David

10 cities where mortgage payments are cheaper than rent

Many financial experts say owning rather than renting a home is a good way to build wealth.

If you’re in that camp, there’s some good news: Personal finance website LendingTree found that in many desirable U.S. cities — including Miami, Dallas, Denver and Las Vegas — the area’s median monthly mortgage payment is less than the median monthly rent.

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Overall, the analysis found that 20 out of the 50 metro areas looked at had lower median monthly mortgage payments than rent. Four of the top 10 are in Florida, where low wages and too few rental units are major factors in Florida’s “rent affordability crisis,” according to LendingTree.

It’s important to note that LendingTree’s analysis did not take into account down payments, saving for which can be one of the biggest obstacles aspiring homeowners face. As CNBC reported based on a 2018 analysis by HotPads, “for the average renter buying the median-priced home in America, it will take about 6½ years to save for a 20 percent mortgage down payment.”

But if you’re planning or looking to buy, here are the US metro areas that boast cheaper median monthly mortgage payments than median monthly rent payments, according to LendingTree:

10. Charlotte, North Carolina
Median rent: $1,121
Median mortgage: $1,037
Difference between rent and mortgage: $84

9. Riverside, California
Median rent: $1,369
Median mortgage: $1,280
Difference between rent and mortgage: $89

8. Jacksonville, Florida
Median rent: $1,140
Median mortgage: $1,048
Difference between rent and mortgage: $91

7. Washington, D.C.
Median rent: $1,819
Median mortgage: $1,727
Difference between rent and mortgage: $92

6. Las Vegas, Nevada
Median rent: $1,198
Median mortgage: $1,102
Difference between rent and mortgage: $96

5. Denver, Colorado
Median rent: $1,362
Median mortgage: $1,252
Difference between rent and mortgage: $110

4. Tampa, Florida
Median rent: $1,192
Median mortgage: $1,072
Difference between rent and mortgage: $120

3. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Median rent: $1,318
Median mortgage: $1,163
Difference between rent and mortgage: $155

2. Orlando, Florida
Median rent: $1,263
Median mortgage: $1,036
Difference between rent and mortgage: $227

1. Miami, Florida
Median rent: $1,477
Median mortgage: $1,215
Difference between rent and mortgage: $262

Other cool cities that have a lower monthly median mortgage payment include Houston, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, San Antonio, Austin, Memphis and Dallas.

LendingTree used U.S. Census Bureau data to determine the median cost to own and rent in the nation’s 50 largest metro statistical areas.

 

BY Sarah Berger

What Buhari has to do to take Nigeria’s economy to the next level

One of the main reasons newly-elected Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari had been widely expected to lose his bid for a second term was the poor state of the country’s economy. Under his presidency, Nigeria’s unemployment rate more than doubled, from 10.4% in January 2016 to 23.1% in July 2018.
In his first four years, Buhari also failed to address poverty. Under his watch, Nigeria overtook India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty. About 87 million Nigerians, or half the population, live on less than US$1.90 per day.

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And economic growth has been lacklustre since his election in 2015. The country went into recession in 2016, with a negative 1.6% growth rate. There was a rebound in economic growth of about 2% in 2018. Nevertheless the IMF forecasts that growth will remain anaemic at an annual average of about 1.9% from 2019 – 2023.

By reelecting Buhari despite his unimpressive economic performance, Nigerians are giving him a second chance. One of Buhari’s campaign catchphrases was “Next Level,” signalling his determination to build on programmes initiated in the first term. These include conditional cash transfers to vulnerable citizens, school feeding programmes, giving young people critical skills, and implementing a microcredit scheme for small traders and artisans.

But these initiatives, however noble, are not widespread and substantive enough to touch a majority of the Nigerian population. Buhari should be planning a massive stimulus package to jump start the economy. This is particularly important given the fact that economic growth is going to be so lacklustre.

High unemployment

Nigeria’s high unemployment rate has created a bloated and unproductive informal sector, replete with millions of underemployed youths.

Buhari’s response in the first term was to create jobs by providing credit to micro and small enterprises, especially in the agro-processing sector. But job creation by small enterprises usually takes time. And the number of jobs is never on the scale of large enterprises. The end result has been that most Nigerians feel economically marginalised in spite of Buhari’s best efforts.

The Buhari administration is well aware of the bleak economic conditions. In February 2017 it launched the ambitious economic and growth plan. Its overarching objective was to restore growth and build a competitive economy through investment in infrastructure and creation of an enabling business environment.

Laudable as the plan might have been, there’s a cynicism about whether Buhari will get any of it implemented given that he only has another four years in office.

I believe that he needs to be a great deal more bold, and to come up with a new set of interventions that truly take Nigeria to the “next level”.

The next level

Nigeria urgently needs a massive economic stimulus programme. If he can summon the energy, Buhari should significantly increase spending in sectors, projects and programmes that boost the economy, generate employment and promote inclusive growth. He should prioritise infrastructure, labour-intensive manufacturing such as textiles and footwear, agro-processing, youth entrepreneurship projects, health and education.

Nigeria has a very large stock of human and natural resources that aren’t being used optimally. Meanwhile, there is a huge infrastructural deficit. These range from dilapidated roads, epileptic electricity supply, acute water shortages, crumbling public buildings, grossly underfunded public tertiary institutions and so on. The gap can be closed through public works projects executed with direct labour.

The benefits of this are clear. These projects would provide temporary employment for unskilled workers in government-funded projects, which would enable these workers to gain experience needed for permanent jobs. In addition, the targeted stimulus spending on productive and value-creating projects would spur growth, while also addressing inclusivity. The beneficiaries of economic growth in Nigeria have typically been politicians, workers in the oil and gas sector, high-level public officials, and executives of financial institutions. A vast majority of Nigerians are usually left out.

Some may wonder how the Buhari administration could possibly finance a massive stimulus spending, given dwindling oil revenues and a volatile global oil market.

There’s an answer to this conundrum: Nigeria could follow the example of Asian countries that financed their stimulus programmes through domestic borrowing mainly by issuing government bonds. Borrowing money domestically in a local currency isn’t nearly as problematic as external borrowing.

Of course, financing stimulus spending via domestic borrowing comes at a price: it may crowd-out domestic private investment by raising interest rates. But this would be a temporary hiccup, as the increase in aggregate demand generated by stimulus spending would subsequently crowd-in investment in the production of goods and services. This ultimately will generate employment opportunities.

One of the usual concerns about stimulus spending is the risk of inflation. But unemployment, economic disempowerment and youth restiveness are bigger threats to the stability of the Nigerian economy in the short to medium term.

A big chunk of Buhari’s stimulus spending should be directed toward manufacturing and agro-processing. The manufacturing sector accounts for only 12% of employment in the country, down from a high of over 30% in the 1980s. During its heydays in the 1970s-1980s, the Nigerian textile industry alone employed almost 1 million workers. Today it employs about 30,000 workers.

According to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, the contribution of manufacturing to the country’s GDP has been flat at 4%. This is well below the 12% targeted by the government.

Taking charge

In this first term, Buhari ceded too much economic policymaking responsibility to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Though a brilliant lawyer and professor, Osinbajo has no experience in economic management.

To move the economy to the next level, and thus regain the trust of Nigerians who have given him a second chance, the president must surround himself with a more talented team of economists.

 

BY: STEPHEN ONYEIWU

Short let rentals profit plunges as liquidity crisis deepens

Rents are falling faster in short let residential property markets, creating a “draconian dilemma” for investors that sought an escape route to high vacancy rates, following a massive over-supply of apartments in the nation’s major cities.

The phenomenon, which was not new in the real estate business, is touted to be a more cost- effective and convenient solution to the high vacancy rates conundrum.

For instance, residential vacancy rate in Lagos is put at about 33 per cent, 28 per cent in Abuja and 13 per cent in Port Harcourt.

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Although, it was not known in Nigeria few years ago, short let apartment was accepted that even landlords saw the concept as an easier way to recoup investment on property.

It opened up a potentially lucrative market as they can command around 30 per cent higher rates than long-term rentals. Short lets also offer greater flexibility to extend tenancy contracts weekly or monthly at the landlord’s discretion.
Short lets also give customers opportunity to stay in a private property that offer a more personal and comfortable experience than a serviced apartment or hotel.

The phenomenon also increased and assumed popularity with about 30 per cent increase in letting. However, that popularity and profitability, which short let rental business previous enjoyed is waning because of what experts attributed to continuous negative growth in the real estate sector as a result of liquidity issues.

Recently, the economic crunch has badly hit the short let apartment business; hence the prospect is now nose-diving. Consequently, operators are not recording expected turnovers, as they should, thereby reducing their profits.

For instance, investigation by The Guardian showed that a one-bedroom in Shonibare Estate, who previous goes between N35, 000 to N40, 000 per day has come down to N30, 000, while two-bedroom apartment came down from N50, 000 to N45, 000.

The same goes for three-bedroom apartment for N65, 000 from N75, 000 per day.

In Ikeja GRA, a three bedroom, which formally goes for $150 per day is between $100 to $120, while a three bedroom in Victoria Island, who goes for N2 million per month, is charged from N1.5 million and N100, 000 per day from the initial N200, 000.

Likewise, a luxuriously furnished and serviced three-bedroom penthouse with all rooms en-suite located at Maryland, Ikeja, Lagos, which formally goes for N90, 000.00 per day has been reduced to between N80, 000.00 and N85, 000.00.

Also a fully furnished super luxury two-bedroom short-let apartment now goes for about N45, 000 in Maitama, Abuja.

Similarly, in Lekki Phase I and 1004 estates, the price of a moderate three bed room flat on short – let goes between N100, 000 to N40, 000.

Speaking on this trend, the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Luxury Villas Group, operators of “Apartment 13-13”, located at Admiral Way, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos, Mr. Tommy Odama, attributed the situation to the challenging economic situation that affected business generally in Nigeria.

According to him, it is understandable because short let patronage is a function of influx of foreigners and non-foreigners migrating from countries and other states largely outside the country and this only happens with a booming economy.

“Unfortunately, we all know the state of our economy”, he added.
An operator of a short let apartment in Maryland, identified simply as sola said he is considering closing shop because of the downturns in business.

According to him, the initial influx of expatriates into Nigeria for one form of business or the other has reduced, hence patronage has reduced apart from the Yahoo guys, who often come around.

Also, the operator of Haute Apart, Ikeja, Mr. Oluwafemi Ebenezer said the economic impact is relative as those with strategic position are still recording patronage despite the economic crunch in Nigeria.

According to him, clients, who normally come from outside the country prefer to stay where they can get all the amenities like mall, cinema and nightclubs.
He disclosed that in a short-let apartment, clients have the three-bedroom, four-bedroom all with the same facilities like internet, swimming pool, gym, exquisitely furnished kitchen and other facilities with that of the hotel but the difference is that it is a ‘home away from home’ where the client enjoys unlimited privacy and fully furnished apartment without having to go through the hassle of buying furniture or any form of household materials.

Ebenezer explained that most of clients are expatriates who have similar short-let business in their country and book online with the operators in Nigeria.
In addition, he disclosed that government officials in the country also patronise the business when they have important functions to attend in area where there are short-let operators.

He also stressed that operators whose clients come from corporate may be the worse hit as their patronage is dependent on their business but not those who want to enjoy home from home and do not want to stay in conventional hotel.

The hash economic climate is real and evident but it has not really impacted on my business, because of my relationship with my clients and the environment where I operate from”, he added.

Another operator of Short-let in Lagos Island, Seyi Ekanem said the business allows prospective clients to pay for an apartment for short-stay for a period of one-year, one- month or on a daily basis while the billing system is per day just to satisfy the needs of those who want to have a better deal away from the normal hotel, where they are usually offered a one room with a bed.
He disclosed that the business is not isolated from the liquidity problem affecting other businesses and the real estate sector in the country.
According to him, some of his clients are people come from abroad and the location of the apartment matters a lot to them because it is very important to patronage.

Ekanem explained that the future of the business is very bright as most clients that patronise them are expatriates who have similar short-let business in their country and book online with the operators in Nigeria.

In addition, he disclosed that government officials in the country also patronise the business when they have important functions to attend in area where there are short-let operators.

Also, Mausi Bababunmi of Mausi Realty, Magodo observed that the business which is fast gaining its pride of place in the real estate sector is hinged on the principle of ‘the location, determines the price’ and prices are charged per day from N35, 000, N50, 000 and above, depending on the company.

“It is another industry and opportunity under the real estate sector where interested persons explore avenue to make money. There are some people who don’t like the regular hotel at all, and so they prefer the short-let where they can cook by themselves and enjoy their own escapades and privacy”, he added.

By Bertram Nwannekanma

Building Materials Traders Urge FG, Anambra Govts To Construct Bridge

Onitsha – Traders of Building Materials International Market, Ogidi, Anambra State have cried out to the Federal and State Governments to construct a pedestrian bridge at the market site, along Enugu/Onitsha Express road to end avoidable road accidents involving pedestrians attempting to cross the opposite side of the road which also accommodates cluster of markets.

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The construction of the bridge has become necessary in view of several deaths recorded on the express road involving victims who meet their untimely death while being crushed by over-speeding vehicles in their attempt to cross the road to make some business transactions or get to their destinations.

While mourning the death of some victims who lost their lives after being hit by vehicles while crossing the road, the President, Building Materials International Market, Ogidi, Chief Jude Nwankwo (Ezeudo) told our reporter that it was painful to witness the death of a customer or dear ones who by reckless abandonment of its responsibility to the citizens by governments lead to untimely death of innocent citizens and called on both the State and Federal Governments to construct a pedestrian bridge in the area.


Chief Nwankwo who expressed shock on the news of the death of a customer to one of the traders in the market narrated the ugly incident which led to the death of the victim while attempting to cross the other side of the road, but was reportedly crushed to death by an over-speeding vehicle.

The market leader, however, maintained that the busy and unsafe nature of the road has forced many customers to abandon the market for other markets to make their business transactions, even as he noted that Ogidi Building Materials Market remains the largest and well- stocked building materials market in the entire South-East and West Africa in general.
By Gloria Anaeze

The Challenges with Refugee Housing in Italy

ROME, Italy — Positioned just across the Mediterranean from Africa, Italy serves as a gateway to Europe for people escaping political instability, religious persecution and economic downturn in Africa and the Middle East. In 2017, 119,000 migrants (67-percent of all EU migrant arrivals) arrived in Italy from Libya, Tunisia, Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Italy’s immigration system is oversaturated and unable to support the continuing migration of people to Italy. This influx of refugees has created many complications, and refugee housing in Italy is becoming increasingly scarce.

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Refugee Housing in Italy
Because of the Dublin System, an EU regulation that mandates that “the country in which a migrant first enters the EU is responsible for their asylum claim,” Italy and other Mediterranean nations often bear the brunt of responsibility for migrants seeking asylum in Europe. Unfortunately, the current government in Italy has started refusing refugees, drastically reducing the number of refugees entering the country by 77 percent since 2017. For those who are in the country, there are fewer and fewer benefits being distributed, such as housing.

Unable to rely on the immigration system to provide refugee housing in Italy and incapable of paying rent for their own apartments, many migrants have little choice but to occupy abandoned buildings to avoid sleeping on the street. The Italian government, however, has been cracking down on these squats, evicting as many as 800 men, women and children at a time without providing alternative shelter. Thus, refugee housing in Italy is neither provided by the state nor is it tolerated when refugees create their own.

Project MAAM
Giorgio de Finis, an art curator based in Rome, came up with a solution by deciding to provide security through art for people based in one of these squats. De Finis’ project is called MAAM and it is a contemporary art museum located in an abandoned salami factory and slaughterhouse on the periphery of Rome.

MAAM, which stands for Museo dell’Altro e dell’Altrove di Metropoliz (Metropolis Museum of the Other and the Elsewhere), has been occupied since 2009 and currently houses 200 people, including 60 families, mostly from Peru, Morocco, Romania and Ukraine. While only open to the public on Saturdays to protect the privacy of its residents, entry to MAAM is free, although donations are accepted.

Before de Finis began his project, MAAM’s inhabitants had already cleaned the space, transformed various factory buildings into homes and begun to paint on the walls. MAAM is now home to more than 500 art murals and installations by over 300 artists, many of whom are respected figures in Roman contemporary art circles like Pablo Echaurren, Alice Pasquini and Gio Pistone. The Borgen Project learned during a visit to MAAM that one work, in particular, is estimated to be worth $300,000 alone.

More Than Just Art
Because the squat is technically illegal, De Finis’ idea was to legitimize the space by giving it commercial value while also enhancing the lives of the people living within it. As a result, many art installations double as playgrounds, toy rooms, and study spaces for the children. Artists also take inspiration from the heavy-handed xenophobia experienced by the residents of MAAM, creating art that simultaneously celebrates the native countries of its residents and pays homage to their diversity. The space also includes classrooms, where lessons in Italian are offered to MAAM’s residents to help further integrate them into Italian society.

The once-abandoned structure has been tied up in legal battles since 2013 as property-owner Pietro Salini, CEO of the property-giant group Salini Impregilo S.p.A, wants to build residential apartments on the property, but he cannot legally demolish the structure while it is inhabited. In July 2018, the civil courts of Rome ordered that the property be restored to Salini, along with a payment of $31.5 million from Italy’s interior ministry as a fine for tolerating the illegal squat. The court also ordered the eviction of the 200 men women, and children living inside MAAM.

Organizations Trying to Help with the Housing Crisis
Although shut down by the Italian courts, MAAM has set a creative precedent for solving the problem of refugee housing in Italy. As a structure, it survived as a stable home for its 200 residents for nine years, and as a museum, it worked to bridge the gap between refugees and their new communities by opening itself up to the public every week for free.

There are also several organizations on the ground in Italy working to help refugees. Based in Rome, the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center (JNRC) is a nonprofit that works to give homeless refugees the tools necessary to create a life for themselves in Italy, including legal advice, employment services, technology courses and language classes. The JNRC helps about 200 to 250 refugees per week and about 12,000 refugees each year.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Italy has also been working to integrate refugees and provide refugee housing. Since November of 2017, the IRC has also been helping to integrate refugee children into schools by educating teachers on how to best provide for refugee children, hoping to encourage further integration of refugee families into Italian society.

There is not one simple solution to the refugee crisis in the world today. Each country must do its part to ease the financial burden of taking on those in need. Italy’s proximity and location in Europe have made it an ideal place for refugees to land whether the country wants them or not. But there are organizations and people trying to help the relief efforts and provide these refugees with the resources they need to start a new life.

– Jillian Baxter

Salvini crackdown: bulldozers demolish Italian camp housing 1,500 refugees

More than 1,500 people are being ousted from the refugee camp at San Ferdinando, in southern Italy, in the largest eviction since Italy’s rightwing populist government’s immigration measures kicked in.

On Wednesday morning, almost 1,000 paramilitary police officers surrounded the 400 shacks where the migrants have lived since the camp was established in 2010, near Gioia Tauro, in Calabria. As people were ushered out clutching their few possessions, bulldozers demolished the shanty town of cardboard and wood huts in a matter of hours.

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“As promised … we went from words to actions,” said the interior minister, Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League party. The majority of the camp’s inhabitants are from sub-Saharan Africa and worked in nearby farmers’ fields as illegal agricultural workers for paltry, exploitative wages.

In February, the mayor of San Ferdinando, Andrea Tripodi, said the camp was a danger to health and a fire risk. Four people have died in fires there over the past year.

Salvini had promised to relocate them to reception centres, but several refugees told Italian media they were looking to find shelter in abandoned houses in the countryside. Aid groups condemned the authorities, arguing that the demolition will increase homelessness and risk social unrest.

Celeste Logiacco, union leader for Flai-CGIL, told the Guardian that the camp was home to at least 200 women, many of them victims of sex trafficking. “I just hope they will find a safe place for them,” she said. “They are vulnerable women who need help and support.’’

According to activists, more than a dozen illegal camps have been demolished in Italy over the past four years. In March 2017, the authorities cleared a settlement in Rignano Garganico, the largest migrant labourer camp in Europe, which accommodated 3,000 workers in Puglia. A year earlier, bulldozers destroyed a camp in Nardò, in the Salento region, which housed about 100 labourers.

Two months later another informal shantytown, Borreano, in Basilicata, which also housed hundreds of African workers, was demolished. Last May the informal camp in Campobello di Mazara in Sicily was demolished by the local authorities, who deemed it too dangerous for people to live there because of the human waste scattered around an area that had no electricity, toilets or showers.
Migrant labour is a booming business in Sicily, not only for farmers but also for the contractors who recruit men and women to work illegally in the fields.

Some Africans who have seen their camps destroyed say they are being paid €2 (£1.71) an hour, €7.50 below the legal minimum wage.

According to the Italian Union of Farmers (UILA), 36% of workers employed in the agricultural sector are foreigners, mainly from Africa.

Laws passed in 2017 promised eight-year prison sentences for those recruiting and exploiting migrant workers. But Italian labour unions say up to 300,000 illegal workers continue to generate billions of euros a year in profit for Italy’s agricultural sector.

Tackling Housing Inequality In Lagos Nigeria, By Fola Adeleke

It is high time the government stopped seeing slum dwellers as an eyesore that must be uprooted for a vision of a mega urban city that the majority of the current residents cannot afford to live in. An inclusive city is needed for the future sustainability of Nigeria’s economic hub that benefits everyone.

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In Nigeria’s current election cycle, the election of the president has dominated public discourse and diverted attention away from the March 9 election of public representatives at the state government level – the public office holders who will have the most significant impact on the lives and livelihood of the majority of Nigerians.

Lagos is the most populous state in Nigeria and in Africa, with an estimated population of 21 million people. This is 2.5 times the population of New York (8.8 million) and five times the population of Johannesburg (4.4 million). Earlier this month, the outgoing governor of Lagos State presented the 2019 budget to the State House of Assembly. The proposed 2019 budget is $2.4 billion, while the 2018 budgets of Johannesburg and New York were $4.4 billion and $89 billion respectively. This shows the grand challenge of tackling social issues in Lagos with very limited financial capital to do so.

Lagos is largely dubbed as the city of the future and many foreign media have been lauding new public-private partnership projects such as the Eko Atlantic City (10 million square metres of land reclaimed from the ocean) currently being constructed with new urban designs and self-energy generation.

However, this story of the development in Lagos largely ignores the prevailing story of housing inequality in Lagos.

A review of the Lagos Master Plan for development 2012-2025 at the heart of the electoral promises of the current ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), acknowledges the myriad challenges facing an overpopulated city like Lagos, including on issues such as housing. In the government’s own analysis in the Master Plan, an estimated 15 million (70 per cent) of the population of Lagos live in slum housing. A 2016 World Bank Report confirms that two of three people in Lagos live in slum dwelling.

The depth of the government’s misguided initiative in tackling the housing problem in Lagos extends to the forced mass evictions that took place in 2017 from various waterfront communities in Lagos. According to Amnesty International, over 30,000 people were forcibly evicted from settlements in Lagos in defiance of court orders, while 11 people were unlawfully killed…


Despite this, housing is not on the priority list of the manifesto of the two main candidates in the forthcoming elections in Lagos. It is not mentioned or addressed at all in the manifesto of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while the APC mentions housing as a supporting economic sector of the five main pillars it aims to address. The essential aim is to continue the current government’s housing scheme that is insufficient at best.

The housing scheme introduced by the outgoing government of Lagos is the Rent-to-Own programme. This programem is described as “a system whereby prospective home owners make a 5% down payment, take possession and pay up the remaining balance as rent towards the ownership of the property over a period of 10 years.” The cheapest home available under this scheme (a one bedroom house) costs around $5,500. While that may sound affordable, this initiative ignores the reality in Lagos where majority of the residents are part of the 88 million Nigerians now living in extreme poverty.

According to the World Bank, it costs $50,000, compared with $36,000 in South Africa and $26,000 in India to construct a three-bedroom house in Nigeria in a location with access to public amenities, yet the average annual income per person in Lagos is $8,000.

The depth of the government’s misguided initiative in tackling the housing problem in Lagos extends to the forced mass evictions that took place in 2017 from various waterfront communities in Lagos. According to Amnesty International, over 30,000 people were forcibly evicted from settlements in Lagos in defiance of court orders, while 11 people were unlawfully killed and at least 17 people went missing after violent evictions by security forces and unidentified armed men. These evicted residents were not consulted, compensated or provided alternative housing. Despite the court ruling that this eviction was unconstitutional, compensation and resettlement of the displaced residents are yet to occur. Notwithstanding the government’s claims that these evictions were as a result of environmental concerns, these evictions have largely occurred because of the government’s desire to create access to land for private developers to construct luxury housing developments that the majority of the residents of Lagos cannot afford.

A better pro-poor policy on housing is needed in Lagos. Given the budget constraints in Lagos, current initiatives such as the construction of affordable housing for 10,000 residents, the rent-to-own programme or creating affordable mortgage schemes as currently being done and prescribed in the APC’s manifesto, are not the solutions to the housing problem in Lagos.

Since Nigeria transitioned into a democratic state 20 years ago, successive governments in Lagos have failed to prioritise the needs of the majority of its residents. Prioritising public-private partnerships on luxury housing developments such as the Eko Atlantic City project shows the lack of respect the Lagos state government has for the dignity of the majority of the people it governs.

A better pro-poor policy on housing is needed in Lagos. Given the budget constraints in Lagos, current initiatives such as the construction of affordable housing for 10,000 residents, the rent-to-own programme or creating affordable mortgage schemes as currently being done and prescribed in the APC’s manifesto, are not the solutions to the housing problem in Lagos. These initiatives do not benefit the 15 million people living in slum housing in Lagos.

For the long term sustainability of Lagos, particularly in meeting the challenges of overpopulation, as more people from within Nigeria continue to relocate to Lagos to seek economic opportunities, investing in the poorest neighbourhoods in Lagos should be a primary concern for the incoming government of Lagos. Improving slum housing through the provision of public infrastructure such as upgrading sanitation through the provision of public toilets and access to clean drinking water can be a starting point to deal with these housing challenges.

A rethink of the Lagos Master Plan is also necessary. The government needs to put the welfare of the majority of the residents of Lagos at the heart of the plan and begin to recognise the inherent dignity in each human being. Majority of the workers that make Lagos work, including care workers, drivers, security personnel, cleaners, construction workers and various handyworkers, often retreat to live in these slum locations. Without them, Lagos cannot function. It is high time the government stopped seeing slum dwellers as an eyesore that must be uprooted for a vision of a mega urban city that the majority of the current residents cannot afford to live in. An inclusive city is needed for the future sustainability of Nigeria’s economic hub that benefits everyone.

Fola Adeleke is a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity at the International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics.

Save Keffi, Gangeren Karofi communities

SIR: Kofar-makaranta, Gangaren-Karofi, Anguwan-Yelwa, Yelwa-Bello, Yelwan-Barau, Yelwan Maji are all settlements with long history, spanning over a century (100 years) in Keffi Local Government Area of Nasarawa State.

These are historical settlements that are within the vicinity of the emirs palace, which clearly portrait ancestral heritage of the communities.

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These communities are predominantly subsistence farmers, while others engage in itinerant trading to satisfy basic needs of life. However, at the moment, these beleaguered communities are plunged into untold hardship and anguish as a result of sudden demolition of their homes, embarked upon by the Nassarawa State government under the guise of road expansion and construction. Prior to the demolition exercise, these communities saw the unfortunate development coming when the authorities concerned issued a two days’ notice ahead to most residence of the affected areas.

It should however be noted that sometime back, a delegation of state government officials visited the community heads where the issues of compensations was discussed. The officials then assured the community elders as regards to payment of compensation to deserving occupants of lands and properties that may be affected, but unfortunately this was not to be. Suddenly the residents of these communities woke up in the early morning of Monday, March 4, to discover the presence of several bulldozers and other heavy duty machines accompanied by fierce looking security personnel.Before 7am of that same day, several houses were demolished. The sad development compelled hundreds of families to immediately commence the evacuation of their personal belongings albeit reluctantly.

The demolition continues despite the cries and pleas of particularly the aged and elders of the communities and in the midst of wailing and cries of children whose schooling had been set aside as a result of the government decision to embark on the demolition exercise.

It is on this note that we, on behalf of these communities, are appealing to the government of Nassarawa State and in particular Governor Al-Makura, to for the sake of posterity consider the sufferings of our people in these places.

We are not against urban or rural development; it is our earnest aspiration, but this should be through due process and therefore, we are appealing to the governor to consider the legitimate yearnings of these communities for compensation to the victims of the on-going demolition exercise in the affected areas to ameliorate the sufferings of the people.

On the other hand, our governor should also consider the timing of the exercise, which is capable of disenfranchising thousands of electorate from their civic responsibility due to sudden dislodgment of residence from their settlement.

Mohammed Isa Bilal, Jos.

Alternative lenders: An opportunity for power and infrastructure development in Nigeria

Going by general consensus, there is a positive relationship between the growth of the power/infrastructure sector of an economy and its overall development. The importance of these sectors cannot be overlooked as they directly affect the well-being and productivity of any country. Very few sectors have a bigger impact in the world today compared to power and infrastructure as it provides light, mobility, heat, and it makes our lives better.  It enables us to commute through roads, railway transport system, ports, power, and airports, study and learn, use our smartphones, PCs, etc.

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Research has however shown that only approximately a third of people have access to electricity and quality infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nations that have quality infrastructure and electricity are more likely to exceed the forecasts of development analysts. In the face of this evidence, it is imperative for Sub-Sahara African nations to raise various means for power and infrastructure development.

There is the need to purposefully and methodically build reservoir of funding as regards the development of electricity and infrastructure with the critical stakeholders. Nigeria remains at the centre of Sub Saharan Africa’s growth story with a constantly increasing population rate and abundant natural resources. Strong demographic growth, increased technological innovation and fast urbanisation also continue to shape the future of Nigeria. However, her huge infrastructure and power deficit has constrained economic growth and development, thus inhibiting her ability to improve the quality of life as envisaged by her governments at several levels. The need and opportunity for power and infrastructure development in Nigeria is enormous. However, one of the major challenge faced in this regard is funding as the Nigerian economy is dominated by short-term financing of three to five years terms, traditionally provided by domestic commercial banks and the infrastructure sector is long term finance based. The infrastructure and power sector is long-term finance based and requires seven to ten year loan tenure usually with participation from international banks and development finance institutions and in some cases with risk guarantees from multilateral organisations like the World Bank. The question that arises therefore is, how can the power and infrastructure sector be funded to induce development? During the Hogan Lovells 5th annual Africa forum themed ‘Africa Fit for the Future’, one of the key sector sessions was led by Shalini Bhuchar, an asset finance partner, who chaired a panel of leading industry experts in African banking and finance. The panel included Adesuwa Okunbo, Partner and Managing Director of Syntaxis Capital Africa and the Forum’s keynote speaker, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, Chairwoman of First Bank Nigeria who proffered insights to the financing of Africa’s future. They represented views from across the banking and finance mix, which, as an industry, is critical for stimulating economic growth, especially in Africa.

So when challenged with the task of deciding ‘Who is taking the Lead in Lending?’ there was sure to be some healthy discussions on the subject. There is demand in these sectors but the challenge is the bankability of start-ups due to, among other things, the risk of failure and bankruptcy. Ibukun Awosika echoed this sentiment and also cited the reluctance of certain banks to invest in oil and gas, especially given that there have been notable instances where banks have been unable to recoup returns on their investment. As part of its discussions, the panel was of the opinion that this need for power across Africa has opened up specific opportunities for SMEs in the energy sector and for alternative lenders to fund power producers, fuel traders and other energy infrastructure. Often, with this initial backing, an SME can feed into large established corporates and global traders to build a solid credit record. Asides the conventional commercial bank debt, alternative lenders include DFI lending, debt capital markets solutions and private credit all have a role to play. Commercial banks will however continue to take the lead at a local and regional level and, together with DFIs, act as catalysts to facilitate sustained growth in liquidity in the loan and debt capital markets. Whilst the volumes of private credit deals may not be at par with the USA or Asia, private credit is a much needed alternative lending class in Africa and is indeed on an upward trajectory.

Nigeria will not be able to sustain her current levels of population and economic growth without enhancing her infrastructure. Investing in infrastructure will drive economic growth, provide jobs, and deliver vital services to the country and the majority of its citizens. As Nigeria continues to grow and its cities seek to become more competitive, sustainable, smart, and resilient (given demographic and social changes, climate change, resource scarcity, and rapid urbanisation rates), the opportunities to invest in both core and social infrastructure will continue to grow. Funding African SMEs can by its nature have a positive impact growing businesses and increasing employment, allowing SMEs to step up their business to compete internationally and in accordance with best practice from a social and environmental perspective. There are many great stories, and this is an exciting space to be in.

Adunni Amodeni

Tackling illiquidity burden in mortgage system

A consummate finance expert, Ogundimu is no new comer in NMRC. He has seen and known it all and, therefore, has a couple of things to say about this secondary mortgage institution.
“We have been able to address the liquidity challenge in the mortgage system”, Ogundimu says, despite experts’ strong view that some primary mortgage banks (PMBs) are still struggling over liquidity issues. He insists that “PMBs that are not liquid are those that are not doing well who cannot access our funds”, pointing out that the high interest rate in the mortgage system is a function of the macro-economy which is beyond their control.

This is simply a testimonial that NMRC is achieving part of its statutory mandates. In Nigeria, the inequality created by lack of affordable housing places a moral obligation on all housing stakeholders to use every tool at their disposal to find solutions to the problem of accessing sustainable and affordable housing finance.

Nigeria has heavy housing burden with an unchanging deficit estimated at 17 million units. It also has low home-ownership level put at a little above 10 percent. All these easily find explanation in the country’s mortgage system that has remained a fledgling, liquidity-squeezed and unable to fund even low cost housing.

The coming of the NMRC, A private sector-led company with the public purpose of developing the primary and secondary mortgage markets by raising long‐term funds from the domestic capital market as well as foreign markets for providing accessible and affordable housing in Nigeria, was aimed to address this problem.

Government’s attempts at addressing the country’s housing problem with the establishment of both the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) and National Housing Fund (NHF) to provide low interest rate mortgage for people to build or buy houses, have been anything but successful.

But there have been spirited efforts by the refinance company to not only reposition the country’s mortgage sector, but also to break down barriers to home ownership by providing liquidity, affordability, accessibility and stability to the housing market.

The company has the vision to be the dominant housing partner in Nigeria by providing liquidity and access to affordable housing finance and, in line with that, it has come out with some innovative initiatives aimed to improve mortgage market transactions and also fast-track affordable housing delivery.

When the company was established, part of the mandate given to it was to promote wider spread of home ownership, accessibility and affordability which explains the setting up of what it calls ‘Housing/Mortgage Market Information Portal (MMIP)’ aimed to enable it to gather data for intelligence and profiling of federal, states civil servants and informal sectors (off-takers) for affordable housing.

This is an effective policy and decision making tool on land allocation, infrastructure and concessions. MMIP enables decisions on creating polycentric cities in order to decongest major urban centres.

Another initiative the company has come up with is the NMRC Mortgage Market System (MMS) which is a transformational change that integrates the entire housing market, covering construction finance, primary and secondary mortgage.

The system which is available to all players in the housing industry has the benefit of removing duplications of effort in gathering data and documents; improving the turnaround time, reducing the cycle time of transactions and helping in making homes more affordable.

Described as a world class system that brings all players in the mortgage and housing market into a centralised technology ecosystem, MMS allows a systematic market to operate and concentration of activities to take place.

What the system seeks to achieve, besides bringing credibility and attracting investors to the mortgage market, is also to let players and sundry individuals know what is going on in the market; the system creates a marketplace where there is information flow and people can see what is going on.

The system is a national market that is not only about mortgage but also the entire housing finance and so it allows people to see the pipeline projects and know who is bringing what to the market. It also allows NMRC, as a refinancer, time to determine when to go to the market to raise bonds.

MMS also allows market operators to track all the activities within the construction industry. With it they can see which developer is doing what and in which location. It also allows them to begin to compare prices and know which property is being sold and in which location. This way, the developers will begin to be more competitive in the way they do their thing.

For the mortgage banks, the new system allows them to begin to manage their own systems by themselves using the uniform underwriting standards which NMRC has produced and, with that, they can evaluate their applications based on the underwriting standard.

It is hoped that the use of these systems, especially the MMIP, for federal and state governments mortgage asset registry will reduce cost of homeownership; eliminates breaks in the chain of title; improve hard naira savings on each loan for homeowners and lenders, and reveal identity of servicer and investor available to homeowners via phone or internet.

Chuka Uroko

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