Urban low income housing units in Ghana are often described as inadequate, lacking the basic amenities and found in poor neighbourhoods. Some of these neighbourhoods are overcrowded and characterised with rundown facilities, poor quality buildings, poor environmental facilities and poor sanitation. Although these neighbourhood characteristics are not contested, residents’ perception and use of these neighbourhoods may be contrary to what the policy maker thinks. Moreover, research has shown that households’ staying in multi-habited houses in the low income communities in Ghana exhibit very little residential mobility. Apart from lack of funds, what other factors could account for this observation? Could it be some form of residential satisfaction that they derive from living in their communities? Could it be the existence of social networks that help them to get by in life? Research in Ghana has looked at the physical characteristics of housing and the existing social dynamics as a composite measure of residential satisfaction in these neighbourhoods. The contribution of neighbourhood characteristics on residential satisfaction was not actually studied. However, it plays a significant role in residential satisfaction and household mobility patterns.
In my paper I explore dwelling characteristics, social networks and neighbourhood characteristics as a composite measure of residential satisfaction of multi-habited low income households in some communities in Accra. This was achieved by presenting the nature of multihabitation, measuring the level of residential satisfaction among low income households and identifying the specific variables that influence residential satisfaction.
The results show that there is a direct correlation between the shared facilities such as electricity supply and bathroom available in the house and the level of residential satisfaction. Where the households had enough facilities to share with less associated conflict, they expressed greater residential satisfaction. Dissatisfaction is high among households living in overcrowded family houses in some indigenous communities in Accra.
Overall, the study indicates that residents living in compound houses were moderately satisfied with their dwelling characteristics, neighbourhood characteristics and existing social networks. Surprisingly, many more residents were moderately satisfied with their neighbourhood characteristics as compared to the physical characteristics and access to informal social networks. Proximity to recreational areas also played a key role in residents’ satisfaction and these should be included in plans for urban low income housing. Policy makers often think about only housing for the poor and leave out the ancillary community facilities.
Urban housing development in Ghana should be matched with infrastructure development and pioneered by private developers instead of state institutions. At best, public-private partnership should be promoted. State institution-led projects in Ghana have not been very efficient and muddled with corrupt practices. Local development banks could be encouraged to invest in sanitation and other infrastructure development in urban low income communities. Moreover, there should be rigorous policies to drive urban infrastructure expansion, enforcement of local government by-laws to ensure that each low income house has adequate amenities and utilities such as bathrooms, toilets, electricity and water supply.