Thomson Reuters, in collaboration with Sinapi Aba Trust (SAT) and Habitat for Humanity Ghana (HfHG), are currently engaged in a project designed to address the acute shortage of quality housing in Ghana. A key contributing factor to this housing shortage correlates to the lack of financing available for home improvement or home construction to all but the very wealthy. In fact, many main stream banks do not offer a home loan product, in part due to the lack of ability to verify property ownership, caused by a poorly functioning land registry system.
In 2010, HfHG conducted interviews and workshops with approximately 650 SAT clients in order to assess the demand for a housing finance product. The interviews that were conducted revealed that approximately 74% of clients were not satisfied with their homes and would be interested in a home loan. The demand for a home loan product has long been noted by Sinapi Aba Trust, loans taken out for a business have been used to invest in home improvement has been a constant battle. It was clear that the demand existed, but the question of how a lending institution can be sure of a client’s undocumented right to the property remained uncertain.
Thomson Reuters proposed that the most cost-effective approach, given the financial barriers to fully formalizing a property with the Lands Commission, was for an independent group to verify the property claim and ensure that the local community recognized the property claim. To do this, Thomson Reuters developed an approach for gathering data on properties that included the interview of claimants and neighbors, collection of geo-spatial information by a licensed surveyor, and capturing photographs of the claimant and their property.
Following collection of the data, tabular information from the property data collection sheet is entered into OpenTitle, along with photos of the property and claimant, and the survey data. This data is used in a number of ways: 1) it can be reviewed by SAT to identify the exact location of properties – useful when loan officers resign or are transferred; 2) ownership details can be reviewed by the loan approval board prior to disbursement and 3) photographs of structures serve as a baseline of what the building looked like prior to loan disbursement, ensuring that SAT can verify loan utilization.