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Kamala Harris’s Wrongheaded Housing Plan

The presidential candidate proposes $100 billion to help minority homebuyers, but such interventions always make things worse.

With her popularity on the rise following the Democratic presidential debates last month, California Senator Kamala Harris has announced a $100 billion housing plan aimed at closing the gap in household wealth between whites and African-Americans and Latinos.

But her proposal—to provide up to 4 million households with a $25,000 federal grant toward closing costs or down payments on homes—risks doing just the opposite. Previous federal housing programs and the damage wrought by the 2008 financial crisis show why.

Harris is understandably concerned about the black-white gap in household wealth. In 2017, a Federal Reserve report found that average family wealth for white families totaled $933,000; for black families, the average was just $138,200, less than 15 percent of the white figure.

The Latino average was $191,000. Levels of home ownership represent a significant part of these differences. And the case for helping black families in the housing market has some historical justification: blacks faced discrimination in getting mortgages ensured by the Federal Housing Administration, were locked out of certain housing markets, and suffered the loss of homes that they did own to the eminent-domain policies of urban renewal and public housing.

Still, the Harris proposal is the wrong way to go. In building household wealth, it’s important to protect the wealth of current homeowners in a given neighborhood, and to increase the likelihood that new buyers will be able to keep their homes. Among the greatest threats to neighborhoods is mortgage delinquency and foreclosure, which results in vacated or deteriorating homes. That’s exactly what happened in the wake of the financial crisis, when foreclosures hurt blacks and Hispanics disproportionately.

As the National Low-Income Housing Coalition reports, “since 2007, nearly 8 percent of African Americans and Latinos have lost their homes to foreclosure compared to 4.5 percent of non-Hispanic whites at similar income levels. The disparity ratio shows that African Americans are more than 70 percent more likely to have been foreclosed upon than non-Hispanic whites.”

Those foreclosure rates were, in part, the result of home purchases that required low down payments, or even “zero down.” Loose lending practices enabled unqualified buyers to borrow large sums of money without demonstrating that they could pay it back. These “no doc” and “liar loans” encouraged speculative buying and brought people into the property market who probably had no business being there.

The go-go environment of fast money, house flipping, and dodgy mortgage terms left many unqualified buyers unable to keep up with payments when the economy turned south, and they lost their homes. That environment hurt those who scrimped and saved to accumulate housing wealth the old-fashioned way. After all, when your neighbor defaults on his mortgage and his house is repossessed by the bank, nearby home values—the cornerstone of household wealth—decline. Vacant houses are magnets for crime and vagrancy.

The key protection against foreclosure—which Harris wants to remove from the equation—is a down payment, based on thrift and savings, the traits that typically make for successful homeownership. New owners whose down payment came from a government grant have no skin in the game. If payments become burdensome or unforeseen and costly maintenance issues arise, they’re more likely to walk away. It’s all house money, anyway.

We’ve seen this movie before. Historically, default and delinquency rates among borrowers with loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration—which has long required low down payments—are higher than those for so-called conventional borrowers. In fact, “serious delinquency rates” for FHA loans currently run at three times the rate for conventional loans. Such delinquencies are just one step from foreclosure.

History provides other sobering lessons about what happens when down payments are deemphasized. In 1967, in the wake of the urban riots of that era, a group of Boston banks—known as the Boston Banks Urban Renewal Group (BBURG)—collaborated to make $50 million in no-down-payment mortgage loans available to the city’s African-American population.

Select neighborhoods where blacks had previously faced discrimination were targeted—just as Harris has proposed to focus her housing plan on “formerly red-lined” neighborhoods. When mortgage money flooded Boston’s black community in the late sixties, it proved a recipe for rapid foreclosure—and realtor scare tactics that panicked white owners into selling.

This “blockbusting” led to a vicious cycle of white flight and predatory lending to first-time black homebuyers and worked to increase neighborhood segregation. By 1974, half of the BBURG mortgage loans had been foreclosed. The household wealth of black homebuyers did not rise; in fact, it went down. The BBURG fiasco became the subject of congressional hearings.

The right path then—and now—involves wealth accumulation through employment, savings, and financial acumen. One may wish that a jumpstart by federal government could redeem a sad history. But the record of such interventions shows that they have only made things worse. Harris’s plan would do the same.

Source: city-journal

5 Lessons from Cities On Affordable Housing

In America’s fast-growing cities, the need for new housing isn’t keeping up with the demand. A handful of cities have found some new policy ideas to address a problem that doesn’t have a silver-bullet solution. Five big lessons from cities across the country—and a surprise.

1.

Single-family housing can be un-zoned

Illustrated people roll up a road towards four lanes of incoming traffic.

The middle-class dream of a single-family home is the biggest impediment to affordable housing, according to some housing activists—it keeps prices up by preventing new and denser developments, and NIMBY homeowners can be a potent political obstacle to change. But not always: In Minneapolis, the city council abolished single-family zoning in December. On lots where only one home could be built, now developers can put duplexes and triplexes.

2.

Veterans have a secret weapon

An illustrated rain snakes through two highways filled with traffic.

In Arlington, Virginia (outside Washington, D.C.) one American Legion post has partnered with a local affordable housing non-profit to build 160 affordably priced apartments on its property, about half of which will go to veterans. The Legion has thousands of posts across the country, a huge inventory of convertible locations.

9 million

The number of Americans who became renters from 2005-2015, the largest growth of any 10-year period since 1965.

125,000

The number of affordable housing units lost each year.

3.

Tiny homes can tackle a big problem

Illustrated trains, buses, shuttles and cars on roads and railways, weave in and out of buildings.

Tiny homes might sound like a cute fad—virtue-signaling for the less-is-more crowd—but they can also offer a lifeline. In Detroit, a Methodist minister has assembled a small village of a dozen 400-square-foot houses to help once-homeless people, seniors and other low-income residents achieve permanent housing. The occupants can rent-to-own over seven years.

4.

Housing affordability is a racial justice issue

Illustrated cars drive over a red arrow, hovering over skyscrapers and money.

Throughout much of the 20th century building boom that came to define the look of major American cities, racist deed restrictions and redlining were used to keep minorities out of a city’s so-called best neighborhoods. The explicitly racist housing policies are long gone, but some Minneapolis activists believe single-family zoning has perpetuated those policies. Integration, they say, will follow more affordable housing options.

32%

The increase in median rent nationally from 2001 to 2015.

0.1%

The annual decline in median income over the same period.

5.

Can 3D printing transform home construction?

Five lanes of illustrated traffic are stopped behind a large yellow traffic cone.

Viral videos of robotic arms squeezing out sinuous layers of concrete offer the promise of homes built in a day for less than the average millennial pays in annual rent. Startups have pitched 3D-printed homes as a solution to everything from disaster recovery to Mars colonization, but so far builders are struggling to bridge the gap between aspiration and permitted structures that people can actually live in.

…AND A SURPRISE:

A red door to illustrate a new idea.

The problem goes up to the Supreme Court. Nearly a century ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld zoning laws, employing an anti-apartment argument that many density-favoring modern planners would find objectionable: “Very often the apartment house is a mere parasite…interfering by their height and bulk with the free circulation of air and monopolizing the rays of the sun which otherwise would fall upon the smaller homes…until, finally, the residential character of the neighborhood and its desirability as a place of detached residences are utterly destroyed.” It’s more or less the argument that critics of rezoning employ to this day.

Source: politico

Affordable Housing Project Inches Forward

The Ashland Planning Commission approved the site design Tuesday for a 60-unit affordable housing project.

The project is the second phase of the Snowberry Brook apartments at 2261 Villard St.

According to Planning Commission Chair Roger Pearce, the second-floor neighbors in the surrounding condos were not given notice of the project due to a mistake on the county property tax records. So the hearing was reopened for three people to testify in favor of the project and four who expressed concerns regarding safety and increased traffic.

Neighbors were not opposed to the affordable housing project, but several — including a woman who read a statement she said was signed by 25 neighbors — asked that a locked gate be placed on McCall Drive to protect pedestrians from increased traffic. Pearce said it would be up to the Public Works Department and Transportation Commission to decide that issue.

“If they’re putting traffic-calming devices in the street or taking them out, that’s all Public Works,” Pearce said. “That’s not our bailiwick. Our bailiwick is to approve the street design, and the street design is an alley connecting to McCall. It meets the site criteria, and if they want to limit vehicular access across there, they need to make their case to Public Works.”

The project includes four two-story eight-plex apartments, and seven two-story townhouse four-plexes. The units would include 10 one-bedroom flats, 12 two-bedroom flats, 10 three-bedroom flats and 28 two-bedroom townhomes.

The plan calls for 86 off-street parking spaces, 19 on-street spots and 90 covered bicycle parking spaces.

Pearce said the applicant, the Housing Authority of Jackson County, decided to remove a basketball court that had been proposed for a recreation area in order to minimize noise on that side of the development.

Rogue Action Center field organizer Jessie Kinney said volunteers took a survey of Snowberry Brook residents last weekend asking what they thought about the apartments, whether there should be more, and what they would tell people who think affordable housing options like it aren’t necessary.

She said she received a multitude of answers, but all were positive, ranging from students who were thankful that they could afford housing while going to school and working, to one person who suffered health problems from mold that grew in their last building, which they couldn’t afford to leave until Snowberry Brook opened.

“They said things like, ‘We are a community of people and everyone needs access to housing, and we have to think about everyone,’” Kinney said. “So in a county where nearly 50% of residents rent, and in a city where the fastest growing employment sectors are retail and service, which do not pay enough for households to afford average market rent, any opportunity to create housing options for individuals and families that live and work here need to be prioritized and incentivized.”

Source: ashlandtidings

Only Washington Can Solve the Nation’s Housing Crisis

The federal government once promised to provide homes for every American. What happened?

In recent months America’s affordable housing crisis, a long-simmering issue for people of low and moderate incomes, has burst onto the front page. Rents are rising much faster than income, while the median home price in some 200 cities is $1 million. After a decade of decline, the number of homeless Americans is ticking back up.

The private market is clearly failing. Although many city and state governments are motivated to take action, they have limited tools at their disposal, and few of them equal to the task. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, at least under its current leadership, is hardly stepping up.

Indeed the very idea of a federal commitment to affordable housing seems unrealistic today. And yet not long ago, America made just such a promise: the Housing Act of 1949, which, in the optimism of the immediate postwar moment, vowed to provide “a decent home and a suitable living condition for every American family.” We need that same bold national vision today.

At its root, the crisis is a supply problem. Between 2011 and 2017, the country lost four million low-rent apartments. This has driven up demand for what remains, with the predictable result that a third of all households spend more than 30 percent of income for shelter. In many prospering cities, large numbers pay more than 50 percent.

Evictions are epidemic. Waiting lists for subsidized apartments and housing vouchers intended to help low-income Americans “move to opportunity” grow ever longer, so long that some cities have stopped taking new names. A recent study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard anticipates that rent restrictions could expire on about 1.2 million units by 2029.

Most Americans would agree that a stable residence is a prerequisite for steady employment, their children’s education and a thriving democratic society. A permanent address is required to vote, and consumers’ discretionary income — what they don’t spend on things like housing — fuels a healthy national economy.

And yet aside from a few Democratic presidential hopefuls, the political conversation around housing has been muted, and the political will to act at the federal level has been almost nonexistent.

That’s in sharp contrast to the mid 20th century. From the 1930s into the 1970s, the federal government intervened in private real estate markets on behalf of the general good, without fear of undermining the capitalist economy.

Under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the federal government built the first urban public housing. Although never aimed at the very poor, these projects provided much needed affordable homes for working people. During World War II, rent control was an accepted part of the price regulations needed on a home front vulnerable to inflation and shortages.

After the war, when the nation faced an enormous shortage of homes, Congress approved programs aimed at subsidizing the cost of housing for low- and moderate-income Americans. These programs never went as far as many “housers” — those committed to a European-style social housing agenda — would have liked, and were always constrained in scale by a vigilant real estate industry. But they still expanded the housing options available to those with limited incomes.

Labeled “urban redevelopment” in the Housing Act of 1949 and “urban renewal” in its successor, the Housing Act of 1954, these programs have been derided by many historians. Too much demolition took place, particularly in the early years, and city planners too often sought to replicate their suburban counterparts’ car-oriented schemes.

But there were also mortgage subsidies for nonprofit organizations and private developers constructing subsidized housing, rent subsidies to tenants, and funding to create housing for the elderly. Much attention has been paid to how the federal government created the postwar suburbanized metropolis, with its expansive highways and mortgage supports that favored suburban communities while redlining urban ones. But federal programs also helped cities stay viable from 1950 to 1975. Mistakes were made, but lessons were learned. And over time, redevelopers increasingly engaged local communities in planning.

What has particularly been forgotten are the progressive steps that federal subsidies made possible. For example, in 1968 New York State created the Urban Development Corporation, with a mandate to build thousands of units of subsidized housing and reinvigorate declining industrial cities. Under the direction of the veteran urban redeveloper Edward J. Logue, this authority relied on funding from state appropriations and private bond sales, but the real engine was robust federal backing, both in funds and political support.

During its seven-year run, it built 33,000 units of housing, developed three new towns — including the intentionally mixed-income, mixed-race and mixed-age Roosevelt Island in New York City — and fostered a spirit of architectural and technological innovation to find ways of delivering housing more efficiently, more aesthetically, and more affordably. Marcus Garvey Park Village in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood was a successful prototype of low-rise, high-density subsidized housing.

The Urban Development Corporation ran into trouble when it took a progressive step too far, using its statewide authority to tackle inequities between city and suburbs. In 1972, it began a project to build 100 affordable housing units in nine towns in wealthy Westchester County, provoking a fierce suburban backlash. That, combined with a 1973 moratorium by President Richard Nixon on all congressionally approved spending on housing and cities, spelled doom for the corporation — and a steady decline in federal responsibility for housing and cities.

Since the 1980s, the United States has primarily depended on private, market-oriented solutions to its housing and urban problems — strategies like using corporate tax credits to construct low-income housing, Section 8 vouchers and fees squeezed out of developers of luxury projects. But they aren’t enough to meet today’s crisis.

Moreover, too often cities find themselves racing each other to the bottom to woo corporate investors like Amazon, with giveaways that sacrifice future tax revenues and add burdens to city services.

The housing crisis and climate change raise different challenges, but solving both of them requires greater commitment to re-empowering the federal government to act in the public interest. Only Washington has the resources and the scope to tackle these dire threats to the nation’s and the planet’s future.

In 1975, Ed Logue, the visionary head of the Urban Development Corporation, said, “We cannot allow basic public policy” to be made “in corporate board rooms.” And yet, for half a century, that’s exactly what we have done, to our great misfortune.

Source: nytimes

USD 900 Bn Dead Capital Locked Away In Nigeria’s Cold Real Estate

– Fixing This Can Grow The Economy To A Thousand Billion!

The Nigerian real estate sector is dominated by informal property holdings valued at nearly one trillion dollars. Harnessing the untapped potential could give the economy a major boost.

It reads something like this; “Nigeria holds no less than USD 300 Bn and as much as USD 900 Bn worth of ‘dead capital’ in residential and agricultural real estate alone.”

That was the conclusion drawn up by world-renowned consulting and advisory firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) after their deep dive into the neglected parts of Nigeria’s real estate sector.

It was a startling revelation and it easily got tongues wagging both for and against the numbers submitted by the firm.

But even as it’d actually be quite a stretch to think they could ever get the figure spot on, the general feeling is that they are not that far from the truth — between Ikorodu in Lagos and Isihor in Edo, you would find so many undeveloped landed-assets that would’ve been enough to get one some major bank loans if only the banks were crazy about landed-assets that lack verifiable ownership proof.

Well, that’s pretty much the problem — so many landed-assets and so little economic value attached to it because the owners of the assets are just not able to see the gains of having their property duly titled. The result of this is a stockpile of dormant assets with very little to offer in terms of economic relevance.

The mere thought of how much value could be added by harnessing this dead capital in the Nigerian real estate sector is enough to get anyone’s motor running. Ideally, it should be providing the country with the required capital resources needed to boost growth and create wealth for its 200 million-strong population.

And it can’t come at a better time given that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently prophesied doom by suggesting in its latest report on Nigeria that income per head will decline in the near term as economic growth continues to be outpaced by a faster population rise. Unlocking the potential in dead assets might be the antidote that could reverse the unavoidable lunge for perdition.

To make things clear, dead capital or dead assets is an economic term used to refer to properties that are informally-held, and so not legally-recognised. It is this uncertainty of ownership that takes away from the true value of the asset and the ability to lend or borrow against it.

Such possessions are not well-recorded. Because of this, they can hardly be converted to capital and cannot be exchanged for something profitable outside very niche local circles where people know and trust one another. Also, such properties cannot be used as collateral for a loan or as share against investment.

More commonly, we are talking about things like those country homes Nigerians refer to when they talk about “going to the village” — something they rarely do given that festive periods and funerals are the only time they actually get to do such. And even at that, they spend only a few days there. Most of the time, such properties just collect dirt and rot over the years without any formal title and, hence, zero economic value.

PwC based their findings on a population figure of 180 million, and 36 million households of which 95 percent have no title on their assets. Taking a cue from that, unlocking USD 900 Bn worth of currently dormant real estate assets will expand the size of the economy from USD 445 Bn (according to IMF) to USD 1,345 Bn! And that’s not all. As a by-product, such an effort would also fix the country’s debilitating housing shortage of over 17 million units.

The bulk of the houses in Nigeria have no title or contestable title and are basically useless as collateral when trying to finance economic activities. In effect, billions of capital are left idling about as such capital remains under-utilized or not utilized at all.

By putting together a framework that makes it possible for owners of such assets to use their property as collateral to access credit without much fuss could go a long way towards unlocking dead capital in Nigeria.

Nigerian financial institutions mostly accept verified real estate before dishing out loans. Because of this, the advantage is only with owners of properties that are well accounted for. And this means that owners of properties whose asset have no title basically have nothing as they can hardly access credit or make their property work for them in some way.

Private homes and other forms of landed assets represents one of the major sources of capital for businesses in more advanced climes. Developed countries have given themselves a head start by getting the hang of transforming their assets into wealth, and this they have done by representing assets with undisputable titles.

Citing the United States as an example, all private and state-owned assets are titled and put in the record at the time of creation. They are also quantified such that they can be used as collateral to raise funds in times of need from, first, the primary market and then a mortgage instrument which allows it to be sold and resold in the secondary market. There’s a lot of money involved when all that is put together.

Nigeria’s current Land Use Act of 1978, which is built on ownership rights, has not done much to unify land ownership across all parts of the country. The bulk of property owners, especially in the rural areas, are either oblivious of the law which demands them to have titles on their landed assets. or are just completely indifferent about it.

More so, the law demands the consent of State governors before a land with a customary or statutory right of occupancy can be mortgaged, subleased or transferred. This, amongst other bottlenecks, gives the locals a mountain to climb, making it rather difficult to effectively transform dormant assets to tangible wealth. And to think of all the good that can come through if we could find a way to get out of this straitjacket.

Source: weetracker

Building Collapse Kills Man in Abia

A middle-aged man simply identified as Christian has reportedly died in a building collapse at Elu Ohafia in Ohafia LGA of Abia State.

Christian who is said to hail from Ututu in Arochukwu local government area of the state was said to have had his head crushed following the collapse.

Information about the incident until the time of this report is sketchy, sources in the area said that the victim died even before help could come to him.

Abia State Police Commissioner, CP Okon Eneh confirmed the incident in a telephone interview with our reporter.

According to Eneh, it was a case of an accident. He added that investigation was still ongoing.

 

He said that available information has it that the building was a colonial house that the owner may have wanted to demolish or remodel.

He said investigation was still ongoing.

However, a civil engineer who has his name simply as Gilbert while expressing his sadness over the incident called on engineers and others working in a construction site to ensure that they carry out safety measures before embarking on any project to avoid such recurrence.

Gilbert, however, emphasized on the need for land or house owners to use the services of trained and certified engineers whenever they want to embark on any demolition and repairs of their building.

Source: thenationonlineng

Stakeholders Reveal Why They Are Attending 13th AIHS

From 23rd to 26th July 2019, over 30, 000 local and international stakeholders will convene at the prestigious International Conference Abuja for the 13th Abuja International Housing Show (AIHS).

As Africa’s largest event on housing and construction, stakeholders are always excited to attend the show which offers them premium opportunities to learn, network, exhibit and make sales.

This year’s edition will be declared open by the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo alongside the governors of Lagos, Bauchi and Edo. Other top dignitaries includes former and present presidents, governors, ministers, ambassadors, foreign ministers, permanent secretaries, directors, commissioners, and CEOs.

As the show draws near, a lot of stakeholders are speaking on why they cannot afford to miss out of this year’s highly anticipated edition.

According to Mutiu Adelaja, a ranking property developer, Abuja International Housing Show gives him access to his best clients. ‘’Since I became a property developer, this is the show where I come to get off-takers and buyers for my developed or soon to be developed properties. I know this conference brings all kinds of professionals together, including buyers and sellers. This year, like the past years, I will be attending as a seller of properties and I can’t wait,’’ he said.

In the same vein, Fredrick Amadi, a mortgage executive whose bank is one of the major sponsors of this year’s show said that the Abuja International Housing Show presents his bank the opportunity to meet customers in need of affordable housing mortgages.

Andrew Audu is a real estate agent who said he is looking forward to meeting an investment company at this year’s show. ‘’My colleagues have all strike up great investment deals at this show. I believe this year is my turn,’’ he said excitedly.

For Ude Ugo, it is the opportunity to meet and network with global leaders in housing and construction that really has him enthusiastic. International housing expert, Debra Erb of Overseas Private Investment Corporation, USA, will lead a strong delegation of international investors and experts to Nigeria for this year’s show.

Over 30 speakers from at least 15 countries will be speaking at this year’s event. The speakers who are drawn from reputable institutions like mortgage banks, real estate companies, housing regulatory agencies, construction companies, housing finance firms etc. and from various countries including USA, UK, South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, India, China, UAE, Ghana, Rwanda etc. will speak on this year’s theme which is; ‘’Driving Sustainable Housing Finance Models in the Midst of Global Uncertainty.’’

Top among the international guest list at this year’s edition includes, Lew Shulman, the CEO and Chairman of The Board, iBUILD Global Incorporated, USA; Debra Erb, Managing Director of Housing Programs for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; Kecia Rust, Executive Director and founder of the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa (CAHF); Anders Lindquist, Founder and President, Business Development at EchoStone housing; Robert Hornsby, CEO of American Homebuilders of West Africa (AHWA); Olivia Caldwell, Principal at the Affordable Housing Institute (AHI); Mounia Tagma, Regional Manager, Affordable Housing Institute, Morocco; Andrew Chimphondah, MD of Shelter Afrique, and many more.

Foreign ministers of works and housing like Samuel Atta Akyea from Ghana and others from countries like Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and many more have confirmed participation for this year’s event. This delegation also includes international diplomats and high commissioners representing governments and international organisations. It is therefore a privileged platform for the highest level networking in housing.

Others including Paul Benjamin, a young career officer would relish the opportunity to attend the Not Too Young To Own A Home session where young people are exposed to better career opportunities, home ownership prospects and forums to network with industry leaders from across the world.

The sole dream for Ukeje Vincent is to own a home this year. With past testimonies of people acquiring affordable homes from developers at the show, Ukeje is determined to make his dream come true this year.

The opportunities at Abuja International Housing Show are too numerous to mention. It offers stakeholders the platform to discuss about sector trends and provides buyers and sellers a convenient atmosphere for beneficial trade and investments. It’s an event for all in the housing and construction sector.

By Ojonugwa Felix Ugboja

Lagos Begins Demolition of Shanties, Structures Under High Tension Monday

The Lagos State Government will begin the demolition of structures and shanties under high tension cables in Lekki area of Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, on Monday.

Officials of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, LASBCA embarked on sensitisation tour in Lekki, Eti-Osa Local Government Area on Tuesday to tell affected people to vacate the dangerous area latest by Sunday as government would hit the area on Monday to get rid of the structures.

Most of the structures to be affected were those belonging to car dealers, shopping complexes and other structures built directly under the tension cables.

LASBCA officials said notices had already been served occupants of the area before now and that government wanted to remind them that they had seven days to quit the area and that by Monday, it would swing into action.

Head of Department, Building Administration and Public Enlightenment, LASBCA, Mrs. Victoria Taiwo-Ajose, during the sensitization campaign, said that government did not want people to lose their lives by staying under high tension and doing businesses.

According to her, it was disheartening that most Lagosians prioritise their businesses more than their lives, wondering why any reasonable citizens could choose to locate their businesses under deadly tension cables.

“It is dangerous to stay under high tension cables, anything can happen anytime. So they should vacate the place. The places where they built is meant for the setback created for the high tension cables. We have warned Lagosians not to live or carry out businesses under high tension cables. We will commence demolition of any structure found under the high tension cables,” she said.

Taiwo-Ajose said government would not allow disaster to occur in the area before doing the needful, warning business owners to vacate under tension cables before Monday.

However, the sensitisation campaign was carried out by LASBCA officials in conjunction with officials of the Ministry of Information and Strategy.

The government officials toured the area distributing leaflets, urging residents to build right and not engage in illegality.

Source: pmnewsnigeria

Should We Build Cities From Scratch?

People have been building new cities from scratch for millennia. From the foundation myths surrounding Athens and Rome, to the clearance of virgin forests in western New York state to create the “garden city” of Buffalo, to scores of purpose-built capitals – Brasília, Canberra, Astana, Washington DC – building new cities is just something that humans do.

When countries rise up, when markets emerge, people build new cities. Today, though, we are taking it to unheard-of levels. We have never before built so many new cities in so many places at such great expense as we are right now.

New dots have been popping up on the maps of countries such as China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria and India with unprecedented frequency since the late 1990s, and more than 120 new cities are currently being built in 40 nations around the world.

Avant-garde developments like Shenzhen and Pudong blazed new economic trails until they eventually widened into the boulevards of a new status quo for the emerging markets of the world.

We are standing on the precipice of a new city building boom unlike anything we’ve seen before. These shiny new metropolises hold the dreams and aspirations of people and nations from east Asia to the Middle East to Africa. Will they deliver a bright new urban future or a debt-fuelled bubble of historic proportions?

A one-stop cure-all?

The new city has been sold as a one-stop cure-all for an array of urban and economic issues facing emerging markets around the world: overcrowding, pollution, traffic congestion, housing shortages, lack of green space and economic stagnation, to name a few. By starting from scratch, governments hope to move on from their current clogged and dysfunctional urban centres and develop new economic sectors to help them leapfrog other nations. City building itself can also be a highly profitable endeavour for some.

At first glance, many new cities appear to openly defy economic fundamentals. What are emerging markets – “poor countries” – doing building some of the most technologically advanced, expensive cities on earth? Why is the dusty, remote Kazakh border town of Khorgos turning into what is claimed will become a “new Dubai”? How come oil-dependent Oman is erecting Duqm – a metropolis twice the size of Singapore – in the middle of the desert?

“The major reason for new cities is that there is so much migration,” says John Macomber, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School who has studied new city development in depth. “People are moving to cities all over the world to seek opportunity.”

According to the UN, 68% of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050. This means 2.5 billion more city dwellers, with 90% of the uptake happening in Asia and Africa. Half of the urban area that will be needed hasn’t been built yet. We would need scores more Delhis, Shanghais and Lagoses.

“The sad thing is that we’re going to develop more urban area in the next 100 years than currently exists on Earth,” says the Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Romer of New York University. “If we stick to business as usual most of it is going to be disorderly and less functional than the stuff we already have.”

It doesn’t take a Nobel winner to see that many of the existing cities of Asia and Africa are simply not able to handle this onslaught of urbanisation. Cairo was built to house 1 million people, not the 20 million who live there today. Cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Lagos, Nairobi and Rio de Janeiro are crowded by rings of informal developments. Retrofitting these cities with modern infrastructure and utilities is more complicated and expensive than clearing out a swathe of land and starting all over again.

As Macomber says: “If you build a new city you don’t have to relocate or work around existing roads or rivers or factories or houses. You also don’t have to work around existing political processes, community groups, civic organisations … or even existing regulations and rules.”

As well as being less complicated and cheaper than retrofitting old cities, building new cities is seen by many leaders as more profitable – and sexier. At the height of China’s new city building boom in 2011, land sales accounted for roughly 74% of the revenue stream for the country’s municipal governments and plots of urban construction land were selling at a 40-fold profit. Emerging markets that are actively reconstructing themselves – both physically and in terms of their global image – tend to have economies that are driven by the real estate and construction sectors. For them, building an entirely new city is the pinnacle of projects.

“Neoliberalism and deregulation have created a wild west atmosphere that facilitates the circulation of footloose capital globally,” says Sarah Moser, a geography professor at McGill University and the author of the upcoming Atlas of New Cities. “It is easier now than in previous decades to acquire vast tracts of land and to then use that land for any purpose, including urban and commercial.

“Technology companies, construction companies, and the real estate industry are leveraging the many challenges facing cities in the global south to convince people that new cities are an important solution rather than fixing existing cities, which is not as profitable.”

Development firms such as New York’s Gale International and South Korea’s Posco are peddling copies of Songdo LINK around the world. Architects such as KPF and Arup are drawing up attention-grabbing masterplans lined with skyscrapers, parks and shopping malls reminiscent of New York, London and Dubai. And big tech firms such as Cisco, Alibaba and Tencent are keen to provision these new cities with cutting edge IT networks and public surveillance gizmos.

The money being thrown at new cities is staggering. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Economic City comes at a price tag of $100bn (£78bn), while the country’s Neom megalopolis is slated to cost five times that. Malaysia’s Forest City had its price initially pegged at $100bn, while Ordos Kangbashi cost a hulking $161bn. Adding up the costs of more than 120 new cities around the world means a mountain of investment that can be measured in the trillions of dollars – but the returns are far from given.

“Too often a best-case scenario of potential economic rewards is presented and the project is rushed through when decision makers are on a utopian high,” says Moser. “The reality is that new city projects can only move forward with massive loans, often from foreign banks, with no guarantee that the city will be profitable enough to repay the loans.”

New cities that work

“Cities have to have a purpose,” Macomber says. “It’s a common mistake that has been made for centuries where a ruler will say ‘Let’s build some buildings and palaces and some things will happen’ or ‘Let’s put up a couple big office buildings and now we’re going to have a Dubai on the Indian Ocean’. Not necessarily. The new cities that struggle are the ones that are pushing against what market forces want to do.”

New cities that work have built-in economic drivers that give them their impetus and reason for being. Khorgos on the China-Kazakhstan border was sparked to life by a transportation hub along the New Silk Road; Cyberjaya in Malaysia was built as a concentrated hub of hi-tech firms, startups and educational facilities; South Korea’s Songdo is one of the best examples of an “aerotropolis” – a city built around an airport.

Other new cities could be described as superfluous – custom-built cities for the rich. “Some of these developments are imagined as the gated communities of privilege,” says Romer. “Like Brasília: ‘The place where we will be able to drive really fast in our cars. We’ll just not let any poor people come here.’ Those things are doomed to fail.

“They’re also an inappropriate response to the real need, which is not for the rich to have a place to retreat to but for people who want to get a first position on the kind of urban, modern escalator that can help lift them and their kids to a better life.”

Many new cities that are currently being built in Asia and Africa are clearly being designed for emerging middle classes. If provided with the right opportunities, this well-educated, big spending and highly mobile sector of society can be a boon for just about any country. If those opportunities are not provided they are especially prone to flight – emigrating to better jobs and lifestyles in the US, Canada and western Europe.

The new city building boom is nearly as much about maintaining and attracting high-value talent as it is about creating space for the droves of rural migrants searching for their first handholds in an urban environment.

“Many new cities are scrambling to attract these global elites through creating luxury properties that they can buy, luxury retail and restaurants, and infrastructure for their lavish hobbies: particularly docking facilities for yachts,” says Moser.

“The developer’s goal is to maximise profits and this is done in large part by creating luxury condos and villas. There is not much money to be made in affordable family housing, so developers are not interested.”

Source: theguardian

Read what each Nigerian State is Owing, the Biggest and Least Debtors

Lagos State, Nigeria’s richest state remains also its biggest debtor, accumulating as at March this year N542 billion in domestic debt.

Figures published by the Debt Management Office on Wednesday showed Rivers and Delta state, both oil rich states, in a photo finish for the second position.

Rivers has Nigeria’s second biggest domestic debt figure with N225.6 billion. It is followed by Delta with N223.4 billion.

Akwa Ibom, also an oil state, has the fourth biggest debt profile at N199.7 billion. It is followed by Cross River with N167.2 billion.

Federal Capital Territory, which depends on funds from the Federal Government is sixth with N163.5 billion. Osun has a debt burden of N147 billion, Bayelsa N133.3 billion, Kano N121.3 billion and Ekiti N118 billion.

The least indebted state in Nigeria is Yobe with N26.9 billion.

Debts by states of Nigeria

Source: pmnewsnigeria

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