Government of Ghana has launched a financial support scheme to cushion Ghanaians to meet their rent demands.
Known as the National Rental Assistance Scheme (NRAS), the intervention is expected to provide low-interest loans for qualified applicants to enable them to pay their rent in advance.
The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, who launched the scheme in Accra yesterday, said the government had set aside GH¢30 million as seed money towards the implementation of the scheme.
He said the scheme would be rolled out initially in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, Western, Eastern, Northern and Bono East regions.
He said the scheme would enable Ghanaians with identifiable and regular income to apply, and when approved, the rent would be paid directly to their landlords, who would also be required to register with the scheme.
“In partnership with the private sector, the scheme will provide low-interest loans for eligible Ghanaians to enable them to pay rent in advance. These loans will be repaid on a monthly basis to match the tenor of the rent and will be supported by a bank guarantee to ensure sustainability,” Dr Bawumia explained.
“The scheme will target individuals in the formal and the informal sectors with identifiable and regular income,” he said.
The operations of the scheme have been outsourced to a private sector entity, known as Rent Masters Ghana Limited, which will be responsible for its day-to-day operations.
The private entity will manage customer applications, the disbursement of rent advance to landlords and the preparation and submission of periodic reports on the implementation of the scheme.
To qualify for the scheme, an applicant must be 18 years, show proof of being a Ghanaian and must possess a valid Ghana Card.
The applicant must also have verifiable employment, earn income and have a bank statement, with the rent to be paid not exceeding 30 per cent of the household income.
Again, self-employed applicants who qualify based on the eligibility criteria will receive the assistance, while students who satisfy the eligibility criteria and whose parents can guarantee for them will also be supported by the scheme.
Dr Bawumia said providing meaningful shelter for Ghanaians had formed a significant part of the developmental goals of the government.
Recounting his visit to the offices of the Rent Control Department (RCD) in July 2020, Dr Bawumia said he noted the overall importance of the rental housing market in its quest to increase access to housing options.
He, therefore, reiterated plans by the government to make it more effective and efficient, while reviewing the law governing rent management in the country to make it more relevant to trends.
The Vice-President expressed the excitement that the idea found expression in the 2020 Manifesto of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and subsequently in the national budget.
He commended the Minister of Works and Housing, Francis Asenso-Boakye, and his team for working tirelessly to put the framework together and urged them not to renege on their oversight and supervisory responsibilities for the successful implementation of the scheme.
He further called on all well-meaning Ghanaians to support the initiative, saying: “As a government, we remain committed to the successful implementation of the scheme for the benefit of every Ghanaian.”
The Vice-President further indicated that the government, acting through the Ministry of Works and Housing, had submitted to Parliament the Rent Bill for passage to replace the existing Rent Act, 1963 (Act 220) which was enacted by Parliament 59 years ago.
He said the relevance of Act 220 had been outlived by the current population growth, urbanisation and housing availability.
He said processes had also begun in earnest and a service provider engaged to digitalise the work of the RCD across the country to enhance its service delivery.
That process, he indicated, would provide a consolidated platform for the operations of the department and improve revenue generation and collection.
Mr Asenso-Boakye said the initial beneficiary regions under the scheme had been selected because data from the RCD indicated that they had a higher rate of rent advance-related issues.
He said the objective of the government was to operationalise the scheme across the country.
Mr Asenso-Boakye expressed gratitude to the Office of the Vice-President for the instrumental role it played towards developing the scheme and gave an assurance that his outfit was committed to addressing the challenges confronting the housing sector in the country.
The minister insisted that the NRAS was one of such vehicles which could adequately help respond to the challenges through public policy and programme development.
He also admitted the fact that there could be some difficulties with the scheme, it being the first time in the country, but said the ministry would ride the tide to make it better.
The Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Dr Anthony Yaw Baah, who was at the launch, suggested that women be given priority under the newly launched scheme.
He also urged the implementers to provide decent accommodation for workers under the scheme, which he said would bring additional benefits and relief to workers.
“Let’s pay some more attention to single mothers, especially those with a child or more, because they need that support from the state and this is going to help, not only the mothers but also the children,” he said.
Dr Baah commended the government for the initiative, in the face of the global economic challenges, and stressed the need for the effective monitoring of the scheme.
The Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Ignatius Baffour-Awuah, advocated the prioritisation of pensioners under scheme.
He said through a search with the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), it was noticed that many pensioners earned GH¢600 a month, an amount which he said was inadequate for such pensioners to raise money for decent accommodation.
He was, therefore, grateful to the Ministry of Works and Housing for the initiative and pledged his support to ensure its success.
The Chairman of the Council of State and Juabenhene, Nana Otuo Siriboe II, who chaired the launch, stressed the need for transparency at all levels of the scheme to rid it of duplicate applications and political interference.
He recommended the publication of applications and beneficiaries of the scheme in order to eliminate duplications and persons who would want to outsmart the system.
Nana Otuo Siriboe also asked that the Labour Ministry and the TUC be included in the leadership of the scheme, since many of the beneficiaries would be workers.