Affa Acho

2019 Elections: Abuja, Lagos Airports Witness Heavy Traffic

Ahead of Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections, there was a surge in traffic at both the Murtala Muhammad Airport (MMA) domestic terminal in Lagos and Nnamadi Azikwe International airports in Abuja yesterday as people travelled to their various destinations ostensibly in a bid to cast their vote.

The MMA2 was busy Thursday unlike the normal day when our correspondent visited with many passengers who could not book online struggled to buy ticket on the counter.

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A passenger, Miss. Juliet Ezinne who was heading to Owerri, Imo State told our correspondent that she was going home where she registered to perform her civic duty.

“This election is very important, I want my vote to count, that is why I am travelling home”, she said.

However, many flights were delayed owing to what sources called VIP movements.

“The delays you talked about were because of VIP movement. Many dignitaries came into the town and for security reasons, scheduled commercial aircraft were delayed until the VIP flights left”, the source who preferred anonymity.

Spokesman of Dana Air, Mr. Kingsley “People were going to their various states to vote, some are going to spend time with their families. All the flights did very well today and the surge is likely to spring into the next day (today). Everywhere is busy as you can see”.

At some motor parks, Daily Trust however learnt that while many people were trooping into the country, only few people were travelling out of the state as observed at Ojota Motor Park.

A inter-state driver, Sunday James said, “I don’t think people are travelling like that. You can see this bus is yet to be full since. We are still waiting for passengers”.

Also  passengers thronged the Idu train station yesterday to catch the trains to Kaduna.

A lot of the passengers were also traveling with the train to Kaduna but were proceeding to other destinations like Zaria and Kano.

Our correspondent who visited the train station yesterday at about 9:30am to monitor the 9:50am departing train to Kaduna observed huge crowd of passengers and many couldn’t obtain tickets as the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) claim the tickets were sold out as passengers were more than the carrying capacity of the train.

Our correspondent sighted some of the passengers who were visibly agitated even as they claim the NRC staff deliberate hoarded the tickets only to be sold to even passengers that came late at a higher price.

One of the passengers was seen attempting to forcefully gain access to the ticketing room even though the NRC staff had locked the room. He also accused NRC staff of ticket racketing, an allegation, the operations manager, Idu-Kaduna Train Service, Mr. Victor Adamu described as unfounded.

“This morning we sold all our seats for the 0950hrs train to Kaduna” he said.

Concerning hoarding of tickets, he said “I will say this is not correct as the number of intending passengers far outweighed the number of seats available for sale. We have a challenge of inadequate capacity to meet demand at high peak periods like these. However, any of our staff caught hoarding tickets will be disciplined” he explained.

Some of the passengers who spoke to correspondent claimed there were traveling to excise their constitutional rights.

One of the passengers who simply identified himself as Mohammed said he’s traveling with my family to Zaria to vote the candidate of their choice.

Hajiya Aisha Ibrahim, who was traveling to Kaduna also expressed same sentiments.

However, some passengers were traveling ahead just because the trains won’t operate Saturday and possibly Sunday because of the elections.

At the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, our correspondent reports that the airport also witnessed a significant increase of passengers at the domestic wing of the airport.

A traveler, Alhaji Mudashiru Abdullahi, said he was traveling to Sokoto ahead of the election on Saturday because he registered there.

Abdullahi urged Nigerians to vote for the candidates of their choice peacefully, adding that the interest and peace of the nation should be more important than the candidates.

He also urged politicians to guide their supporters towards peaceful poll, saying “there can only be election if there is Nigeria”.

Meanwhile, Mr Saleh Dunoma, Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), has assured that FAAN is committed to ensuring smooth movements of election materials for the Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections.

Dunoma, who spoke yesterday in Abuja said that the transportation of election materials had since commenced and would be completed successfully ahead of the elections.

He said that FAAN had put adequate measures in place in terms of facilitation and security to ensure hitch free operations because of the importance of the exercise to the nation.

According to him, airports are equally ready to process passengers that would be travelling to and from different parts of the country for the elections.

Shared Accommodation: The Pros and Cons

Shared accommodation is no longer something only students have endure during the few years at school. As the cost of renting houses continues to soar across the country, it is now a popular choice of living for all ages, particularly those in large cities like Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and even Kaduna where the cost of living is generally high.

We all know that women, to some extent, may share a whole lot of space with anybody but they find it difficult to share their kitchen. However, the high cost of rent across cities in the country has made most women succumb to the pressure in so as to cope with economic situation.

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The average millennial spends about 40 percent of their salaries on rent.

Living with people who have different lifestyles can take some getting used to, so it’s important to take the advice and help available to make the experience as stress-free as possible.

Whether you are living with the best of friends or complete strangers, there are plenty of hurdles to face in a house-share. So, Homefront heard from some residents who are in the practice to enable them to save for the rainy day and meet up with other needs.

Ometere, who moved to Abuja after graduating from school to observe her national service, said she started sharing apartments in 2015 during her service year.

“I shared the apartment with some corps member-friends. After camp, we decided to rent a two bedroom apartment – five of us. Two people shared one room each and the last person took the parlour. We have been living there since 2015 and it has been fun ever since” she said.

Ometere said at first she was concerned because she would be living with strangers she met in camp, but her mother encouraged her to pray about it since it was her first time of living in Abuja.

“I took the plunge and moved in with them and although there have been fights here and there we have now grown to learn how to live with our differences and avoid hurting other roomies,” she said.

Ubaida Musa said she moved in with some of her university friends in Kaduna when she got a new job with Kaduna State Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

Ubaida said before her appointment, she was preparing for her wedding and her husband to be gave her the condition of only moving in with others if she must take the job.

“He said if I must pick the job, I must not stay alone. And because I didn’t have any relative in Kaduna, I moved in with some of my friends that we graduated with. It was a two bedroom apartment and they were gracious to allow me have one room to myself while they shared the other room,” she said.

Ubaida noted that there are up and downsides to having roommates because the bills will not be the responsibility of just one person. We shared electricity bills and we contribute to stock foodstuff.

But Faith Ajala did not have a pleasant experience. She explained that moving in with random people is very risky, adding that “they may seem lovely when you meet them for the first time, but that is usually when everyone would put on their best behavior.”

Faith said she put up the advert on twitter requesting for roommates, specifically females who would probably want to share an apartment with her in Apo, Abuja.

“The landlord was willing to allow us pay N150,000 each for the three room apartment and I felt it was a good deal since others were going for N700,000 around the area,” she said.

“So I got a couple of ladies and the landlord explained to us that we can’t have male visitors coming to pass the night. It was a rule I expect we must not break and although we all agreed, three months into the agreement, one of the roommates’ proved very difficult to live with. She was drinking, smoking, coming in at odd hours and was inviting strange men in and out of the house at odd hours.

“So we ejected her from the house, it proved difficult because at first she didn’t want to leave and was threatening us but at last she left, and we have since found another person.

But Jatau Moses who lives in Kuje said he is not sharing an apartment but observing communal living.

“I live in a compound that has nine rooms, one toilet, one bathroom and one kitchen. It works for me since I live alone, and because I rarely stay at home even at weekends I don’t find it uncomfortable.”

Jatau, who noted that some of his neighbours complained of some challenges including queuing up to use the bathroom or that some neighbours mess up the compound or the bathrooms or kitchen, said he does not worry about that because he had made up his mind to expect things like that.

“I like such arrangement because the rent is not as high as conventional apartments and payment is very flexible – I can pay at the end of every month and move out when the month is due,” he said.

Jatau noted that with such living arrangements, roommates must be respectful of one another irrespective of age because it goes a long way towards preventing disagreements.

2019 Elections: The key figures that matter

Nigerians will go to the polls tomorrow, February 16, to elect a new president and members of the National Assembly for another term of four years. Governors and members of state Houses of Assembly are to be elected later on March 2.

As the elections hold, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, would be hitting a milestone. It would be 20 years since the country began enjoying its longest streak of democracy ever. The Nigerian military handed over power to civilians on May 29, 1999.

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Below are the figures that watchers of this year’s elections need to note.

1) According to the figures recently released by INECthere are currently
84,004,084 registered voters compared to 67,422,005 in the 2015 elections.

2) The number of polling unit is 119,973, while the results will be collated in 8,809 wards.

3) The North-West has the highest number of registered voters with 20,158,100 registered voters while the South-West zone, which comprises Ekiti, Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, and Oyo states, comes second with 16,292,212 registered voters.

4) The South-East has the lowest number of states with 10,057,130 registered voters. The North East 11,289, 293 registered voters, while the South-South has 12,841,279 registered voters; followed by the North-Central, with 13,366,070 registered voters

5) Lagos has 6,048,156 registered voters, while Kano comes second with 5,149,070 voters.

6) With a total of 754,394, Bayelsa has the lowest number of registered voters, which is lower than that of the Federal Capital Territory which has a total voter population of 952, 815.

7) 91 political parties are participating in the 2019 general elections.

8) 109 Senate seats will be contested by 1,904 candidates, while the 360 seats in the House of Representatives will be contested by a total 4,680 candidates.

9) The 991 State Constituency elections will be contested by a total 14,583 candidates.

10) A total of 814,453 ad-hoc staff have been recruited by INEC nationwide ahead of the elections.

11) 116 local observer groups have been accredited by INEC. There are 28 foreign observer groups for the elections.

12) A total of 72 Presidential candidates and another 72 Vice-Presidential candidates are expected to run for the February 16 presidential elections

13) A total of 2,412 governorship and deputy governor candidates are contesting in the governorship polls holding March 2.

14) The Senate approved a total sum of N189,207,544,893 for the conduct of the 2019 general election

Over 91 million Nigerians are now living in extreme poverty-Report

At least three million Nigerians have slipped into extreme poverty between November 2018 and February 2019.

According to the World Poverty Clock created by Vienna-based World Data Lab, 91.16 million Nigerians were living below a dollar a day as of February 13, 2019.

In June 2018, the Brookings Institution projected that Nigeria had overtaken India, as the poverty capital of the world, with 86.9 million extremely poor people.

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This was further confirmed by the British Prime Minister Theresa May, who said Nigeria had become home to the largest number of very poor people in the world, putting the figures at 87 million.

“Much of Nigeria is thriving, with many individuals enjoying the fruits of a resurgent economy, yet 87 million Nigerians live below $1 and 90 cents a day, making it home to more very poor people than any other nation in the world,” the UK prime minister said.

Since May made this observation in South Africa in August, the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty has grown to 91.16 million, with six people falling into poverty every minute, according to Brookings Institution.

Today, India has 48.7 million people living in poverty, from 73 million in June 2018. By implication, India has pulled out a minimum of 24 million people from poverty in less than eight months.

ARE YOU LIVING IN EXTREME POVERTY?

According to the World Bank, a person can be said to be living in extreme poverty, if they live below the poverty line of $1.90 or N693.5 per day.

The bank in its explanation of poverty levels said “when estimating poverty using monetary measures, one may have a choice between using income or consumption as the indicator of well-being”.

“Most analysts argue that, provided the information on consumption obtained from a household survey is detailed enough, consumption will be a better indicator of poverty measurement than income”.

However, using the World Bank’s poverty line, if you live below $1.90 a day, you will be classified as living in extreme poverty.

COMBATING POVERTY

Going into the 2019 elections, the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and his chief challenger Atiku Abubakar have employed Nigeria’s poverty narrative as a campaign tool.

While Buhari’s government claims it is a welfarist government that cares for the poor, Atiku’s team says Nigeria get poorer under the current administration.

Buhari, via the social investment programme has budgeted over N1 trillion in catering to the poorest in Nigeria, adding that it has the biggest social investment plan in Nigeria’s history.

Atiku, on the other hand, is reputed to be the biggest private employer of labour in his home state, Adamawa, playing on his business strength as a campaign strategy.

Both promise to lift many Nigerians out of poverty, without showing the Nigerian people how they intend to get this done. Buhari says he would take Nigeria to the next level, while Atiku says he means jobs and prosperity for Nigerians.

Theresa May in her African visit in 2018 said achieving inclusive growth is a challenge across the world, adding that Africa needs to create 50,000 new jobs per day to keep employment rate at its current level till 2035.

Whoever will get Nigeria out of poverty needs to drive inclusive growth in the country.

Source: Mayowa Tijani

US, UK will deny visas to those who instigate violence in Nigeria elections

Those who take part in election violence and rigging in the upcoming Nigerian elections will be denied visas, the United Kingdom and the United States have said in a joint statement.

The UK government said its observers would monitor polling stations and social media during the February 16 vote and those found inciting violence may also face prosecution.
“We would like to remind all Nigerians that where the UK is aware of such attempts, this may have consequences for individuals. These could include their eligibility to travel to the UK, their ability to access UK based funds or lead to prosecution under international law,” the government said in the statement .
Travel restrictions may also extend to family members, the US government said, adding that the peaceful conduct of the 2019 elections was not only crucial to Nigeria but also the continent.
“We, and other democratic nations will be paying close attention to actions of individuals who interfere in the democratic process or instigate violence against the civilian population before, during, or after the elections,” the US government said in the statement.
“We will not hesitate to consider consequences – including visa restrictions – for those found to be responsible for election-related violence or undermining the democratic process.”
The two countries said they remained committed to Nigeria’s democracy, and Nigerians should be allowed to choose their leaders at the polls.
Citizens in Africa’s most populous nation will vote in a general election next month, and political parties have begun nationwide campaigns to persuade voters.
Allegations of vote buying and violence from party members across the board was rife during previous elections.
Last September US observers monitored a gubernatorial election in Osun, southwest Nigeria and said they witnessed incidents of voter intimidation and interference in the electoral process.
Early this month, at least three people were stabbed and dozens were injured after fighting broke out at Nigeria’s ruling party, All Progressive Alliance campaign rally in Lagos sparking fears of further violence in the upcoming elections.
Political party leaders and presidential candidates signed a peace agreement in December pledging their support for transparency in the electoral process.
Source: edition.cnn.com

Why Kenya is the flower garden of Europe

If you were the lucky recipient of a bunch of fragrant roses this Valentine’s Day, it’s likely that they came from Kenya.

The country is the third largest exporter of cut flowers in the world accounting for around 35% of all sales in the European Union.Famed for being long-lasting, Kenya’s roses, carnations and summer flowers are also popular in Russia and the U.S. where last week several growers showcased their blooms at the World Floral Expo in Los Angeles.
The event is one of the industry’s largest and gathers over 80 exhibitors from across the world, with several Ethiopian growers also representing the African continent alongside Kenya.
The country’s flower power is attributed to its sunny climate, which enables high-quality blossoms to be grown year-round without the need for expensive-to-run greenhouses. Kenya also has excellent transport links to Europe, and from there, the rest of the world through Nairobi airport, which has a terminal dedicated specially to the transport of flowers and vegetables.
While Europe remains the biggest destination for Kenyan flowers due to its relative geographic proximity and good transport links, this has left producers vulnerable to turmoil on the continent, such as the recent recession.
“It has had an impact on the sector and we have experienced a slowdown in demand, which slows down business,” says Jane Ngige, CEO of the Kenyan Flower Council. Kenyan exports also suffered when in October of last year the EU imposed import taxes on cut flowers from the country, but the levy was lifted on Christmas Day allowing Kenyan producers to storm Valentine’s Day sales.
Jane Ngige says that the industry is now exploring other markets such as Australia, Canada and Japan, and adds that direct flights from Nairobi airport play a crucial role in helping the Kenyan flower business take off globally: “A direct flight to the destination is key owing to the fact that this is fresh produce and it needs to get to the end user quickly in order to guarantee quality. It also makes it less expensive,” she says.
Kenyan growers are now lending their floral expertise to neighboring Rwanda by partnering with the country’s government to create a 35 hectare flower park 60 kilometers from Rwanda’s capital Kigali.
It’s hoped that the park will eventually produce three million stems per year and kick-start Rwanda’s floriculture sector, which could pump more than $200 million into the country’s economy by 2017.
Source: edition.cnn.com

Top Ten Tallest Building in Africa

Although Africa is not generally known for its abundance of skyscrapers, it has undergone a building surge in many cities. A number of tall buildings has been seen growing  significantly throughout the continent over the last few decades.

The Carlton Center in South Africa has for the last four decades held the pole position as Africa’s tallest building despite not being featured even among st the top 100 skyscrapers in the world.This however will soon change following recent projects currently underway set to take away the title of buildings in Africa. The Bank of Africa Tower, in Morocco is an example of such like buildings that will set the pace in being among the tallest buildings in Africa.

South Africa ranks high by hosting five of the top ten tallest buildings in Africa including the Carlton which is the tallest, Ponte City Apartments 173m, Marble Towers 152m, The Pearl Dawn at 152m and The South African Reserve Bank 150m

Kenya also joined the top 10 group in having tallest buildings, with the completion of 31-storey Britam office tower that stands 200m tall and carries the distinction of being the second-tallest building in Africa. The building that starts at its foundation as a square rotates gracefully up to the 30th floor at 45 degrees, forming a prism with different floor sizes. It is the regional headquarters of Britam East and Central Africa. It has an office space of approximately 32,000 square metres. It will additionally be able to accommodate 1,000 cars in its swanky 12-storey car park.

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1.Carlton Centre, South Africa

The Carlton Centre located, downtown in Johannesburg, South Africa, ranks the tallest building in Africa since 1973 at 223 metres with 50 floors

The skyscraper was designed by the US architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Construction began in 1960 by demolishing the old Carlton Hotel and the closing roads to form a city superblock and officially completed in 1974.However occupation of the Centre began in 1971.

The design of the tower matches that of New York’s One Seneca Tower in Buffalo which was completed in 1973.

2.Britam Tower Kenya

Britam Tower, was build as a commercial tower and is owned by British-American Investments Company. the skyscraper has a maximum height of 195 metres, above ground, with 32 usable floors. It is the second-tallest building in Africa by pinnacle height at 200 m (660 ft).

The building is the international headquarters of Britam. It features a unique prismic shape that starts as an equal four sided square footprint and ends with a two sided roof with a 60 metres (197 ft) mast, containing three helical wind turbines.

Britam Tower has a total of 350,000 square feet (32,516 m2) of office space to let for commercial purposes.The building has an attached 12 storey Car Prk that can accommodate up to 1,000 vehicles which caters to its many tenants.

3. Ponte City Apartment, South Africa

Ponte City is a skyscraper in the Berea neighborhood, just next to Hillbrow, Johannesburg, South Africa. It was built in 1975 to a height of 173 m (567.6 ft), making it the third tallest residential skyscraper in Africa.

The 55-story building is cylindrical, has an open centre dubbed “the core” allowing additional light into the apartments and rises above an uneven rock floor.

Ponte City was designed by Mannie Felman who worked closely in a team together with Rodney Grosskopff an Manfred Hermer. It is also the first cylindrical skyscraper in Africa.

The building was designed by Grosskopff in such a way that it allowed light to enter the apartments from both sides through a hollow interior. The bottom entails retail stores which had initial plans of including an  indoor ski slope on the 3,000-square-metre (32,000 sq ft) inner core floor.

4. UAP Tower, Kenya

UAP Old Mutual Tower is a 33-storey office complex in the Upper Hill neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya owned by UAP Old Mutual Group, a financial services conglomerate headquartered in Kenya, with subsidiaries in six African countries.

The tower, which is also the second-tallest building in Nairobi at 163 m (535 ft) financed through private equity at a total of US $40,000,000 as of (2015). It has rentable space that measures 29,000 square metres (310,000 sq ft), and will also house the UAP Old Mutual Group headquarters once it is completely finished.

5.NECOM House, Nigeria

Nigerian External Communication House (NECOM House) is a skyscraper located in Lagos by a Ghanaian architectural company, Nickson Borys, Partners and built by the British company, Costain Group, famous builders of the Dolphin Square Apartments in London and the Dubai International Airport.

NECOM House is a 32-story building, houses the headquarters of NITEL which at the top of the tower and serves as a lighthouse beacon for Lagos Harbor.  The building was completed in 1979.

Top ten tallest building in Africa6. PSPF Tower, Tanzania

Located in the East African region, Tanzania is the Tower A and B PSPF Twin Towers standing at 153 metres (502 feet) tall with 35 floors.The buildings which have a postmodern style began its construction in 2011 and completed in 2014. The towers were officially opened for business in 2015.

This building and construction proposal was a winning design in a competition for design of a mixed urban development in the heart of Dar es Salaam City. They were built using concrete glass and steel by Hatmy Engineering.

Each floor has been well designed to accommodate shopping facilities, residential apartments, luxury hotels, cinemas halls and office spaces for rental. It has  offices, retail stores and parking garage.

Top ten tallest building in Africa7.Marble Tower, South Africa

Located in joburg’s central business district at 499ft, the Marble Towers is a skyscraper built in 1973 and is 32 storeys tall. The building’s structure is made out of a mixture of concrete and marble and has an eight-storey parking garage attached to it. The tower is in use as commercial offices. Marble Towers is the eighth-tallest building in Africa by pinnacle height at 152 m.

8.Pearl Dawn, South Africa

Pearl Dawn is located in Durban, South Africa.It was opened in 2010 and ties with Marble Towers at 499feet with 31 floors. The residential building was marked as a lush option for residents of South Africa with a has a futurist architectural style with a dark blue facade colour.

The Pearls is a spectacular residential resort offering luxury apartments and penthouses. Construction of The Tides and Dawn were successfully carried out and recognized as one of Durban’s most prestigious Holiday Apartments attracting influential clients, as well as holiday makers.

 9.South African Reserve Bank Building

South African Reserve Bank Building was built by Burg Doherty Bryant + Partners, the South African Reserve Bank Building and is situated at number 370 Stanza Bopape Street (previously Church Street) in the nation’s capital.

The building is the tallest in Pretoria and also the the first flush-glazed glass tower block in the Southern Hemisphere. It was completed in 1988

Architects together with a specialist from the USA and input from the PG Glass Company in South Africa designed the curtain walls. The building also has a a stainless steel, non-representational sculpture “Untitled” by Johan van Heerden which was specially commissioned to complement it.

Top ten tallest building in Africa10. Metlife Centre, South Africa

The Metlife Centre is a 28-floor, 120-metre-tall (390 ft) modernist skyscraper situated opposite the Cape Town International Convention Centre in the City Bowl area of Cape Town, South Africa.

The  Centre Tower has a 22m tall spired antenna on the building’s roof that was lifted into place by a helicopter just prior to its completion in 1993.

 

Trump eyes bypassing Congress to privatise Fannie and Freddie

The Trump administration is considering bypassing Congress as it looks to privatise the country’s two largest mortgage guarantors, according to people who have been briefed on the plans, following years of failed attempts to remove them from state control.

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, is working on a set of proposals that he hopes will end the 10-year government control of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which guarantee most of the mortgages in the $10tn US housing market. Mr Mnuchin has previously said he wanted to achieve this with support from Democrats in Congress, but with Washington as divided as it has been in recent years, officials are considering what options they have to act unilaterally.

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One person who has been consulted on the administration’s thinking said: “They want bipartisan support, but they know that is going to be difficult, especially with so many Democrats running for president. But there are plenty of things they can do without Congress giving its support.” Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have been in “conservatorship” — which gives the government control of the two entities, but does not put their liabilities on the public balance sheet — since they were bailed out at the height of the financial crisis in 2008. Collectively their balance sheets are worth about $5tn.

In recent years, politicians on both sides have made moves to end this state of limbo. But so far these have foundered as lawmakers argue over how to restore them to the private sector while also making sure they underwrite loans for low-income households but no longer pose a risk to the taxpayer. The Trump administration has put privatisation back on the table, however, making housing reform one of its top goals for this year.

Mr Mnuchin said this month: “Protecting American taxpayers by ensuring the safety and stability of the United States housing finance system is a priority for the Treasury department.” If Mr Mnuchin wants to succeed where others have failed, he needs either to persuade Democrats in Congress to back his plans or to find a way to avoid Congressional approval altogether. Some believe that the Trump administration can secure Democratic support if it guarantees a set amount of money for affordable housing. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said: “If you had the same affordability regime [as now] and on top of that provided extra money to subsidise an expansion of credit, there is a comfort level at which you get progressives on board.”

Most however believe that agreeing a package that is palatable to Democrats and Republicans is all but impossible, leaving Mr Mnuchin looking for solutions that do not require Congressional backing. One option would be simply to recapitalise the two institutions and allow them to enter the private market as they are. Since 2012, Fannie and Freddie have been required to return all their profits to the Treasury — a policy known as the “net worth sweep”. Investors argue that ending this requirement would allow the two institutions to build up their capital buffers so they no longer present a risk to the taxpayer.

Tim Pagliara, executive director of a group of investors in Fannie and Freddie known as Investors Unite, said: “If they had capital requirements of 2.5-3 per cent, they would have enough money to survive the equivalent of a 500-year flood.” Mr Pagliara points out that since 2008, the pair have returned $292bn to the Treasury in dividends — about 50 per cent more than they have drawn from the government since the crash. Such an option would require the backing of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the two mortgage backers. Mark Calabria, the administration’s choice to lead the agency, will testify in front of Congress on Thursday. But in the past he has argued that Fannie and Freddie should no longer have to return their profits to the government, saying the policy has “undermined public trust in the government role in insolvencies”.

Others, however, say new laws are required to make sure Fannie and Freddie continue to fulfil a public service by underwriting loans for poorer people and to make sure there is never a repeat of 2008. Ed DeMarco, the president of the Housing Policy Council and former head of the FHFA, said: “Any administrative effort to remove Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from conservatorship without legislation falls short on a fundamental goal of housing finance reform.”

One alternative option for the administration is not to remove them from conservatorship at all, but to recapitalise them while under government control and shrink their scope. Recommended The Big Read US housing: how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became rental powerhouses Such an option however, is likely to attract anger from private shareholders hoping for a return and from large parts of the banking industry, which does not want to compete with two fully-capitalised government-backed entities.

Given the complexities involved, many believe this administration is no more likely to succeed in privatising Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than the host of members of Congress who have failed in the past. Nevertheless, there remains an ideological impulse on both sides of politics to end the status quo.

Ron Haynie, who spent 20 years working for Freddie Mac and is now senior vice-president at the Independent Community Bankers of America group, said: “These two enterprises have been all but nationalised. That is something we simply don’t do in this country.”

Source: Financial Times

Privatize Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae

Mark Calabria, currently Vice President Mike Pence’s chief economist, is President Trump’s nominee to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The FHFA is the chief regulator of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored enterprises.

Calabria is a longtime advocate for ending government ownership of the GSEs. He further supports reforms that would greatly diminish the two firms’ dominance in the mortgage market. Such reforms are long overdue and would be a welcome sign for the stability of U.S. financial markets.

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The GSEs played an important role in fomenting the financial crisis. The mortgage market is not now characterized by the reckless underwriting practices that were dominant in the years leading up to the crisis. However, the GSEs are still severely undercapitalized and continue to play an outsized role in the mortgage market. The risk posed to taxpayers, and to economic stability, remain.

Proposals to remove the GSEs from the government’s balance sheet have enjoyed support from both parties. Yet, no action has been taken. One reason may be that the GSEs have been quite profitable in recent years. The terms of the conservatorship stipulate that profits are turned over to the Treasury. Thus far, the Treasury has reaped $286 billion in profits from the GSEs.

Politicians may also resist reform because the GSEs have served as vehicles for pushing policy objectives, while obscuring the costs to taxpayers. For example, the government pushed policies, such as affordable housing goals and the Community Reinvestment Act, which mandated that the GSEs expand high-risk borrowing.

In September of 2008, the FHFA, then only in its first few days of operation, placed the GSEs into conservatorship. This was seen as an emergency measure to prevent the housing market from going into a tailspin. It was meant to be a temporary measure, but to this day the U.S. Treasury has maintained a 79.9 percent ownership stake in the two corporations.

However, a sharp drop in house prices could result in widespread default. Prior to the crisis, regulators required the GSEs to hold economic capital, that is, liquid low-risk investments, to protect against large-scale default. Alas, the required levels were far too low. Under government conservatorship, the GSEs are only permitted to hold nominal capital reserves.

If the GSEs are too lax in the standards for loans that they back, instability cascades through the market. As the early 2000s demonstrated, mortgage originators often have little concern for borrower risk, provided the GSEs, or other backers, are willing to guarantee their loans.

The GSEs need to hold adequate capital was attenuated because of their implicit backing from the federal government. The strength of their government charter was reinforced by the reported $200 million spent on lobbying and campaign contributions over the decade preceding their collapse.

Because of their government backing, and the competitive advantage it afforded, they were able to grow far larger than otherwise. At the time of the crisis, they owned or guaranteed more than $5 trillion in mortgage debt, making them critical to the functioning of mortgage finance, or “Too Big to Fail.”

To reduce the risk to financial market and taxpayers alike, the government should allow the GSEs to recapitalize and then remove them from the government’s books. Fannie and Freddie’s government charters should be revoked. Both should be spun off into much smaller entities that do not pose systemic risk to the economy.

Source: Seth H. Giertz is an associate professor of economics and a Senior Research Fellow with the Colloquium for the Advancement of Free-Enterprise Education (CAFÉ), both at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Historic Valentine Mansion finds someone new to love it

The renaissance of one of Springfield’s grand old homes is now in the hands of Katherine Prewitt who brings her Southern drawl and commitment to re-energizing the handsome mansion on Maple Hill.

Prewitt, president of transmission for Eversource, became owner of the 19th-century home on Valentine’s Day, sold to her by Thomas Valentine, of Springfield.

She has renamed the storied Victorian, Valentine Mansion.

Prewitt and Valentine were brought together by Shirley Simolari, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties.

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Prewitt was on the hunt for such a home, focusing her search on square footage, vintage, price and accessibility to her home office in Hartford. She found it via an internet search.

Its overall condition, 40-foot grand ballroom with its ornate hand-carved fireplace and view, sealed the deal.

“I was immediately drawn to the house,” Prewitt said.

It perfectly suited her lifelong plan to own a bed and breakfast, she added.

“I’ve always wanted a bed and breakfast – I almost bought one in Arkansas – but initially, it’ll be an Airbnb.”

After seeing the home online, she called Simolari to relay her interest in the home.

Within days, Prewitt flew from Alabama to Springfield. That was on Dec. 23. Two days later, on Christmas, she made her offer and on New Year’s Day, her offer was accepted by Valentine.  Valentine’s Day was chosen as the closing day.

Prewitt has large plans for the 30-room historic mansion — it’s on the National Register of Historic Places — with its singular view of the city from its perch on the crest of Maple Hill Historic District.

The home, its size, grandeur and quality, is a paean to the standing of a city then bright with success and an even more promising future.

In response, Springfield’s movers and shakers began establishing their domiciles on the street, with still-recognizable names as Southworth House, the George Merriam House on adjacent Crescent Hill, the Nathan Bill house and others built by titans of Springfield’s industry. Each prominent family erected homes that were unique, grand, and in some cases, drawn by the same architect.

The home at 270 Maple was among them. The 19th-century shingle-style mansion became the home of Frederick Harris, president of Third National Bank.

Shortly after he wed Emily Osborne in 1879, the couple moved into their new house. The couple were prominent socially, leaders in the social set of the day.

They had two children and Emily went on to live in the home until 1940, some 60 years after she moved in. The Frederick Harris School in Springfield was named after her husband shortly after his unexpected death in 1926 according to a newspaper account.

When the home was first constructed, it was much smaller. Additions in 1886 were followed by the construction of the grand ballroom in 1900.

Particularly notable in the 11,102 square foot home is that grand ballroom graced on one end by an ornate floor-to-ceiling fireplace surrounded by hand-tooled wooden vines and leaves that cascade down each side of the structure.

According to Valentine, the room, fireplace and surround was created by Italian artisans who were brought in to complete the two-year task.

Immediately noticeable as guests enter is the foyer complete with Italian mosaic flooring. Ten unique fireplaces will be converted to gas, Prewitt said.

The clear view from three-quarters of the house is the result of the June 1, 2011 tornado, which struck the city and took with it a forest of mature trees.

There is some minor work to be done, Prewitt said, including refurbishing the original refrigerator which reclines in the home’s basement. She also wants to rebuild a carriage house that once graced the property.

Former owner, Valentine is president of Maplegate Rehabilitation Center on Maple Street and Caserta Company, LLC.

Its passing to Prewitt provokes sadness and excitement .

“It’s sad to see it go,” Valentine said. “It’s been in the Valentine family for over 35 years. But I’m happy to see such a beautiful lady take over and see her compassion for the home and the city for which she is a fantastic advocate.”

“This house – it belongs to the city of Springfield,” Prewitt added.

And in that spirit, she is thinking of myriad ways for people to experience the mansion, to help people understand the city’s magnificent history evidenced in one grand structure after another lining Maple Street.

She envisions the home as a “classic and classy” venue re-enlivened by events including weddings, celebrations, writers’ retreats and more. An open house is in the planning stages.

Source: masslive.com

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