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Asbestos In Homes Is carcinogenic – LASG Warns

Prince Gbolahan Lawal, the Commissioner for Housing in Lagos State, has called on the member of the Public to shun asbestos as ceiling in homes, saying it could cause cancer.

Lawal emphasized on the need to educate Nigerians on the reason why they must not make use of asbestos in their homes or office building.

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“Few years ago, Lagos State Government stopped the use of asbestos for ceiling because of its carcinogenic effect; we now use PVCs (plastic) in our estates and buildings.

“Asbestos ceilings are carcinogenic, it causes cancer and if you have it in your house you should try and change it,’’ he told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Lagos.

Asbestos, according to NAN, has been reported to be “carcinogenic to humans,’’ based on its ability to cause mesothelioma and cancers of the lung, larynx (voice box) and ovaries.

This is according to a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an intergovernmental agency and a part of the World Health Organization with its headquarters in Lyon, France.

Lawal said the state government was exploring other alternatives and innovations that would allow for the use of cheaper available local raw materials to bring down the cost of houses.

According to the commissioner, the state government was advancing its Green Building Initiative through its collaboration with Echostone an international eco-friendly construction firm, to develop its affordable homes initiative.

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He explained that the method ensured that a 40 per cent of carbon footprints were reduced in line with global climatic change initiatives.

According to Lawal, the partnership also ensured adoption of the Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE) programme that helps developers reduce their buildings’ energy and water consumption by 20 per cent while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

The commissioner revealed further that the state had also adopted eco-friendly water and sewage management system to improve the health and quality of lives of residents.

This, he noted, would reduce the use of generators and reliance on electricity to illuminate such houses during the day or hot weather.

“Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration is also in partnership with a German government institute (GZI) as well as the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing on how to reduce water and energy consumption in our estates to achieve energy efficiency in the buildings.

Joshua Oyenigbehin

Seoul’s revitalisation of youth housing

Youth population continues to flow into Seoul as the capital offers education, wealth, and higher-wage jobs. According to the Korean Statistical Information Service, new residents moving into Seoul totalled 15,000 to 26,000 people annually over the last six years with the trend expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Despite new apartments and villas constantly being introduced, “affordable housing” remains a distant dream for young people with the high rental rates of Seoul.

At a glance:

  • Seoul’s youth population is on the rise
  • This trend looks set to continue in the future
  • Affordable housing is increasingly hard to find
  • The government has introduced the 2030 Youth Housing program
  • This should increase centrally located affordable accommodation
  • Investors are seeing issues with the initiative’s constraints which may need to be rectified

The government has announced a youth housing program, “2030 Youth Housing”, to alleviate this problem. The project sets to revitalise youth housing (‘2030’ refers to the people in their 20s and 30s) by providing quality residences with access to subway stations for young people – college students, recent graduates, and newlyweds.

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Number of young population moved into Seoul:

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The project has drawn keen interest from investors, as the government will provide development benefits, including increasing the floor area ratio of private land near subway stations, tax reductions and a streamlined process for government applications.

However, many experts believe there is difficulty for investors to enter the rental housing business as the minimum land area requirement for such an upgrade for a ‘Semi-Residential Area’ is 500 square metres, and 1,000 square metres for ‘Commercial Area’. Since many lots near-subway station areas are usually less than 200 square metres, investors must obtain at least five agreements with landlords, which is unrealistic.

The project would require a developer to charge 60-80 percent of market rental rates within each subway station area for at least the first couple of years. After this period, as demand near subway station area is robust, property owners would raise the rent of this new supply to market rates. However, this incentive will disable normal market rental forces as the new supply together with regulated rents will ensure the area’s rent for the near future with limited growth potential.

Although it is good that the government is actively trying to solve the housing problem in Korea, a number of key points need to be rectified as pointed out by critics. Authorities will need to reduce the land size requirement and provide rental housing with a relatively lower level of rent by broadening the distance of the subway station areas as rental levels are high.

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So far, 44 sites (or 16,681 households) in Seoul have been selected for the initiative. As the provision of affordable housing is top priority for the new government, JLL believes this project would lead Seoul to rise to conquer the housing challenge for Seoul’s young generation.

For more information about the South Korea residential property market or to discuss the 2030 Youth Housing program phone research analyst Leo Nam from JLL Korea via the contact details below.

JLL

Is the Low GDP Growth Rate in Nigeria a New Norm?

The real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 1.50 percent recorded in Q2 2018 was below the expectations of most analysts.

The GDP numbers reflect the impact of the rising uncertainties in the country. The low growth and contraction across many sectors of the Nigerian economy also underscore the need for an urgent set of policies and engagements to rescue the economy.

Although the fragile growth was driven by the Non-Oil sector, the fact that dominant sectors of the economy either recorded low growth or contracted in Q2 2018 indicates that urgent actions are required. Agriculture, which is the largest sector of the Nigerian economy at 22.86 percent, recorded a marginal growth of only 1.19 percent.

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FSDH Research notes that the slow growth in the Agriculture sector, if not checked, may lead to food shortage in the country and consequently escalating food prices and rising inflation rate.

Trade, which is the second largest sector of the Nigerian economy, contracted by 2.14 percent and also entered a recession in Q2 2018.

The weak purchasing power in the country (occasioned by non-payment of salaries, high unemployment rate and high consumer prices) is responsible for the contraction in the Trade sector.

Improvement in the business environment that can lead to job creation and payment of salary of workers, particularly among the state civil servants, will stimulate purchasing power.

FSDH Research observes strong growth in the Information & Communication and the Construction sectors of the economy.

The growth in internet data consumption and increase in road and rail construction works across the country are the major drivers of the growth in the Information & Communication and the Construction respectively.

We believe the two sectors can achieve higher growth rates given the enormous potentials inherent in these sectors.

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The contraction in the Real Estate sector can be reversed if government at all levels partners with private sector operators to provide affordable housing units for Nigerians.

Government can provide land, lower the cost of registration and perfection of titles, and provide long-term loans for their employees. The current low GDP growth rate is not strong enough to stimulate credit creation. It has also increased the risk of doing business in Nigeria. Therefore, urgent measures are required so that low GDP growth rate does not become a new norm in Nigeria.

Dipo Olowookere

The Many Headaches of Artisans Village in Niger State

It is arguably Niger State’s capital of handymen, but suffers an array of problems including kidnapping, poor road, power supply, lack of clean water and others.

With only one transformer for over 3,500 households, barely two hours of power supply in 48 hours; equipped clinic with no personnel; five broken down boreholes; poor access road and kidnapping challenges, Chaza community in Suleja local government area of Niger State, is not experiencing the best of times.

Located just on the outskirts of Suleja town, overlooking the beautiful rocks of Suleja and the sprawling landscape that borders the FCT, Chaza community is the last settlement on the boundary between Niger State and the FCT. From the number of motorcycles laden with agricultural produces leaving the community, it can be argued that Chaza is the agricultural hub of Suleja and one of the rich agricultural plains of Niger State.

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Although the community is relatively young, residents say it’s less than 35 years in existence and predominantly of the Gbagyi ethnic group, the community from a humble beginning of four households has grown to over 3,500 households, thanks to the influx of artisans that have populated the community.

It can also be argued that in spite of its numerous challenges, Chaza is a safe haven for artisans especially in the building industry. Every sector in the building sector has got a handyman in Chaza. From mason, tillers, roofers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, windows and doors experts and others, they are all represented in the community. Some have tagged the community as Niger State ‘Capital of Experts in Building Works’. Housing News Friday observed on visiting the community recently, that every household has one or two artisans in the building sector.

For those who did not engage in technical jobs, go into farming, an occupation that has engaged not a few persons in the community. The community, in spite of the resilience of the people, is a bastion of arrays of problems that has worried not a few of the residents. The access road to the community is very terrible.

The less than two kilometres road is tormentuous as the condition is best described as dilapidated. Worse, is when it rains in the community as many of the residents get trapped in houses because the road is always flooded and after wards becomes muddy and dangerously slippery. The Wakalin Chaza, Jibrin Nuhu, told Housing News Weekend that the community is in pain over the state of its road, saying the condition of the road has closed the community from investors especially the housing sector.

He lamented that his community, which has grown from a humble four homes to over 3,500 houses, is dependent on only one transformer to power electricity. “Ideally, we need about eight transformers in this community. We are a community with so many artisans and professionals contributing to the growth of Niger State and the FCT but have been neglected for years.” Housing News Friday learnt that some political leaders of Suleja have been pushing for the construction of the road in the federal budget, it is yet to be seen on ground. The traditional leader said rumours of commencement of works on Chaza road have been making the rounds for years and “we have not seen any work yet, our people still go through pains to go and come into the community daily”.

Meanwhile, out of the five motorised boreholes constructed as part of constituency projects by the government, none is working. Some residents say some of the projects were never commissioned. The residents said they rely on rain water, streams and for those that can afford, get water from private boreholes. “It is not a matter of exaggeration, Chaza community does not have any clean source of water and you know the implication of not having clean sources of water to a community.

We are vulnerable to all kinds of water borne diseases,” said Yabubu Baale, a resident. The community records about 25 to 30 new births in a month. It has a beautiful comprehensive healthcare centre that is well equipped in terms of drugs but lacks medical personnel to handle cases of the residents. Worse, is that the health facility runs without water and electricity supplies. Housing News Friday was shown the constructed borehole but learnt that the borehole could not function because the contractor is still being owed money. “The contractor is still being owed money for the job, so he refused to connect the pumping machine to enable us get water.

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You can imagine a clinic buying water from vendors when we don’t even know the source of the water,” a staff of the centre said. It was also observed that the cable supplying power to the clinic has been vandalised leaving the facility to run without power for several months.

Although, a senior official who spoke to Housing News Friday at the facility claimed the clinic is well staffed, she only complained of the access road to the clinic and electricity. But community leaders said the facility needs more experts to attend to their medical needs. The biggest challenge to residents of the community, Housing News Friday learnt, is the growing cases of kidnapping in and around Chaza.

Chaza has come to earn the unenvious status as the ‘Kidnapping Hub of Niger’ where residents and visitors are terrorised by kidnappers. Residents complained that kidnappers have continued to make life uneasy for them especially those who return home from work late in the evening. Housing News Friday had reported in December 2017, how a businessman was kidnapped on returning from Chaza after visiting his in-laws and kept until after two weeks until ransom was collected.

Since then, residents say it has been one kidnapping incident or the other with the latest which happened three weeks ago. “The bad state of the road and the one vehicle bridge have been used as bait by these bad boys who have turned kidnapping into a trade for themselves. After people have worked hard, others will use kidnapping to rob them of their hard earned money. Nobody comes to Chaza whenever it’s dark anymore,” said Uche Obi a trader in the community.

AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE

FMBN refunds N21bn housing fund to retirees

The Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) said it has refunded over N21.4 billion National Housing Fund (NHF) to 216,650 retirees across the country.

The Managing Director, Arc. Ahmed Musa Dangiwa disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at the September 2018 Lunch Time Reform Seminar on “The Challenges Facing Civil Servants in Obtaining Loan from FMBN and how to Access Contributions on Retirement from the Civil Service.

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The Acting Director General, Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Mr Dasuki Arabi who organised the forum said statistics show about 80 per cent of Nigerians are without adequate housing.

Dangiwa on his part said there are 22,653 registered organisations, 4,699,503 registered contributors, 1,110 cooperative societies and 21,853 cooperative members with the bank.

“We have a total of N185bn credit disbursement, construction of 26,002 housing units financed, 18,476 NHF mortgage loans granted to NHF contributors, 13,993 housing micro-loans of about N11.5bn disbursed. Over N21.4bn paid back to 216,650 retirees,” Dangiwa said.

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Dangiwa who listed some difficulties the bank was working to defeat said they include, accessing Title Documents, low earning capacity of civil servants, requirement for personal stake, loan processing delays from other mortgage banks and delays in processing of applications by FMBN.

Abbas Jimoh

Analysis: Need For Housing Policy Development

This becomes more urgent when the phenomenon of climate change is considered, given that the building sector is responsible for nearly 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in cities.

This problem compels national and city governments to attend to design, planning and technology standards and norms that affect the planning of residential areas, housing design and production, and the construction industry. 

Sustainable housing is, however, yet to gain its due prominence in developing countries. It is rare that the social, cultural, environmental and economic facets of housing are addressed there in an integrated policy. 

In many developing contexts, the so-called pro-poor housing programmes often provide accommodation of poor standards, in remote locations, with little consideration to residents’ lifestyle and livelihood strategies. 

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In others, rapid housing developments create amplified carbon footprint and further negative impacts on the environment. Yet, in most developing cities, decent and safe housing remains a dream for the majority of the population, while government considers affordable housing as merely a social burden. 

In order to address their housing and informal settlement issues, governments need to set up a strong national housing policy to create an enabling environment that will increase the supply of affordable housing. 

This is a central requirement: only with strong political will, sound guidelines and adequate regulations will countries and cities be able to provide adequate shelter for all, reduce slum growth and ensure sustainable urban development. 

Key stakeholders such as national and local government bodies, non-governmental organisations, financial institutions, as well as builders and private sector developers, have to operate within clear, given frameworks. 

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This will enable well-defined institutional and operational conditions in order to support the housing sector more effectively and in doing so, contribute to the provision of affordable, adequate housing for all. 

National housing policies need to be closely harmonised with other development aspects such as economic, social and environmental interests. 

For instance, beyond the mere provision of shelter, housing projects have to be understood as playing an active role in boosting employment and the economy, reducing poverty and improving human development. 

Likewise, housing policies have to include urban planning considerations, advocating for mixed urban uses and medium to high density, ensuring small urban footprints and rationalised mobility patterns. 

National and local authorities need to be at the helm of housing projects, not only to create a conducive environment for investors, developers and builders – for instance in resolving land issues, but also to ensure housing affordability that is pro-poor oriented, and guarantee provision of basic services and infrastructure.

Family Homes Funds Project

The Family Homes Funds (FHF) has said it is investing to secure top quality capacity to deliver an ambitious, affordable housing programme as a key aspect of the government’s Social Intervention Programme.

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According to a source in FHF, by 2023, the Family Homes Funds – a special purpose investment vehicle having the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority and the Federal Ministry of Finance Incorporated as founding shareholders – aims to have supported the development of over 500,000 homes and 1.5m jobs for Nigerians on low income.

Towards that goal, the Funds disclosed that it has recently completed the construction of 400 homes with an average cost of N3.5m in Grand Luvu, Nasarawa State – part of over 4,000 homes under construction in 5 states namely Ogun, Nasarawa, Kano, Delta and Kaduna.

A further 30,000 homes are at advanced stages of negotiation with development partners and will commence by November 2018. As the new company builds capacity through the ongoing recruitment campaign, it will achieve a program of 80,000 homes by December 2019

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The Family Homes Funds (FHF) is a 1 Trillion Naira Federal Initiative established in 2016 to deliver housing for low-income and middle-income Nigerians, nationwide.

 

Easy Ways to Spot a Rental Scam

If you have never fallen for a rental scam, then consider yourself lucky because they are still very popular in Nigeria and many unsuspecting people still fall for. As you must have guessed, victims of rental scam suffer financially and psychologically because apart of the clog it throws in a victim’s financial plans, it’s largely humiliating to lose money this way. Sadly, for most victims, this means they have to start planning all over again.

You don’t have to go through the horrid experience of falling for a rental scam before you understand how they work and how to avoid getting scammed when hunting for an apartment/property. Below are some tips from seasoned professionals on ways to spot a scam before it happens.

Apartment/Property Unavailable for Inspection

You should never forget the fact that shady agents and fake real estate practitioners are very intelligent and have successfully scammed several people like you. In other words, they are very convincing when dealing with potential tenants. One of the glaring signs to look out for is that before a rental scam, they make it difficult and literally impossible for you to inspect the property. Of course, they will come up with several excuses but the end goal is the same – They don’t want you to inspect the apartment/property.

The really smart ones will go as far as telling you that they are out of town, which means they are not physically available to arrange an inspection of the property for you. In most cases, he/she (scam agent) will ask you to hold on till he/she gets back. This is just a tactic they use to buy time.

Anyone who keeps you away from an apartment/property you intend to rent has rental scam written all over his/her intention. Don’t fall for this trick regardless of the excuse they come up with.

Urgency of Transaction

Be wary of any situation or scenario where you are put under pressure to make a financial commitment way too early. It is a red flag that gives a rental scam away. Professional agents know that they need to give you time to make a realistic decision on whether you want the property or not. Scam agents; also known as 419 agents in Nigeria are known to stage the rental process in such a way that it puts a lot of urgency on the financial transaction involved.

The biggest hook they throw at unsuspecting victims is that they have received lots of applications and offers from other potential tenants. The goal here is to lure you into making that financial commitment. Once that is done, you are hooked and what follows is merely a familiar plot to serve as the nail the coffin of deception that you have unknowingly walked into. Don’t fall for the line of showing your commitment by paying a deposit.

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Disrupting the Flow of Renting an Apartment

Money should never exchange hands at the beginning of your quest to rent an apartment/property. Instead, this should always happen towards the end.

Under normal circumstances, you should meet the agent, homeowner or verified representative in person. You also need to carry out a thorough inspection of the property before you make payment. Any excuse that places payment above other crucial stages of the property renting process should send your alarm bells off.

No property agent with good intentions asks for payment upfront regardless of how professional they might have come across before pulling that move. Do you know how to find a house to rent in Nigeria? It’s not difficult and you should never be afraid to ask questions.

The Rent is Too Good to be True

If what you are being asked to pay as rent is way cheaper than the value of what you should have been asked to pay, then seek the guidance of a real estate expert to know what the idea rent should be. If the figure still falls below what you should be paying for the apartment, then it is most likely a trap set to lure you in.

For instance, if a typical 2-bedroom apartment in Lekki costs a minimum of N1 million to rent yet an agent tells you he has one for N400,000, you should start asking questions.

Uncompleted Buildings

If you are ever shown an uncompleted building by an agent or developer who gives you reasons why you need to pay quickly to secure the apartment, this is a major red flag. Many unsuspecting individuals have lost their money to this scam and to make matters worse, they never got their money back.

In many cases, scam agents and developers are not afraid of getting arrested especially those who have a strong hold on the corrupt side of the Nigerian police. These agents go as far as allowing you to inspect the property/apartment even while construction is ongoing. The trick here is to show the same apartment to as many as 10 to 40 unsuspecting victims who pay for the same apartment without ever clashing because the rogue agent schedules their inspection for different days.

One way to avoid this is to work with a property lawyer or a real estate expert; whose years of experience can be relied on to avoid falling into such traps.

In March 2018, a Lagos court jailed an estate agent (also a self-proclaimed site engineer), Babatunde Habeeb. He was sentenced to 1,230 years imprisonment for scamming unsuspecting victims of N28 million.

The Application Form

The application form also gives many shady agents and scammers away. A typical application form should be thorough and the homeowner should not put you under any under pressure to complete the form. Remember that this form is the landlord’s way of ascertaining that you are the kind of tenant he/she wants.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that when you are trying to rent an apartment, you are not the only one being careful. The homeowner knows it is important to check you out to affirm that you will not end up a bad tenant.

On the application form, the homeowner tries to establish the kind of person you are, why you are leaving your previous residence as well as whether you will be able to pay your rent subsequently. Therefore, the less concerned the homeowner is about this part of the rental process, the more he/she tilts toward giving himself/herself away as an agent of a rental scam.

If your potential landlord/landlady does not care about your employment history or a reference from your previous landlord, then he/she is probably just in a hurry to swindle you.

Don’t Be Fooled By Photos

No matter how captivating the pictures of an apartment shown to you by a real estate agent is, it cannot replace an actual inspection. There are millions of images online that a scammer can easily download and present to you.

It’s okay to have images shown to you but don’t be naive enough to believe that once these are shown to you, everything checks out as being legitimate. In a situation where these images are emailed to you, you can verify their authenticity by uploading them on Google search to see if they pop up in a totally different listing.

No Written Lease

An agent looking to scam you will either be deliberately clumsy with the written lease or will not make it available to you. When renting an apartment, the only form of agreement you should take seriously is a written one and the reason is simple. A written agreement can always be used as a reference in cases of disagreement and clearly spells out details of what the lease covers.

It is important that the lease identifies who the property owner is. Anyone claiming to represent the interest of the legitimate owner of the home must have a legal document to back this.

In a situation where the property has more than one owner, you should request for a written confirmation from the other party. What this does is to communicate his acknowledgement of the ongoing rental process. Without the other party’s approval, the entire thing might be a sham.

No Meeting With the Owner

No excuse is good enough to justify not being able to have a meeting with the owner of a property before you rent his/her apartment. This meeting legitimises the rental. If you are renting any house, insist on seeing the documents of the ownership.

A popular trick used by con artists is to tell you that the necessary documents will be sent to you. This is one trap you should never fall for because no legitimate homeowner would refuse to show you the documents you have requested to see.

In a situation where the document is eventually shared with you but the name on it does not match the name of the person who claims to be the landlord, this should mark the end of your conversation.

The Subleasing Trap

Subleasing remains one of the riskiest waters to navigate and this is because you put yourself into a situation where you would be paying for an apartment that does not have your name in the original lease agreement that was signed.

Verifying the claim that the lease agreement leaves room for subleasing is another headache entirely. You should be careful not to make any financial commitment to such an arrangement. One safe way to go about this is to get the original tenant to include your name in the original lease agreement that was signed with the landlord.

Please note that if the sublease is forbidden in the lease agreement and you pay for the apartment without knowing this, both you and the original tenant can be ejected by the landlord.

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No Research

In the course of hunting for an apartment, you will be told a lot of things especially if you carry out due diligence and ask a lot of necessary questions. However, regardless of what you are told, it is important that you carve out time to carry out proper research. Google should be your friend at this point. Check the name of the agent as well as the landlord you have been introduced to.

The internet always remembers names and incidents that they have been associated with. For instance, what would you do if you discovered that your supposed landlord was arrested and jailed 10 years ago for collecting rent from 15 different prospective tenants for the same apartment? Would you still go ahead to sign a rental agreement?

Final Thoughts on Rental Scam

Always trust your instinct. If that inner voice or your gut tells you that there is something off about the agent or the property that is being presented to you, you’ll most likely be safer going with that hunch.

Some other things you can look out for that will help you avoid a rental scam include:

  • Don’t be moved by the galaxy of reasons the person might give for not being able to help you view/inspect the property
  • Restrict your search for an apartment/property to trusted real estate websites like Private Property and others that come to you via referrals from your friends and family
  • If the property is excessively cheaper than similar apartments within the same neighbourhood, it’s a good time to ask questions
  • Any real estate agent who is constantly impatient with you should also raise a red flag; especially one who tries to goad you toward making payment
  • No form of money should be paid until you carry out a thorough inspection of the property and you are satisfied with it

Private Property

Lagos and the challenge of housing delivery

IN eight years, between 2011 and 2018, Lagos State government through budgetary allocations to Housing and Community services, had committed about N390 billion public fund, to different housing projects in the state. From the official statistics obtained N26.761 billion went into housing provision in 2011, N42.812 billion in 2012, N46.149 billion in 2013, N50.537 billion in 2014, N49.03 billion in 2015, N62.713 billion in 2016, N50.290 billion in 2017 and N59.90 billion in 2018.

Despite the huge financial commitment by the last two administrations in the state, poor accommodation provision has remained a major deficit in the performances of both the immediate past government of Babatunde Fashola, the current Minister of Works, Power and Housing of the federation and his successor in the state, Akinwunmi Ambode. To the credit of Fashola as Lagos State governor, his housing project known as LagosHoms stands shoulder above others, after the Lateef Jakande era between 1979 and 1984, which is generally seen as the golden moment of public housing project in the state.

Beyond the usual challenges of civil servants’ crooked involvement and allocation bias, one major poser regarding the LagosHoms project is, success at what cost? This brings out the question, why many housing estates, without occupants?

The common refrain at different fora where issue of housing deficit in Nigeria is being discussed is”17 million  deficit”. However, questions are always arising, who carried out the census; how was the data arrived at, et al?

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Beyond the figures, an incontestable fact  is that accommodation shortage is more pronounced in Lagos.

However, findings revealed a “glut” in the commodity, begging for occupants. contrary to  expectations. In essence, the situation is like the proverbial “water water everywhere and none to drink”.

From the available data provided by those in the housing industry, close to 35 housing estates are in Lagos, with more than 154,000 units of different house types provided by private developers, yet to be occupied, with almost 60 percent located in Lekki-Victoria-Ajah axis, while others are scattered around Ikeja, Magodo, Ilupeju, Ojodu-Berger-Omole axis respectively.

While many of the developers collaborate with state government, others simply rely on loan from banks, to finance their projects.

Along the Badagry Expressway are a few of such projects that belongs to government institutions, such as the Nigerian Central Bank, amongst others.

For government schemes, findings revealed that most of the estates have vacant apartments, some reserved for political leaders, to serve as means for patronage. A typical example is the LagosHoms, in Gbagada Housing Estate, where six units of apartments consisting of four flats each, were reliably said to belong to an influential political leader in Lagos state.

“These apartments are specifically reserved for our leader. Not here alone, but virtually, in all locations where you can find government schemes. Not that alone, most of political leaders are usually the beneficiaries of this largesse”, a retired senior official in the Housing Ministry, who spoke on the condition of strict anonymity, confided in Nigerian Tribune.

Developers’ nightmare.

While the exact number of private developers operating in the state, are yet to be ascertained as of press time, at least there are 35 major ones who have contributed inmmensely, one way or the other, to housing delivery, with majority of them having as many as 10 locations of different house types.

However, there is a growing murmur among them, even the most notable ones, of ‘bad market’.

Expressing his frustration to the Nigerian Tribune, a developer, whose estate is located in Sangotedo area, along Lekki-Epe expressway, said he was so desperate to sell the entire estate as a result of dearth of clients.

“To tell you the truth, I’m desperately in need of buyer. I prefer to sell the whole thing and offset the loan that keeps mounting every month”, he said, adding that the prices for renting-out, were just too ridiculous.

He said he would not meet his financial obligations to the banks where he obtained loans in the next 15 years, “not to talk of making profit”.

Prices of three-bedroom apartment range from N30million to N50million for outright purchase, while similar apartment for rent, is between N500,000 and N600,000 per annum, excluding other charges.

Beyond pricing, another factor making business difficult for some of the estate developers, is the terrain of their locations, where infrastructure, especially, access roads and drainage system, are usually poor. This has manifested glaringly in the Lekki axis, where anytime it rains, it’s usually difficult to get to one’s destination. \“In Lekki, there were many houses that remain unoccupied. Indeed, owners of such houses left for Island where they were once tenants, as a result of lack of infrastructure.

“Go to government’s New Town Development Scheme, managed by NTDA, most of the allottees are yet to take possession of their lands. This is government estate where one expects things to be in order, but the opposite is the case”, said an Estate Manager, Mr. Yemi Oguntola, who spoke with visible frustration on his face.  Intervention by successive administrations:

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Dolphin Estate, model or tokenism?

For many Lagos residents, the name Dolphin Estate Ikoyi rings a bell as one of the abodes of the affluent in the nation’s “Centre of Excellence”.

Dolphin Estate was developed by Messrs HFP Engineering Nigeria Limited in the early 1990s, for the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation, LSDPC. To make way for the construction of the estate, the dilapidated Jakande Housing Estate at Ijeh was demolished because it had become an eyesore and degrading to the neighbourhood. .

 

 Ambode’s Rent-To-Own

The Rent-To-Own and Rental Housing policies of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration is aimed at making housing more readily affordable and accessible for Lagosians, so says the current administration.

Commissioner for Housing, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, at the inauguration of the scheme in December 2016, said the schemes listed for the programme include Sir Michael Otedola Estate, Odoragunshin-Epe; CHOIS City, Agbowa; Alhaji Adetoun Mustapha Estate, Ojokoro and Oba Adeboruwa Estate, Igbogbo-Ikorodu, (all put in place by the immediate past administration of Governor Fashola). Lawal said accessing housing units in the state had been largely on cash and carry basis which ended up excluding majority of the citizenry, which the Mortgage Scheme, introduced,  by the administration, was reportedly programmed to address.

“Even though the Mortgage Scheme was able to accommodate more people on the home ownership ladder, a large number can still not afford to become home owners as they are unable to meet the requirement of 30 per cent equity contribution which the mortgage scheme demands”, he analysed.

According to him, the rent-to-own policy targets the low and medium income earners in both the formal and informal sectors. Under this arrangement, individuals are required to pay just 5 per cent of the value of the housing unit as commitment fee and the balance is spread over 10 years.

“But the extent at which the programme is succeeding is yet to be quantified, because there has never been a visible addition to the existing ones met on ground by the current administration”, claimed Dotun Adetoye, another commentator, who stated that Ambode is “just fine tuning” what he met on ground.

 

Why we aren’t building for  masses- Developers

Chief David Olayemi, CEO, Golding Rule Estate, sees the clamour for mass housing by private developers as a mirage. “We are not philatrophists, but rather business people. The argument that we should look for where land is cheap to build houses doesn’t jell at all. Is land the only factor? What of building materials? What of labour? What of charges for land documentation? Or are we to talk of double-digit payment for bank loans, not to talk of inflation that causes unstable price of building materials?”, argued Chief Olayemi.

The Chairman, Righteous Builder, Chief Lanre Rasaq, also listed why mass housing was difficult for private developers.

According to him, factors of housing production like land, building materials, labour and difficulties in accessing loan in Nigeria are enormous.

“It’s only those that built for rent that can venture into mass housing with location in high density areas, where purchasing power of their targeted clients is low. But even at that, no sensible developer can do that except he or she is into philanthropic venture. It’s only government that has the luxury of such venture”, said Chief Rasaq, adding that with sincerity of purpose, government can successfully partner with private investors.

 Our woes–accommodation seekers.

Respondents who are desperately in need of accommodation have a lot of stories to tell.

Seye, Tunde and Niyi are friends whose families are not in Lagos. Because they work in the same organisation, they decided to team up and get a flat in Ilupeju. The accommodation, a 2-bedroom apartment attracted N500,000 per annum, which they shared among themselves.converting the sitting into a room, so that all of them would have their privacy.

“Suddenly, Tunde lost his job as a result of reorganisation at his work- place, while Niyi was transferred to Abuja, living me in a limbo. I was forced to go and team up with a friend because I can’t afford outrageous amount placed on many vacancies avilable!”, Seye concluded.

Mr Tunji Ademola’s case is a bit fair. His words:”I got an accommodation in one of the government housing estates in Ojokoro. Although, the apartment was said to attract N7.2million. But going by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s “Rent-To-Own” scheme, the apartment cost N5miilion plus. But the bonafide beneficiary gave it out to us for the original price, which I’m happy with because the place is close to where I’m working”, he said gleefully.

Another resident in Parafa Area, Ikorodu North, Mr. Jacob Ajobiewe, an accountant, whose office is in Ketu, also narrated his personal experience, which he said was recent. “The problem is not solely on the price for housing, but rather, the commission and other charges. I would want government to build more low cost houses, from which working class group, the artisans, petty traders, and others in that categories would benefit. If the feat could be performed in 1979-1983, by Alhaji Jakande, when Lagos revenue was so paltry, what stops the successive administration from doing more, regardless of rising population the city is witnessing today?

Samuel Nwosu, who operates provision stores in Idumota, Lagos Island also shared his experience on how he got an apartment in one of Jakande Estate, Isolo.

“ it was when my friend relocated to abroad and he learnt how I was duped by estate agents that he told his sister to sublet his apartment for me. Though, an old building, one would say, but paying N250,000 annually for a 3-bedroom flat in Isolo is a big relief”, he said.

These and many were the traumatic experiences by many accommodation seekers in Lagos, a situation forcing many people either back to their villages, or relocating to the suburbs, where things are not that easy, particularly, economic-wise. .

 A developer’s crisis.

Negative publicity that attracted an unfortunate building collapse of a popular developer almost two years ago, was considered a great setback for affordable housing drive in Lagos.

According to a developer who is suffering from the bug of lack of willing tenants, “ what happened to (names withheld) is unfortunate. This is a firm that succeeded in bringing people of different financial background to be landlords/tenants from high density locations to highbrow Lekki, among other places.

“But see how a singular event of building collapse destroyed all the good things the firm has done for accommodation seekers? See the kind of politics that accompanied the development?”, he quipped.

Sharing his own experience, he said he committed N650million on a 24 units of 3-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments, six duplexes and two semi-detached apartments, in Sangotedo area in Lekki.

“It’s more than two years now that we had completed the project, but unfortunately, we are yet to fill the vacancy. While some prospective tenants or buyers are complaining of high price, others are complaining about the terrain.

“With all these, debt is mounting and frustration is setting in”, he complained bitterly, but declined to reveal how much he’s owing the bank.

“No, this is a joint venture, all the partners will bear the burnt, only that it weighed enormously on my credibility, because I’m the driving force of the project”, he said.

 

Cohousing: Driving housing innovation by changing the way we live

A shared desire to live more communally could encourage greater housing diversity, according to Adam Haddow. Here, he looks to student housing, “build-to-rent” models, and the new WeLive project in the USA for cues on how to conjure an alternative, more versatile Australian housing market.

Cohousing is defined by the Cohousing Association of the United States as “an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space” – where the dwellings themselves are much the same as any other and the shared space constitutes anything from a common room to a kitchen, laundry or recreational area. Less obvious in this description is the essential ingredient – intent. That which turns a simple group of dwellings into cohousing is the desire to share not only part of your physical space but part of your daily activities. Sharing may encompass simple things, such as tools and lawnmowers, or more complex things, such as caring for the young and elderly. Often an important element involves meals – it is not uncommon for cohousing projects to host weekly dinners where each of the residents has a role.

Cohousing is housing supported by an ongoing management structure that facilitates a connected community – to a certain extent, imagine a small country town with an active and well-funded council. There are virtually no edges to what can be considered cohousing from a typology perspective, the only constant being a desire by the inhabitants to live more communally. Emotionally, cohousing could be understood as the dense, inner-city version of the 70s suburban cul-de-sac. In my memory the great suburban cul-de-sac experiments existed when everyone’s backyards, swimming pools, swings or BMX jumps were shared. It seemed as if parents made personal investments in their backyard environs with a view to what else was within walking distance for their kids. Cohousing is perhaps just the urban cousin.

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While this type of housing is able to accommodate both bottom-up and top-down procurement processes, it is not a housing form that has gained much ground in Australia. I would suggest this is partly because we don’t have funding, governance or taxation systems in place to support developer involvement and partly because land costs (inflated due to the housing crisis) prohibit the participation of community-based organizations.

The flood of new private sector student housing offerings is an example of the delivery of cohousing. The days of getting together with your mates to sign a lease with the elderly owner of a terrace house seem to be long gone, mostly as a result of the abandonment of the traditional student suburbs by the students themselves, who rejected their parents’ idea of suburban nirvana to live closer to the action. The free market economy came into play and private student cohousing projects have popped up to fill the void – a top-down development model owned and managed by investors. The benefit to the student of this new model is a high level of flexibility and amenity coupled with a low level of risk. So could the model of cohousing leveraged to provide student housing offer a solution for broader housing challenges of supply and affordability?

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Imagine that the average two- bedroom apartment in Australia is seventy- five square metres and the average occupation of a two-bedroom apartment is two people – sometimes friends, sometimes lovers, sometimes a parent and a child. Each of these groups has different spatial needs. The friends need more privacy, with split bedrooms and separate bathrooms, but hardly use the living and dining room during the week – they’re too busy at work building their careers or living in the city with dinners and movie dates.

The lovers really only use the second bedroom when a relative or friend occasionally comes to stay or when they work from home once a month – the rest of the time it’s the additional robe space they crave. The parent and child could really do with a bit more living space at the expense of a much smaller second bedroom – what five-year-old needs a room that fits a king-size bed anyway? Then imagine this. Instead of each group getting the same apartment, they each get one a little more tailored, and this tailoring comes about by reducing the space within their apartment walls – pushing it down to fifty square metres, and investing some of the difference, say ten square metres per apartment, into common space.

This then enables an awesome play space for kids that is continually observed, a visitors’ apartment you can book for guests, a meals area with a commercial kitchen so you can live out your MasterChef ambitions or just a really great laundry so you never have to buy a bloody washing machine again! But where does the additional fifteen square metres per apartment we saved go? This saving goes towards the overall management of the building and residents, so that there is always someone there to accept your Amazon purchase or organize the washing machine repairer – without you ever knowing that it broke in the first place.

This is the latest cohousing model popping up in the United States, with one such example called WeLive. It’s a kind of student housing for adults, complete with a doorperson, a concierge, a cleaner and the occasional yoga instructor.

Our industry has been awash over the last few months with ideas about the potential of cohousing projects. The name being used is “build-to-rent,” but in essence it’s the same thing. There are developers jumping in headfirst and there are others who are cautiously optimistic, waiting for the right economic conditions.

Either way, build-to-rent looks to become a player in the rental market. Build-to-rent is in direct contrast to our national preoccupation with build-to-sell, which has fuelled the property market over the past decade, with particular help from specific tax incentives. Build-to-rent takes a longer-term view on housing, with institutional investors such as industry super funds or private equity stumping up the dollars and ultimately owning and operating the asset. It’s not such a bad idea – if you own the building you’re probably going to be more interested in the longevity of both the product and the community, which has the potential to deliver better buildings and to enable more active, engaged and happy residents.

This model is also perhaps evidence that as a society we are changing, that a significant number of us, given the right building, location and management structure, would be happy to rent. WeLive comes to you from the owners of coworking company WeWork and is based on a similar plan – provide high-quality housing with all of the “add-ons” that cohousing relies on to build a community, along with a heavy overlay of management. On a recent visit to the New York WeLive, I was seduced by the quirky apartments, the generous communal spaces and the opportunity to meet and connect with people in a city not renowned for its friendliness.

While we are only scratching the surface of cohousing in this country, and indeed it will take time for it to make any real dent in the housing market, it is an interesting model that has the scope to influence the way we live and to provide an alternative living environment. Our current housing choices are much like the Australia of the 50s – it makes us long for a great espresso. Thankfully, we are maturing and as a result getting more options. In my mind diversity is key – the more the better. Perhaps one day our housing choices might match our multiculturalism.

Adam Haddow

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