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Real Estate

How residents grapple with challenges of communal living in serviced estates

Apart from income, people also put into consideration the availability and functional infrastructure such as good roads and drainage, waste management, security, serenity and attractiveness of environment as well as adequate supply of power and water when deciding where to live.

Gated estates are generally upscale residential communities designed for affluent individuals. They provide a lot of benefits to the residents that live within them, but services are not free lunch.

Every gated estate has a central management authority, an outsourced facilities managing firm or Home Owners Association that maintains the facilities and ensures residents enjoy them to the fullest.

Olumide Akinyemi, project manager at Global Limited, posited that why high profile individuals reside in gated communities goes beyond comfortable access to facilities and amenities, but issues of security, privacy, and exclusivity of the amenities are of concern to them.

A report by AfrAsia Bank, an institution authorized and regulated by Bank of Mauritius, titled ‘2018 Wealth Report’  affirms  that an increasing number of High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) prefer to live in gated communities and estates.

The institute cites security, facility, quality  and design of houses, views, scenery  and wildlife as well as price growth potentials as factors influencing the decisions of HNWIs to inhabit gated communities.

But these upscale communities, as attractive as they seem, are not without challenges of varying degrees for residents, landlords, estate developers and facilities managers who provide and manage facilities and services used by the residents.

Most of these estates are serviced, meaning that services are provided and paid for by the residents either collectively or individually. The payments are made in form of service charge which has become a major feature of most estates and a source of contention. In most cases they pose challenges.

“The private estates or residential housing requires the services of facilities managers because a lot of the people who live there are middle income professionals who live there hoping to leverage economy of scale to get the kind of services they need”, explained chief executive of a frontline facilities management and services firm, who pleaded to be anonymous.

 

The economic downturn in the country is, however, making it difficult for some of these residents to meet their obligations in terms of rents and service charge payments, leading to serious frictions between residents and landlords or residents and service providers as the case may be.

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“Many of  these mid-come professionals who worked in oil and gas companies or banks have lost their jobs, the income of some of them has reduced and they are therefore struggling to pay their service charge. Even many of them are defaulting in paying their rents”, the chief executive revealed.

In some cases, however, frictions arise not from loss of job or income, but from rising costs which has in turn jerked up service charge in many estates.  “Rising cost of maintenance has increased   sharply  to between 30 percent and 40 percent”, according to Mojisola Akingbade, an estate manager, who expressed fear that sooner than later, cost of maintaining a building might outstrip the rents.

Our  findings  on four key facilities including  power, water, sewage disposal and security in three gated estates in Lagos namely Osborne Foreshore Estate, Ikoyi; Cable Point Estate in Lekki Phase I and 1004 Estate in Victoria Island reveal near-common experiences by residents.

Though residents have their comfort and enjoy serenity, attractive landscape, tight security, and clean environment with slight variations in terms of power and water, service charge payments remain a major issue the service providers have to contend with.

In terms of security, a visit to these estates shows that they are well secured for habitation. A domestic staff who has been working in 1004 Estate for six years, told us that tight security in the estate was a major selling point.

The staff, who did not want to be named, explained that a significant number of occupants of the estate are foreigners (particularly Chinese and Indians) and a major reason for this, according to him, is because the environment is safe.

“About 90 percent of the residents are Chinese and Indians. The estate appeals to them because they are confident that their lives and valuables are secured; you cannot enter here anyhow; there are protocols. You cannot find these foreigners in non-gated areas where there are often cases of armed robbery. Things like that scare them,” he said

Talking about the service charge for security, he said residents are billed and payments are remitted to the Home Owners and Residents Association (HORA) office.  Efforts to get the amount paid by residents were fruitless as the HORA office was reluctant to provide such information.

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A visit to Cable Point Estate, Lekki Phase I gave a similar picture of 1004 estate as regards security. One of the estate residents, who introduced himself simply as Biodun, told us that the estate management office does not joke with security.

“This is how we operate here. It is mandatory for everyone to sign-in before they get access into the estate. You cannot find people wandering aimlessly here”, Biodun said.

At Osborne Foreshore Estate, Ikoyi, it is the same trend. Fortune Olakunle, who works in one of the hotels within the estate, told us that visitors were scrutinized before gaining access. “There are guards stationed at the gate, both armed and unarmed. A car search is conducted before motorists are allowed in.

“Non-residents are required to call their hosts before being allowed into the estate. This is why there are no known recorded cases of armed robbery or violent crimes within the estate”, Olakunle said.

Power is supplied to the sampled estates by Eko Distribution Company, but reliance on public power supply varies among the estates. At 1004, it was gathered that the estate has a central generating plant beside Civic Centre that supplies power to the estate.

“Before, the estate relied on public electricity, but not anymore. If public electricity goes off, within the next 20 seconds, the power plant picks up”, a resident in the estate disclosed.
Asked about the service charge for power, the resident who pleaded anonymity explained that apartments were metered to individual residents and payment is commensurate with consumption.

The same thing applies to Cable Point estate. The resident explained that although the estate gets power from public sources, it is not dependent on them because of frequent outages associated with public power.  “You know the country we live in. Power is epileptic. The estate has its own plant that serves residents. The plant runs 24 hours in the absence of public power supply”, he said.

Checks at other areas around Cable Point estate revealed that residents were not impressed with the power situation. Emmanuel Nweke, a resident at Lai Yusuf Crescent adjacent Cable Point, said “sometimes we live two days without power. They also give us three straight days without interruption, but this is rare. We are not happy.”

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Unlike 1004 and Cable Point, it was gathered that Osborne has no central generating plant that serves residents in case of power interruption. “Majority of residents complement public power with generators and inverters”, a resident confirmed.

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“There is nothing like crazy bills. All buildings have prepaid meteres. For instance, in my office, we pay huge sums to get certain units of light that can sustain us a month. You know that prepaid meter is a not a friend of heavy gadgets”, the resident added.

Water is another critical facility in these estates.  It was gathered at 1004 estate that there is a central water plant that serves residents. John explained that the tanks are cleaned twice in a month. “External tankers are called to supply the estate whenever the tanks are cleaned. Each cluster has its reservoir to serve residents during this period”, he added.

This  also applies for Cable Point Estate. The resident revealed that water in Lekki is  generally bad, but the estate has its own treatment plant that serves residents with potable water supply. According to him, the plant is routinely purified.

In Osborne foreshore, all houses in the estates have their own personal boreholes and water treatment plants. The water is safe for human consumption and residents enjoy  portable water.

In the three estates, the central management authority collectively handles Waste Management. It was gathered that the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) visits the estates to evacuate dirt at least once in a week.

Source: Israel Odubola

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