Conversely, the historical indigenous social lifestyle practised by inhabitants

while interacting with the buildings is usually ignored by stakeholders, hence a

refusal to heal socio-spatial desires of residents in the built environment. However,

architectural discipline combines both process and product in solving spatial

problems; therefore, inclusive broad-based architectural character is required in

public housing design in Nigeria.

Accordingly, this book extends public housing tendencies by exploring public

housing residents’ behavioural culture through evaluating their experiences in

housing transformation. It includes identifying underlying factors associated with

the act of transformation required to guide the design process in order to enhance

public housing provision considering cultural elements and ensuring public safety.

Therefore, it focuses on culture inclusion in design by identifying cultural ideals for

standardisation and subsequent consideration for spatial configuration to check

unrestrained public housing transformation. It facilitates advancement of research

findings into design framework for both designers and policy makers, which is

habitually ignored by researchers (Martin and Guerin 2006).


Cultural Context of Northern Part of Nigeria

Obtainable studies on public housing transformation relative to culture specific

environmental context (Rapoport 2000) in Nigeria are limited. Numerous studies on

housing dissatisfaction and stress experienced by public housing occupants, which

ends in housing transformation, relate situations in southern Nigeria and the Federal

Capital Territory (FCT). This led to the determination of northern Nigeria’s geographical setting for this study. The region also enjoys similar environmental

1.4 Public Housing Concept in Nigeria …


characteristics relative to culture and social meaning. In addition, the region

comprise of historical ancient towns with densely populated districts that are fast

growing into bigger cities with housing challenges. As a result, negative trends of

unhealthy districts expose inhabitants to health risks while diminishing the quality

of housing and the cityscape at large. Overall, it hampers the attainment of sustainable housing provision as demanded by global requirements on qualitative

housing in urban environments.


Seeking to Regulate Indiscriminate Housing


Integral transformation that appears in dynamic housing growth carried out by

inhabitants is usually ignored by architects. Rather, the previous emphasis was

centred on demography, housing location, land issues and management as factors

responsible for housing transformation. However, seeking to provide solution to the

looming impact of housing dissatisfaction requires undertaking studies that focus

on projecting design consideration from user’s perspective and experience.

Afterwards, it provides guidelines that are in line with the dynamism characterised

with housing as reflected in public housing transformation to direct design that met

user’s cultural needs. Analytically, public housing transformation attributes are

explored to overcome spontaneous housing transformation which is uncommon.

Reasonably, housing transformation is inevitable (Carmon 2002; Khan 2008;

Popkin et al. 2005; Seek 1983; Sueca 2004; Tipple and Salim 1999; Tipple 2000),

particularly with the demand from the growth of household. Besides, in accord with

housing adjustment theory, public housing residents commonly choose to adjust

rather than move out of their homes (Tipple 2000). Such changes result in creating

indigenous configuration from modern building layouts (Tipple et al. 2004), hence

synthesising transformers’ grounded culture determinants as design indices are

significant and uncommon. A research void identified and focused on by this book.


Culture Attributes Are Desired by Public Housing

Users in Design

Significantly, attributes of culture bonds with vernacular architecture particularly in

culture-sensitive communities of developing nations. Urban housing in these

environments has received the influence of traditional lifestyle rooted in traditional

built forms. The crisis witnessed in the relationship of urban house form and

traditional lifestyle appears in unguided public housing transformation due to

ideological differences. Ambiguously, the ideological differences are often interpreted based on insider root perception and outsider systematic perception.


1 The Concept of Cultural Character in Public Housing Design

Evidently, technology prevails on existing natural, cultural and historical social

settings in line with social representation theory (Pearce et al. 1996).

Thus, researchers are debating on ways to determine housing process that provides sustainable urban environment while solving contemporary challenges. For

instance, according to Mosha (2011) developing nations adopt foreign planning

concepts in place of indigenous housing forms. In this regard, he suggested a fusion

of indigenous culture with technology in housing design. Likewise, in Persian

high-rise complexes, Abbaszadeh et al. (2009) recognised Western influence

replacing ruined traditional ideals. Both studies recommended the use of traditional

space ideals as useful tools for improving modern living spaces. In addition,

Boyowa (2005) observed growing changes in the organisation of Nigerian urban

forms and recommended all-inclusive public and private approach towards communal design. As a result, the integration of traditional social values in modern

housing pattern as response to the rising demand to preserve culture in African

urban environments is assured.

Trends in Nigeria public housing composition show the lack of indigenous

cultural content of users, yet inhabitants desire inclusion and conservation of cultural space uses in house forms. Aptly, scholars such as Chiu (2004), Odebiyi

(2010), Rikko and Gwatau (2011) have underscored the level of safeguarding

culture in Nigerian housing. However, directing the process of synthesis between

traditional values and modern designs remains unexplored. The literature analysis

comprehensively confirms an enduring link existing between urban residents and

their origin (Mberu 2005).

In contract, density and technology are features of modern public housing design

that limits traditional principles, because traditional forms do not necessarily

comply with urban architecture standards which are based on planned districts.

Appropriately, negotiating the rate of syntheses, cultural values that fit precise

architectural context desire applicable definitions (Khan 2008). Agreeably, empirical studies would provide the threshold of core tangible and intangible cultural

features to be adopted in urban housing design.

Building Evidence-Based Design for Public Housing

Bearing in mind, the significance of culture in housing design entails a feasible

socio-cultural configuration based on innovative housing analysis as visualised by

Chiu (2004) in order to attain progressive sustainable housing. Appropriately, this

agrees with the concept of evidence-based design (EBD). It enhances the creative

thinking of designers (Vischer and Zeisel 2008), thus directing constructive design

planning decisions on the built environment, because it consists of a process of

knowledge analogy where collections of various studies across time are compared

in order to advance solutions to housing design challenges (Becker and Parsons

2007). As a result, understanding culture content of public housing design through

user-initiated transformation proposes evidence-based design concept yet to be fully

realised in housing research.

1.4 Public Housing Concept in Nigeria …


Post-occupancy Assessment of Public Housing Neighbourhood

Lately, dysfunctional cultural features appear in inner-cities’ districts across the

country necessitating the need for more investigation in order to explain the relation

amid residents’ action and these cultural characters. Likewise, unlike traditional

settings which allow interconnectivity with communal useful spaces, standards in

urban housing segregate residents to confined property boundaries, hence constraining social interactions. Housing units are linked by households’ extension of

social ties through domestic activities across boundaries in traditional settings.

Determining socio-cultural threshold at the district level becomes essential particularly in defining cultural ideals of public housing inhabitants.



There is lack of empirical substantiation on activity space use, and cultural character

in public housing design that results from residents’ transformation practices is of

great concern. The continuous rhetoric on urban housing sustainability keeps

contradicting the situation where planned housing is transformed by users in pacing

up with desired spaces and achieving spatial satisfaction. This is usually ignored by

experts and thus explored by this book as it tends to achieve indigeneity in transformed layouts of public housing.


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Chapter 2

The Dimension of Public Housing

in Nigeria

Abstract Culture sensitive communities particularly in developing communities

are yet to come in terms of the provision strategies of public housing. Nigeria is

faced with challenges in both quality and quantity of public housing delivery.

Overwhelmed by users’ persistent dissatisfaction of initial provisions, control levels

are used to project ‘ownership’ as crucial in households’ derivation of housing

satisfaction in the process of housing transformation. The study identified unbroken

link between urban migrants and their root and went further to identify the major

ethnic groups in the study context. The study thereafter related the desire for

indigenousness in urban public housing by inhabitants.

Keywords Culture integration


Á Housing dissatisfaction Á Urban migrants


In addressing design and culture integration strategies suggested for adoption in the

production of public housing, it is noteworthy to understand that public housing

residents in Nigeria usually belong to diverse cultural background. A situation that

records exceptional inhabitation challenges with respect to the space provisions.

The situation often ends with users’ engagement in uncontrolled public housing

transformation with remarkable unplanned scenes characterising the urban physical

environment. Interestingly, the positive benefits derived from these transformations

are usually ignored (Tipple 2000) and rather perceived as features of squalor settlements in the society. Thus, professionals and policy makers believe the scenario

disrupts the cityscape and efforts towards urban development as well as undermine

the scenery of the built environment. Meanwhile, stakeholders particularly architects are expected to resolve socio-spatial needs of the built environment rather than

constrain social activities which determine the overall space configuration. In the

light of these, this chapter identifies and amplifies public housing dimension with

challenges that lead to the transformation as elements of housing dynamics providing background towards directing habitation and spatial satisfaction.

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

A.D. Isah, Urban Public Housing in Northern Nigeria,

The Urban Book Series, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-40192-8_2




2 The Dimension of Public Housing in Nigeria

Optimising User Activity–Space Relations

Through Control Levels

As the study seeks to explore user-initiated housing transformation experience of

public housing dwellers, the broad built environment with wide range of areas was

limited by identifying control levels in the built environment that support the

framework of decisions by stakeholders in the industry. Accordingly, Wikberg and

Ekholm (2009) classified control levels that relate man and the built environment as

presented in Table 2.1. They related that users control activity space and the network of spaces within and around the building. Building managers or developers

control the buildings while at constituency and city levels government agencies

with higher authority are empowered to take charge. In the same way, the research

scope was explicitly advanced by modifying Habraken’s five control levels of the

built environment into space–element relationship which shows the interdependency of one level over another (Habraken 2000) shown in Table 2.2. At the end,

this study lies within the building control level of public housing as a component of

the built environment and room to block space levels based on these categorizations. These control levels are the most significant to users as it defines their control

and transformation territory where their space use cultural attributes are expressed.

Therefore, users’ space–activity relationship is optimised at the related control


Table 2.1 Control level, elements and actors in the system man-built environment

Control actors

City authority

Building management

Building user


Building user

Source Wikberg and Ekholm

Controlled built element

Control level

Infrastructure (streets, sewer, etc.)

Building-related building elements

Organisation-related building


Activity-related building elements


City, neighbourhood


User organisation


Activity space

Table 2.2 Control levels in the built environment

















Items in the upper cells (spaces) are dependent on those of the lower cells (elements), as those of

the preceding columns determine the next column

Source Adapted from Habraken (2000)

2.3 Historical Outlook of the Environmental Setting



Historical Outlook of the Environmental Setting

Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa and ranks 6th in the world (Areas and

Agglomerations 2012). Its urbanisation rate as at 2008 stood at 5.3 %, while in every

1000 inhabitants there are 0.25 % migrants and by 2011 urban and rural population

stood at 49.6 and 51.4 %, respectively (Profile 2012). Furthermore, Nigeria comprises

three major regions as shown in Fig. 2.1a, with three major language distributions

each to a region. The political structure comprises 36 states across the country as

presented in Fig. 2.1b, while the major ethnic groups are shown in Fig. 2.2.

Low-income public housings in urban environments located in certain states of

northern Nigeria were surveyed in order to epitomise largely the sample population

centred on ethnic consideration. Similarly, spatial cultural features from the

country-side dwellings across the major ethnic groups were explored in order to

establish traditional house pattern to be related with the transformed housing units.

Although ethnic population census is usually contested due to political reasons,

projection is based on the last ethnic census (Mustapha 2004), which shows five

major ethnic groups located in northern Nigeria as presented in Table 2.1. These

ethnic groups include Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri, Nupe and the Tiv; however, some

texts add the Gbagyi ethnic group as the sixth among the major ethnic groups in the

region. On the overall, the most dominant is Hausa with the language spoken across

the region while its cultural features impact and reflect across the region

(Table 2.3).

Fig. 2.1 Maps of Nigeria showing. a The three main regions of northern, western and eastern

Nigeria. Source Diamond (1988). b The states distribution. Source www.wikipedia.org

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