Reporter

How Port Harcourt went from garden to garbage city

Garden City of Port Harcourt is the popular name given to Port Harcourt in Rivers State years back because of its clean, tidy and serene environment.

Between 1980 and 1990 Port Harcourt was rated the cleanest city in the country as a result of its beautiful landscape, good road layout and the environmental consciousness of residents.

‘Pitakwal’ as the capital and largest city of the state has been fondly nicknamed, was the dream city of many Nigerians but as urban explosion began to take a heavy toll in the once beautiful ‘Garden City’. People now fear that the city is gradually assuming the status of “garbage centre of Nigeria.”

Port Harcourt residents are not happy about the poor state of the environment. At Creek Road in old Port Harcourt township, the road which leads to the market is an eyesore. Heaps of refuse dot adjoining streets emitting offensive odour.

A resident, Tamuno Ibisiki, said “Creek road is turning to be the dirtiest part of the state. The traders in the market are not helping matters as they dump the rubbish generated from their businesses on the road. The stench is terrible and constitutes a very serious health challenges to residents,” he said.

At Ikwerre road, near the popular Mile One market, the heaps of refuse dumped close to a new generation bank have been a source of worry to residents. The area is designated as a collection centre for refuse by the State Waste Management Agency.  However, the heaps of refuse take some time before evacuation and the stench from the eyesore are worrisome.

A resident whose office is located in the area expressed worry over the health implication of the refuse dumps, saying, “It’s very embarrassing that a popular area such as Mile One should be used as a collection centre for refuse by the Waste Management Agency. The stench from the refuse is very offensive and could be very hazardous to human health.

“Refuse collection centres should be located in isolated areas and not in highly populated areas. I have complained to the agency responsible but they seem not to be bothered about the nuisance the site constitutes to residents,” stated the man who pleaded anonymity.

Other areas such as Mile 3, Mile 4, Echue Street, Sangana Street, Education Bus Stop, Abali Park, Sangana Street and some parts of Oyigbo are not left out of the refuse problem.

Traders at the popular Sangana Street litter the area with heaps of refuse comprising of rotten fruits and vegetables, waiting for evacuators.

The popular Oyigbo Express Junction which hosts the Garden City’s statues of Port Harcourt, is also home to heaps of refuse which have not been evacuated for a very long time suffusing the area with offensive odour.

Peter Dozie, a resident of the area said “the mountain of refuse deposited at the Express Junction was terrible because it is a gateway to Port Harcourt and links the city to other states such as Abia and Imo.

“Meanwhile, the state government spends millions of naira every month to pay service providers but much is left to be desired. The stench coming from the uncollected refuse is terrible and can be a health hazard. Government should do something about this without delay,” Dozie said.

A  school teacher in Oyigbo, who pleaded anonymity said “this place is designated as refuse collection centre and almost all the residents bring their refuse here for onward evacuation. In advanced countries refuse dumps are located in isolated areas and receptacles are provided to deposit them.”

 

“We have complained to the authorities but nothing has been done about it. The lives of pupils in this school are under serious threat,” he said.

Meanwhile, successive administrations in the state have tried to restore the beauty and serenity of Port Harcourt through policy actions but which are yet to yield positive result.

The previous administration, conscious of restoring the Garden City status of Port Harcourt in 2008 engaged a private firm to carry out landscaping of some designated areas of the state and plant grasses and flowers. Over N400 million was expended on the project.

The contractor based in Calabar immediately swung into action. Buildings and structures that fell within the areas designated for landscaping and grassing were demolished.

The areas were landscaped and flowers and grasses planted but less than six months after, the areas were again completely defaced with refuse dumps resurfacing and the green areas converted to footpaths and driveways.

Also, a monthly environmental sanitation exercise was begun to engage residents in the cleaning of their environment and refuse contractors were also engaged from all the nooks and crannies of the state.

It was gathered that over 25 contractors were engaged and that the state government spent about N500 million monthly in paying them. It was learnt that at a point the contractors were mandated to use Compactor machines and those who were unable to procure them were sacked by the state government.

But despite the huge sums of money spent monthly to keep the state clean, Port Harcourt remains very dirty, with an untidy environment.

Governor Nyesom Wike, on assumption of office in 2015, inherited huge tonnage of uncleared refuse littering the streets of Port Harcourt. The contractors had stopped work because of being owned several months’ payment. Governor Wike cleared the debt and they resumed work but still no significant improvement in the general sanitation of the state.

However, to improve the state’s environmental status, the government recently declared a state of emergency on environmental sanitation in the state.

The Commissioner of Information and Communications, Barrister Emma Okah, who stated this recently, said the decision was aimed at improving on the state of sanitation in the state.

“Government frowns seriously at the deteriorating urban sanitation and environment in the state, particularly in Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor metropolis.

“Consequently, the government has decided to declare a state of emergency on the set of people who are in the habit of trading on the roads, the medians and all of that,” he said.

The State Executive Council has also set up a Special Task Force chaired by Governor Nyesom Wike himself to clear illegal traders from major roads and streets in Port Harcourt and its environs.

Source: Victor Edozie

Investors lobby as PFAs invest N17bn pension funds in infrastructure

 

Pension Funds Administrators have raised their investments in infrastructure to N17.12bn from the pension money in their custody, according to the latest data from the National Pension Commission.

Operators of the Contributory Pension Scheme have also said that investors have continued to intensify their lobby to access the funds in their custody.

Figures obtained from the commission on Tuesday revealed that the total assets under the CPS stood at N8.34tn as of the end of September.

According to the commission, in May 2015, the operators invested N568m in infrastructure and increased it to N1.35bn in December 2015.

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It added that the PFAs invested N2.06bn in infrastructure bond in December 2016, and had gradually increased the pension funds invested in the portfolio.

According to PenCom, the PFAs invested N6.86bn in the nation’s infrastructure as of December 2017.

The President, PenOp, Mrs Aderonke Adedeji, said that the issue of the role of pension funds in economic development had moved into the focus of public attention, particularly with regard to Nigeria’s growing need for long-term capital.

She explained that successful mobilisation of pension fund assets and its contributions to the economic growth of any nation were essential policy objectives.

“For the first time, our country can now boast of a long-term funding base and the impact to date has included the funding of the government and government projects, development of the capital market as well as increased foreign development inflows,” she said.

While this is positive, she added, a note of caution must be raised in view of recent agitations to access the funds for infrastructure.

Source: Nike Popoola

Updated: South East governors meet Buhari, seek faster action on infrastructure

Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and Governors of the South East on Wednesday meet with President Muhammmadu Buhari , with a request on the President to help fast tract infrastructure development in the region.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, Governor Dave Umahi called on the President to fast tract action on the 2nd Niger bridge by paying 50% of the cost of construction and secure the balance 50% in bond

“We have come to ask Mr. President to see if there any way governance can pay 50% of the total sum and secure the other 50% in bond so that we can sleep with our two eyes closed and be assured that the job will not be abandoned. We also pleaded that the construction period be reduced from 42 to 24 months so that, knowing the pedigree of Julius Berger”

President Buhari had earlier announced the award of the 2nd Niger bridge to Julius Berger in the sum of N206b, while N7b has been paid as mobilization fee.

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The Governors also pleaded with the President to prevail on the contractors to fast tract the construction period by reducing it from 42 to 24 months so that the job can be completed on time.

The Governors also pleaded with the President to commission the Enyiimba, Aba free zone project as well as the extension of the gas supply project to the region.

“We talked about the Enugu International airport and pleaded that he deploy the cargoes section of the airport. They need to rebuild the run way the lights are not functioning at all and we feel government need to do something about the,.

“We reminded him that the slow pace of the Enugu to Port harcourt road was due to the rains. Now that the rains are over, the contractors are complaining about low funding. So we reminded him to release more funds so that the work can move faster.

They also pleaded with President over Geometric Power Plant in Aba, to assist in resolving the issues around the plant so that the plant can be deployed to provide power to the industrial clusters of Aba and the environs.

“We also reminded him that the Enugu state government has done a lot in relocation of major infrastructure obstructing the smooth operation of flights and we requested that federal government take over the compensation of affected lands so that the airport can be extended.

“We demanded that gas distribution be linked to the five south east states and the industrial clusters so as to boost economic activities in the area.

“We also pleaded with the Federal government to award rail lines just as they are do8ng on the western corridor.

“We requested that the contract be awarded to cover port harcourt to Aba, Ebonyi, the Enugu and then to Maiduguri , so that we can benefit from these projects

Umahi noted that the President assured the Governors that he is going to look into the issues
“ Of course on the railway, we were given a cheering news that not only that the railway will be awarded that it will touch all states capitals in south east and it will also touch most of other state capitals as it move from south east to Maiduguri.

“ There will also be a port that will be added to it and it will cost about $12 billion. He said they are yet to bring it to federal executive council meeting, so they intend to do so and of course with the borrowing plan being approved by the senate, they are going to fastrack the issue of construction in the south east” he said

Speaking on behalf of the federal government, the Secretary to the goof the federation, Boss Mustapha, said the President has promised to ensure that all the projects receive prompt attention.

Mustapha also called on people of the South East to support the President’s re-election bid as such votes will motivate the President to attract more projects to the region in 2019.

The meeting was attended by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and Governors Dave Umahi of Ebonyi state, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state, and Deputy Governor of Anambra, Nkomo Okeke,

On the government team were the Secretary to the government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, the Minister of Public Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnanya Onu, Minister Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelama, as well as Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.

Source: Tony Ailemen

Mortgage refinance applications hit 18-year low

With no major move in interest rates and continued weakness in home affordability, there was not a lot of incentive for homebuyers to make a move last week, and there was even less for homeowners looking to save money on their mortgages.

Total mortgage application volume moved 0.1 percent lower last week from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index. Volume was 22 percent lower than a year ago.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($453,100 or less) decreased to 5.16 percent from 5.17 percent, with points decreasing to 0.48 from 0.55 (including the origination fee) for loans with 20 percent down payments.

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With rates still at the highest level in eight years, mortgage applications to refinance a home loan continued their downward spiral, falling 5 percent for the week to the lowest level since December 2000. Refinance volume was 40 percent lower than a year ago. The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 38.5 percent of total applications from 39.4 percent the previous week.

“Treasury rates declined last week, as equity markets continued to see large swings amidst investor concerns over global economic growth,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist. “As a result, mortgage rates inched back across most loan types, including the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, 5/1 ARM, and 30-year jumbo mortgage rate. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage also declined, stopping a run of six straight weekly increases.”

Mortgage applications to purchase a home increased 3 percent from one week earlier but were 5 percent lower than the same week one year ago. Rising interest rates combined with still-rising home values have pushed affordability to the lowest level in a decade. While the inventory of homes for sale is beginning to rise, it is still painfully low, especially given strong demand.

Monthly housing data for October so far has come in weaker than expected. Single-family housing starts as well as homebuilder sentiment made sizable swings lower, and mortgage applications to purchase a newly built home also fell.

“Every single data point is now extending to ‘what does this mean for the Fed,’ and rate-hike odds past one more in December continue to shrink,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer with Bleakley Advisory Group. “Calibrating monetary policy from here in order to achieve a rare soft landing will not be easy, as it never is.”

Source: Diana Olick

Homebuilder confidence plummets to the lowest level in more than two years as ‘demand stalls’

Rising mortgage rates and continued home price growth are hurting affordability and fast becoming a toxic cocktail for the nation’s homebuilders.

Sentiment among homebuilders dropped 8 points in November to 60 in the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. That is the lowest reading since August 2016, but anything above 50 is still considered positive. The index stood at 69 in November of last year and hit a cyclical high of 74 last December.

“Builders report that they continue to see signs of consumer demand for new homes but that customers are taking a pause due to concerns over rising interest rates and home prices,” said NAHB Chairman Randy Noel, a builder from LaPlace, Louisiana.

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Of the index’s three components, current sales conditions fell 7 points to 67, sales expectations in the next six months dropped 10 points to 65, and buyer traffic registered an 8-point drop to 45. Buyer traffic had broken out of negative territory earlier this year but now appears to be back in it solidly.

Some of the nation’s largest publicly traded homebuilders, like Lennar and KB Home, lowered their expectations for sales in 2019 in recent earnings releases. There is still a shortage of homes for sale, but newly built homes come at a price premium, and as interest rates rise, new home buyers are consequently hit hardest.

 

The average rate on the popular 30-year fixed mortgage is now more than a full percentage point higher than it was a year ago. The huge home price gains seen over the last two years are now shrinking, but prices were still up a strong 5.6 percent year over year in September, according to CoreLogic.

“For the past several years, shortages of labor and lots along with rising regulatory costs have led to a slow recovery in single-family construction,” said the NAHB’s chief economist, Robert Dietz. “While home price growth accommodated increasing construction costs during this period, rising mortgage interest rates in recent months coupled with the cumulative run-up in pricing has caused housing demand to stall.”

Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional builder sentiment, the Northeast rose 2 points to 58. The Midwest fell 1 point to 57, the South declined 2 points to 68 and the West dropped 3 points to 71.

Source: Diana Oclick

How to prepay your home loan

Home loan prepayment can be understood as the early repayment of a home loan by a borrower. This can be done in part or sometimes full repayment. It is done in order to avail lower interest rates by the means of optional refinancing. Also, it is sometimes possible that the borrower secures enough money and can try to make the full payment earlier than expected. But is it better to invest that money somewhere else or is early repayment a better option?

According to financebuddha.com, home loan pre-payment refers to nothing but paying your full or half due earlier than the tenure. Most of the home loans are around 10 years and considered to be one of the best investments. In case you plan to close this before the schedule then you must inform the bank or the financial institution or organisation in writing.

Almost all of the housing finance companies and banks charge a prepayment penalty usually if the loan is paid off before the tenure completes. Some of the banks do not allow this if you manage to establish the funds to put in for the pre-payment.

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Prepayment penalties on home Loans

Banks are forbidden from collecting prepayment penalty anymore on floating rates of loan, this is as per the new rules mentioned by Reserve bank of India.

You don’t have to pay anymore penalty. That is a huge leap forward for the home loan borrowers and consumer welfare if your bank still charges you for a pre-payment penalty; you are eligible to lodge a complaint.

The need for home loan prepayment

Home Loan Prepayment is a good idea because it ends up eating a lot of money in the name of interest. It is not good for your own financial health to give away a big chunk of money as a home loan. There is Home Loan tenure for each and every loan that is passed. Borrowers prefer prepayment in order to clear off their debt when they get a big chunk of money either in the form of an annual bonus, money from matured investments or any other form. Prepayment of home loan is needed in most cases because it leads to an increase in the overall cost of property.

While Home loans are handy, they end up eating a lot of money in the name of interest.

However, there are scenarios where continuing with home loan can be beneficial as well. Let us have a look at all the possible scenarios so that it becomes easy for you to decide whether or not should you be going for a prepayment and/or a pre-closure.

When should you go for a home loan pre-payment?

First thing, a customer can save a lot of money on interest by making a pre-payment of their home loan before the tenure. This is obviously the best pro for prepayment of the home loan.

Paying the entire amount early in the loan tenure so you can take the advantage of foregoing less on interest is the trick. Even at a later stage in the tenure, where customer has paid much of the interest,

If he or she has an excess of cash, it is always a good practice to prepay the loan and get some money off your back.

When should you not go for a pre-payment?

In the case where a home loan is not being a burden on your head, it is sometimes beneficial to continue with the regular EMI schedule. This needs to be brought up as there are tax benefits which home loan offers.

In another case, suppose of prepaying the whole amount, you invest the money somewhere else, let’s say mutual funds, which will also help you earn returns over years.

Consider other options before you prepay

Sometimes it is advisable to invest the money you would be investing to prepay, somewhere else, such as a mutual fund or a business which might earn you more in the long term. You obviously save the interest money, but you can earn more than the amount you are saving from the interest money by putting it elsewhere. Being smart and making smart and intelligent choices where home loans are concerned is very important if you want to avoid the long-term difficulties and issues.

Dont’s

Don’t make a hasty decision

Hasty decisions never did any good for anyone. Making a hasty decision would overlook the cons of prepaying the loan and that could adversely affect you.

Don’t borrow another loan

It is quite common where you see people getting under a burden of another loan to pay the previous one, this makes you fall under a never ending cycle and web of constant payments and that can spoil your CIBIL score as well.

Don’t put up all the money to prepay the loan

Putting all the money to prepay the entire amount would add up more to your financial stress, you sure have to take care of other aspects and keep yourself financially healthy, again this focuses on the first “don’ts” which asks you not to make any decision in haste. Sometimes, it is more beneficial to prepay only half or parts of the principal amount than paying everything in one go.

Source: Punch

ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Shelter is one of the basic needs of man, and the idea of affordable housing to cater to this need is both practical and viable. According to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN–Habitat), 30 per cent of the world’s urban population resides in slums, with deplorable conditions, where people suffer from several deficiencies, including lack of access to improved water, absence of sewage facilities, living in overcrowded conditions, and in buildings that are structurally unsound. There are conflicting figures about Nigeria’s housing deficit, but experts often quote between 17 and 21 million.

Affordable housing refers to housing that addresses the needs of the low-income earners in the society. This is the section of the society whose income is below the medium household earnings, and the majority of masses of Nigeria belong to this category. 

 

With over 170 million people, Nigeria, the most populous country in black Africa, has a population of over 70 million low-income people. Currently a minimum wage of N30,000 is being debated for the Nigerian worker, while the disposable income of majority of the fresh graduates (not the ones employed in blue-chip companies) is less than N60, 000 per month.

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Affordable housing has remained elusive to the average Nigerian, in spite of numerous programmes to tackle affordable housing challenges in the country.The low and middle income earners especially are the most affected by this. Due to affordability, they live in densely populated or informal ‘slum’ areas. The high income earners, one per cent of the population, occupy a small percentage of the housing stock. Therefore, the majority of newly built homes in city centres are left unoccupiedThus, the problem of affordable housing remains a critical issue in the socio-economic wellbeing of Nigeria.

 For example, in Lagos State, the price tags placed on the units of the Lagos HOMS Project cannot be classified as being for low-income earners, especially when considered from the United Nations standpoint, where an adult is not expected to spend more than 30 per cent of his/her income on housing (by international standards a house should not cost more than three times the occupiers’ annual income.)

 Let us take the N4.3m apartment as an example. You are expected to pay the 30 per cent down payment and the rest over 20 years. Let’s assume the minimum wage is N30, 000 and the annual cumulative is N360, 000.

 Thirty per cent of the N4.3m apartment is N1.29 million and monthly payment would be N25, 083.00, which is almost equal to the basic salary. Since the United Nations said you should not spend more than 30 per cent of your income on housing, the 30 per cent of the basic annual income is N108, 000.

 It means a Level One officer should not spend more than N108, 000 annually on housing, because it is assumed that from his earnings he would make provisions for transportation, school fees and feeding. So, you know he cannot even afford it and it is not affordable. These prices or rents cut-off the masses who need the accommodation.

 When you add the interest rate of about 9.5 per cent, the total sum goes to about N17m to N18m to be paid over 10 years. So, it is obvious you are not also planning for middle-income earners. So, the Lagos HOMS is still feeding the high-income earners.

 A Level 14 officer should have put in an average of 10 years of service, but in spite of that, he cannot key into the state housing project. If such officer cannot, then for whom is such a project meant? Things like this kill motivation among the workforce.

 For instance, someone is earning N150, 000 per month, minus 30 per cent present accommodation need, minus other needs, including school fees and feeding. What would be left that would serve as disposable income that can be put into housing programme? So, first and foremost, I cannot afford the 30 per cent down payment from my salary. It becomes a burden and one begins to wonder how long it would take to own a house in Lagos.

 In view of the above, some steps to alleviating the problems of affordable housing delivery include concentrating on ways to provide the enabling environment for mass housing production. Basic building materials should be given tax and duty relief and government could develop incentives to encourage both the public and private sectors to use indigenous building materials. Other strategies may include granting tax holidays to developers and providing free land to them to reduce the cost of producing houses.

 Sites and service plots could be provided to private sectors, housing cooperatives, Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) and individuals. Plots could be allocated at different rates per square metre for different uses. The low-income earners should have the lowest rate with the size of each plot not more than 150 square metres. The basis of allocation should strictly be one man one plot, members of (REDAN) should be encouraged and motivated with tax incentives, subsidised building materials and discounted rate per square metre.

Plots allocated for affordable housing schemes must not be fraudulently used for medium or high income housing projects. There should be sanctions and strict penalties for violation of terms and conditions stipulated on the letter of allocation.

For successful implementation of this scheme, it is imperative to study and assess the actual housing needs of the low income earners. It should be known that before low-income earners can afford to buy or rent houses the price or rent must be low or subsidised by the government.

 It is when we are able to provide housing that artisans can afford, that is when the people would say that there is affordable housing for the common man. With that, low-income earners would have some housing units targeted at them.

Source: Daniel Ighakpe

‘FHA now better funded to deliver mandate’

The Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Muhammad Al- Amin, in this interview speaks on some ongoing reforms in the FHA to deliver affordable housing to Nigerians.

 

How has it been since you took over leadership of FHA?

I took over at a point when there were crises in the authority. The government was contemplating on how to fix the series of problems in FHA over the last 10 years. The last attempt was to privatise the agency so that it could be self-sustaining. So when I took over, the other members of the management and I studied the reform and we realised that it wasn’t the best option. The factor of social housing is very important; which the privatisation agenda did not factor in. So, we tried our best to inform the government that it wasn’t the best option because the investor that would acquire FHA would be out for profit and there is no way the common man’s interest in housing would be accommodated.

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Graciously, President Muhammadu Buhari gave the approval that FHA should be restructured and the issue of social housing should be paramount and that we should also be doing some work on commercial housing. That was why I reestablished social housing and commercial housing.

When we came on board, the two units had no targets or specifics, so we immediately injected life into them.

What are the National Housing Programme and the Mass Housing Programme all about?

The National Housing Programme is a Federal Government initiative to provide houses for mostly workers and middle income earners, while the Mass Housing Programme is government’s policy to meet the demand of urban migrants. We are doing these two programmes currently, but we are 100 per cent influencing the Mass Housing Programme’s pilot in Abuja, then other parts of the country will follow. We were also able to convince government to start giving FHA some intervention funds so that we could go back to the field and start building. We were captured in the budget and we received 100 per cent of what government promised us in 2017. The FHA was the only agency that was given 100 per cent of its budget in 2017 and it is the only MDA in 2018 that has gotten up to 50 per cent of its budget as well. That goes to indicate that President Buhari is very keen about this agency and he wants to fulfill the promise he made to Nigerians to provide housing for all.

Can you mention some projects you have embarked on and their level of progress?

Before answering that, I will have to explain the products of FHA. When I came on board, we only had two products, and I introduced some other products. The first is called Site and Services. There could be some Nigerians that are not interested in the designs that we have or cannot afford the houses we have but they are also in need of accommodation. So, we get land, provide all the basic infrastructure, then we allocate the plots at Site and Services.

The second product is called Carcass. Here we build a house, just the structure, and we roof it, then we sell to individuals for them to complete the other works and put the type of fittings they want.

Another product is called Expandable Housing; in which we design four bedrooms for instance, in a plot of land, we build one bedroom for you and allow you to check in and you build the remaining bedrooms according to your time and resources.

To execute the programmes, we need to tie whatever we are doing in FHA to what the government’s policy on housing is.

PMB came in 2015, and in that year, there was what was called Global Urban Agenda, which aim is that every person; irrespective of status of income, must be accommodated. You must have a housing programme that befits you unlike what happened in the past when only if you were rich that you got a house. With this idea, PMB directed that FHA’s programmes should tilt towards implementing Global Urban Agenda.

Can you highlight challenges you had to deal with?

First and foremost was the issue of resentment of the unions; they thought whoever was coming to head the agency was going to be an undertaker by closing the agency, retrenching the staff and privatising it. So, I had that problem and I quickly brought back their confidence and built trust of what the government wanted.

The other challenge was funding. Since 2003, the then government of Obasanjo stopped any form of funding for the agency because it felt that the agency could be self-sustainable. When I came, in fact, paying salary was very difficult, the first thing that I did was to look at our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and we quickly cashed in on that and started realising revenues for the agency. That helped us to pay our overhead and others.

Another thing was that I met estates across the six geo political zones that were built by my predecessors but were not sold out. The major reason was because they were located in non-viable sites. So, what I did was to quickly engage some consultants and the estate property agencies to market the projects together with my staff so that we could unlock that capital and bring back the money into our system.

Another issue was projects. Projects are executed in two ways here; the direct intervention and through partnership. We have lands, we invite investors, they come in with their money, we do our designs, the investors build with their money and then we sell, supervise and share the profit. That is the PPP arrangement. But when I came in, all the PPP arrangements were having one problem or the other and I had to look into them and come up with a model that would settle the problems. One of the things I did was that I linked the agency with the Infrastructure Regulatory Commission (IRC) and we have been working together since then. We structure every project so that we ensure the right thing on PPP is done and the right people are found and projects are being delivered.

Source: Malikatu Umar Shuaibu & Daniel Adugbo

Sanitation: FG moves to reinstate local environmental officers

 

In a bid to tackle continuous open defecation, the Federal Government has said it will reinstate local environmental officers, to monitor the act across the country.

Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Jibril, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Leon Aliboh, said this, in Abuja, at a press briefing, yesterday, ahead of World Toilet Day, holding on November 19.

In his response to why local sanitary enforcement agents have not been working for decades, he assured Nigerians that government, at federal level, has started to work hand-in-hand with all state ministries of environment, to curb the menace.

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“We’ve started working on how to reinstate all local environmental officers that would see to open defecation because Federal Government can’t do it alone. It is the responsibility of local government and they have allocation for that.

“Access to sanitary facilities remains a mirage to a vast majority of our citizenry. Today, 4.5 billion people in the world live without safe toilets and 892 million people still practice open defecation, as many people still use the bush and water bodies as their regular means for excreta disposal,” he said.

He said the persistent recurrence of annual incidences of cholera outbreak in some of States and the occurrence and recurrence of other excreta-related diseases are also manifestations of inadequate toilet facilities.

Speaking further, the minister noted that the recent declaration of State of Emergency on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in the country by President Muhammadu Buhari was aimed at addressing sanitation challenges, including ending open defecation in the country.

The United Nations General Assembly, in 2013, had separated November 19 of every year to mark World Toilet Day, with a view to raising awareness and inspiring action to tackle global sanitation crisis.

However, Federal Government disclosed that it has concluded all arrangements to sensitize Nigerians during this year’s World Toilet Day.

Source: Samuel Bello, Abuja

3 reasons Americans count on their homes after retirement

However, all home ownership is not created equal, explains Russ Thornton, financial advisor at Wealth Care for Women in Atlanta. For example, if you move often, owning a home outright by age 62 can be challenging. For most people, a 30-year mortgage is the norm. If you plan to retire by 65, then you would have to buy a home by 35 and stay in it to retire mortgage-free.

“Those who keep their homes for years and years and years tend to grow equity, which can be a wealth builder,” says Thornton. “If there’s a reasonably high likelihood that you’re going to stay in the same home for 10 years or more, then you should probably buy. If you move every few years into more expensive houses then you might not get the same benefits from home ownership as those who stay in one place.”

Devising a long-term plan, including what home ownership looks like in retirement, is important, Thornton says. Since the big goal for retirement is to eliminate as many expenses as possible, erasing a monthly housing payment is optimal. In essence, renters who plan on staying in the same general area for years to come should consider buying.

 

1. They can say goodbye to mortgage payments

The twin bridesmaids of finances are income and expenses. When people retire, the money coming in usually shrinks, which means so should the money going out. A mortgage payment is one expense soon-to-be retirees should try to retire before they do.

“If you can be mortgage-free by the time you reach retirement, you’ll be in a good position. Retirees need to reduce their cost of living and owning a home is a good way to do that,” Thornton says.

Mortgage-free retirees can save hundreds or thousands of dollars each month. Even with property insurance, which costs an average of $93 per month, and taxes, the cost of owning a home is often less than renting.

Not only can retirees save on their housing costs, they can also make money on their homes. Retirees who travel can earn money while they’re on vacation through sites like Airbnb. Another option to get extra cash flow is to rent a room, Thornton says.

Downsizing can also save you money. Going from a large family home to a cozy condo or smaller house can reduce utility costs as well as allow you to cash out some equity in your home to fatten your nest egg. For people not ready to sell, there are other options that allow you to tap the equity while keeping the house.

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2. They can access home equity, if needed

With working years behind you, having a backup generator of cash is a good thing. There are several ways homeowners can tap the equity in their home without putting up a for-sale sign; two of the most common ways are a cash-out refinance and a home equity line of credit or HELOC.

Equity-rich homeowners who want to lower their mortgage interest rate might consider a cash-out refinance. This increasingly popular option hit peak numbers in the second quarter of this year, reaching $16 billion of equity cashed out, the highest since 2008, according to a report by Freddie Mac.

A cash-out refinance is almost like selling your house to yourself. The bank would cut you a check for the equity, which is the difference between what you owe on the house and the market value. If your home is worth $200,000 and you owe $100,000 then you have $100,000 of equity in the home.

Banks usually limit the amount you get to 80 percent of the total equity. That means with $100,000 in equity, the bank might give you $80,000. The amount you qualify for is usually based on income, credit score and other determining factors.

Now comes the tricky part: when you do a cash-out refinance you’ll get a new mortgage. If your interest rate is high because of poor credit or market conditions and you think you have a chance of getting a lower interest rate with a new mortgage, then a cash-out refinance might be an appealing way to access your equity. However, if your mortgage interest rate increases with a new mortgage then you should consider other options, such as a home equity line of credit, or HELOC.

Something else to keep in mind is the fact that a new mortgage usually means going back to square one if you choose a longer term. If your house is a few years away from being paid off restarting the clock is probably not a good financial move. You’ll end up paying years more in interest and increasing your debt burden.

3. Even with a mortgage, they have liquidity options

For people who want to keep their homes and existing mortgages while tapping their home equity, one alternative is a HELOC.

HELOC lenders use the equity in your home as collateral to extend lines of credit over a fixed amount of time. Like a cash-out refinance, lenders typically cap the credit amount at 80 percent of the total equity. Some places, like Navy Federal Credit Union, go up to 95 percent of the total equity.

The benefits of HELOCs are that you only pay on what you use and the interest is tax deductible if you use it to repair or upgrade your home. For retirees who want to retrofit their homes to make life easier, such as installing stair lifts, grab bars and handrails, a HELOC could be a good way to fund those upgrades and get a tax break.

Before you decide on a lender make sure you understand the terms of the HELOC and any associated fees, says Johnna Camarillo, assistant vice president of equity processing and closing at Navy Federal Credit Union.

Some lenders might charge a service fee or a fee if you have a zero balance. Likewise, some lenders require a balloon payment at the end of the loan, which could put some borrowers in hot water.

Balloon payments are typically large payments owed at the end of a loan. If a borrower hasn’t sufficiently prepared for that payment, then the loan could go into default and you could risk losing your home.

“Before you get a HELOC, ask yourself: can I afford the payments if I max this thing out? Every person is different, so it’s important to look at your budget and not overspend,” Camarillo warns.

Retirees who own their home are going to qualify for a HELOC easier than someone who holds a mortgage, which is beneficial if emergencies come up and you need to borrow a chunk of cash. HELOCs normally have lower interest rates than credit cards or personal loans, making them an attractive option for homeowners.

It’s important to remember that once you use that equity, it will likely take years and even decades to rebuild it.

“Home equity is like a bar of soap — the more you handle it the smaller it gets,” Thornton warns.

Plan ahead for retirement

For folks nearing retirement who still owe on a mortgage, paying off that loan should be high on your list. If you plan on retiring in 10 years, then try to put more money toward your principal or even consider refinancing from a 30-year mortgage into a 15-year mortgage to lower your interest rate and repay the loan faster.

The dual benefits of lowering your living expenses and having access to cash in emergencies are great reasons to sail into retirement without a home loan springing a leak in your budget.

Source: NATALIE CAMPISI

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