There are two main aspirations for working adults when they first enter the workforce – to purchase a vehicle and then to build a house. However, considering the current status of our economy, initiating a contraction project is incredibly daunting. Beyond this however, it would appear that, globally, the mindsets of people are changing in such a way that becoming a homeowner looks a lot different to what a homeowner looks like in our country.
John Keells Properties and Executive Vice President Nayana Mawilmada attending a discussion with Advocata Institute Chief Operating Officer (COO) Dhananath Fernando on the topic of “Why is it so expensive to achieve your dream of owning your own home?” shared his thoughts on the matter of becoming a homeowner in Sri Lanka. Further speaking with Brunch he added to the conversation on how the landscape of home ownership, housing construction, and living in the city is evolving.
Mawilmada stated that, in general, it is a lot more expensive to build a house in Sri Lanka than many other parts of the world. He said that this is owing to the fact that Sri Lanka does not produce many of the raw materials that are essential for housing construction. “Many of these necessities are imported, and are therefore taxed. Hence the expenses are far higher than one would expect,” he said.
He also stated that, in addition to exporting, Sri Lanka also has a notable lack of an efficient workforce, with sufficient expertise. “Labour is a bit more costly in Sri Lanka, than it would be in countries like India. There is also a lack of expertise and efficiency,” he said, adding also that there is a common belief that if you were to fully invest in one singular Chinese worker, for example, they are likely to equate four Sri Lankans working the same job. He said that as a result of this it is simply more expensive to build a house.
He also noted that in Sri Lanka when it comes to financial reliefs, housing loans and mortgages all come at a far higher rate, to the point where such reliefs are only available for those who may not need it in the first place. He said that this lack of accessibility to housing loans and the high interest rates also contribute to the challenges faced by Sri Lankans when it comes to building a house.
He also noted that most importantly Sri Lanka needs to undergo a change in lifestyle and societal expectations when it comes to what represents a home owner – he said that globally people have evolved from wanting to buy a plot of land and building a house to moving into a house that is already done, especially when it comes to the city many are opting to move in to a apartments. They too are home owners who live in the city.
Mawilmada stated that Sri Lanka is lagging behind in a big way when it comes to this evolution, noting that Colombo, has only about a 10% utilising of apartment structures, which is highly unusual for a capital city, He said that the norm is at 55-60% all the way up to 90% of the capital cities utilising efficient housing with apartment complexes however Colombo is yet to experience this change.
He shared that this change is natural and it is an eventuality with urbanisation but there is need for a change in mindset and Sri Lankan society is still thinking very differently to the global majority. But he said that, we can soon expect some major shifts as despite our people’s reluctance, the economy and the natural progression of lifestyles and other changes will result in us all adapting to suit the world as it grows.