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Home buyers could lose big by not working with agent serving them solely -Consumer Federation

A home buyer could lose big money by not working directly with an agent who solely represents them, the Consumer Federation of America warned today.

A couple looking to buy a $200,000 home who contacts an agent representing a seller could overpay to the tune of $10,000 to $20,000 because the agent will ask them how much they can afford to pay to maximize the price, said CFA Senior Fellow Stephen Brobeck.

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As another example, a buyer looking at a home during the summer could be told by an agent solely representing them the house needs to be weatherized to make it comfortable during the summer and keep heating bills down while an agent representing the seller might not give that warning, Brobeck added.

The answers were in response to a report the Consumer Federation released highlighting the problems consumers have in working with reality agents.

While most people believe real estate agents are legally required to represent the interests of the home buyer or seller they are working for, many aren’t, the study warned. The report explained a fiduciary agent for a buyer seeks to help the buyer purchase a desirable house for the lowest sale price.

On the other side of the coin, fiduciary agent for a seller is obligated to help the seller find a buyer who will reliably and timely purchase a house for the highest sale price.

However, often many agents represent both seller and buyer in the same transaction to maximize the commission in the deal.

This can create serious conflicts of interest, including breeches of confidentiality the Consumer Federation cautioned.

However, home buyers and sellers have significant power in getting agents to treat them fairly since there is considerable competition among agents, the report said.

The Consumer Federation recommended a buyer or seller ask an agent before they sign an agreement if the real estate professional will be solely representing their interest throughout the entire home purchase process.

“They should also ask the agent for a completed form that discloses this relationship,” the consumer group said.

Need for cultural shift in social housing provision

Nineteen months after the Grenfell Tower fire, some of the hunger for change catalysed by the terrible events of 14 June 2017 has found an outlet. A reportby the commission on social housing convened by the charity Shelter takes up a number of proposals put forward by the disaster’s survivors. The signs are that the government is listening. Proposals for a new system of regulation in England are expected later this year.

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The commission makes the case for a model based on reforms to the banking sector, a key element of which is that consumers – tenants, in this case – should have their own regulator, distinct from the body tasked with economic oversight. The new organisation, the report argues, should proactively inspect private as well as social landlords, and set clear standards. Barriers to complaint must be removed, no-fault evictions outlawed, and tenancies extended beyond the three years now being considered – as they have been in Scotland. The proposal for a national, independent tenants’ organisation, and enhanced powers for local groups, is also sound. Currently, half of private renters who make complaints are evicted within six months.

Falling rates of ownership and the ballooning housing benefit bill, as well as Grenfell, mean the terms of the housing debate have changed. Among Shelter’s commissioners were former Conservative ministers Lord Jim O’Neill and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who announced at the report’s launch that she has changed her mind. Having previously believed that the market could deliver her party’s vision of a property-owning democracy, she now endorses a vast expansion of public housing.

The recommendation that 3.1m homes should be built in England in the next two decades would see the largest-ever growth of socially rented accommodation. This would provide for all those failed by the market, including 691,000 older people as well as priced-out younger renters, and the 1.27m households “in greatest need”. The commission suggests its 20-year programme would cost an average of £10.7bn a year (reduced to £3.8bn if benefits and taxes are considered).

The proposals for a new regulator and union for tenants should be adopted. The principle that people who will never own their own homes should be entitled to a socially rented one is also correct. If the Treasury, under this or any future government, declines to fund the necessary increase, ministers must do all they can to encourage pension funds and other investors to step forward. The provision of high-quality housing to the toughest environmental standards, in mixed communities, is in the national interest, unlike the speculation and rent-seeking that characterise our dysfunctional housing market. If we can one day look back and see that Grenfell led to a cultural shift in the way housing is regarded, and an improvement in the position of tenants, the disaster’s 72 victims will not have died for nothing.

Source: theguardian.com

KATE HENDERSON APPOINTED DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF IFHP

The International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP) is pleased to announce that Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, will assume the role of Deputy President of the Board.

Kate Henderson said:

“As we see affordable housing, changing demographics and social cohesion rise up the political agenda in countries right across the world the International Federation for Housing and Planning has a vital role in sharing experiences and good practice between countries and positively influencing policy at a national and city scale. The IFHP charter on creating better, safer and more inclusive cities for all resonates today more than ever as cities globally will expand with a billion more people by 2030. It is a privilege to become the deputy president of IFHP at this pivotal time.”

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Kate Henderson takes over from Dr. Cheong Koon Hean, CEO of Singapore’s Housing and Development Board (HDB), who has served as IFHP Deputy President since 2016.

President of the Board, Jens Kramer Mikkelsen said:

“It is with great pleasure that we welcome Kate Henderson in her new capacity in IFHP, where she will continue her important contribution towards bringing IFHPs vision of better, greener and more inclusive cities to life.”

Kate Henderson has been on the Board of the IFHP since 2016 and has been involved with the organisation for the past decade through her previous role as Chief Executive of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA). The TCPA and IFHP were both established as part of the Garden City movement by Sir Ebenezer Howard more than a century ago and today the TCPA is the IFHP’s UK national chapter, acting as a national focal point of the IFHP for members and interested individuals in the UK.

Kate Henderson’s new role at the National Housing Federation is also fundamental to the IFHPs two main pillars, housing and planning. The IFHP’s flagship programme, Social Cities, translates the original purpose of IFHP into a platform designed to improve liveability and social cohesion in cities. The Social Cities programme introduces a scalable and adaptable methodology for measuring, designing and implementing socially sustainable solutions in collaboration with citizens, politicians and corporations.

Funded by the Danish foundations, Realdania and the Rambøll Foundation, the Social Cities programme is currently under its inaugural testing with five Danish municipalities and is developed in collaboration with Rambøll Management and the London School of Economics & Political Science.

Speaking about the IFHP Social Cities programme, Kate Henderson said:

“The IFHP Social Cities platform is an excellent tool for bringing local governments, housing and planning professionals, public and private organisations and civil society together in addressing and finding sustainable solutions to the defining challenges of our time.”

The momentum for IFHP Social Cities reaches far beyond the Danish municipalities currently involved and IFHP is inviting more cities internationally to be part of the movement.

Mr. Jens Kramer Mikkelsen, President of the IFHP who has an optimistic outlook on the future of the organisation, added:

“For the IFHP to have a significant sustainability-impact on cities, it needs to scale its programs. Therefore, we are offering our extensive list of members as partners for local governments and developers to make better cities that are designed by people for people.”

About Kate Henderson

Ms. Kate Henderson has an extensive, successful career within the field of housing policy and is a formidable addition to IFHP Board management. For more than a decade, Kate Henderson has been a recognizable voice in British housing policy, where she has worked to engage the highest levels in government in ensuring affordable housing, inclusivity and social justice is at the heart of the housing debate. She became the Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation in England in October 2018 and previous positions include:

  • Visiting Professor at The Bartlett School of Planning (2014- current)
  • Chief Executive of Town and Country Planning Association (2010-2018)

Kate Henderson has also co-authored three books on housing and planning, including ‘Rebuilding Britain: Planning for a Better Future’ and, more recently, ‘The Art of Building a Garden City: Building New Communities for the 21st Century’.

About IFHP

The International Federation for Housing and Planning was inaugurated in London on the 22nd of August 1913 under the Presidency of Ebenezer Howard and Secretaryship of Ewart Culpin. Since then, the purposes and areas of interest of the federation have gradually evolved and expanded, as the headquarters locations have moved 16 times through five countries: UK, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands and now Denmark.

Today, IFHP is a global network of urban professionals who work to make cities better for people. We advocate for people’s roles in cities and for social cohesiveness, as it is our belief that a city cannot function and thrive without inclusivity at all levels. We strive to achieve a combination of local, concrete and implementable actions and global advocacy.

We base our activities on our motto “Better cities for all”. Currently, the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 11 (Make cities more inclusive. safe, resilient and sustainable) and the UN Habitat’s New Urban Agenda, are our most important references when it comes to defining sustainable cities and housing issues. IFHP is an implementation agent of these goals, which means that we explain, translate and concretize the global agendas, by transforming them into practical action on a local scale – through projects, seminars and workshops with relevant partners in various countries.

Source: IFHP

RANKED: The 23 most powerful nations on earth

The US has retained its position as the world’s most powerful nation, despite declining respect for its leadership.

That’s according to US News and World Report, which has released the latest edition of its annual “Best Countries” study.

The media organisation evaluated 80 countries across a range of criteria, including cultural history, citizenship, and quality of life.

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Another key measure was “power,” which determined how economically and politically influential a country was and weighed the strength of its international alliances and military.

More than 21,000 business leaders, informed elites, and general citizens were surveyed with the goal of discovering how nations are perceived on a global scale.

The US was perceived as the most powerful, followed closely by Russia, with the UK coming in fourth. Other countries included Pakistan, Turkey, and Israel.

Scroll down to see the 23 nations seen as most powerful.

23. Qatar — One of several Middle Eastern nations on the list, Qatar is the wealthiest country in the world in terms of gross domestic product per capita thanks to its oil-rich surroundings. Falling oil prices have hit its economy, however, and income slowed in the past year.

23. Qatar — One of several Middle Eastern nations on the list, Qatar is the wealthiest country in the world in terms of gross domestic product per capita thanks to its oil-rich surroundings. Falling oil prices have hit its economy, however, and income slowed in the past year.

22. Spain — “Ascension into the European Union in 1986 was a jump-start to the modernisation of Spain’s infrastructure, industry, and economic policy,” according to US News.

22. Spain —

21. Netherlands — Home to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands plays an important role on the world stage.

21. Netherlands — Home to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands plays an important role on the world stage.

20. Pakistan — Political instability, corruption, and struggles with extremism have hindered Pakistan’s standing in the power ranking. In turn, the nation’s growth has been stunted as its export-driven economy “falls short in attracting foreign investment,” according to US News.

20. Pakistan — Political instability, corruption, and struggles with extremism have hindered Pakistan's standing in the power ranking. In turn, the nation's growth has been stunted as its export-driven economy

19. Sweden — Despite militaristic roots, Sweden has decided against heavily investing in its armed forces in favour of a commitment to human rights and sustainability. Its approach to the well-being of its citizens has earned it respect on the global stage but could contribute to its lack of power.

19. Sweden — Despite militaristic roots, Sweden has decided against heavily investing in its armed forces in favour of a commitment to human rights and sustainability. Its approach to the well-being of its citizens has earned it respect on the global stage but could contribute to its lack of power.

18. Italy — Though Italy faced a tumultuous political year with the shock resignation of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the rebuilding of its government, the country remains on the list while boasting the third-largest economy in the eurozone.

18. Italy — Though Italy faced a tumultuous political year with the shock resignation of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the rebuilding of its government, the country remains on the list while boasting the third-largest economy in the eurozone.

17. Australia — Though it placed relatively low for its power and global influence, Australia came in fourth in the quality-of-life category.

17. Australia — Though it placed relatively low for its power and global influence, Australia came in fourth in the quality-of-life category.

16. India — The world’s largest democracy, India was also home to the world’s fastest-growing major economy for most of 2016. But its recent cash crisis has been a blow to its economy, causing the country to lose 11 billionaires and 86% of its circulated cash.

16. India — The world's largest democracy, India was also home to the world's fastest-growing major economy for most of 2016. But its recent cash crisis has been a blow to its economy, causing the country to lose 11 billionaires and 86% of its circulated cash.

15. Switzerland — The small European nation was named the best place in the world to live. It’s the 11th-wealthiest nation in terms of GDP per capita, and it is extremely attractive to businesses thanks to its low corporate tax rates. The United Nations also has one of its main offices in the city of Geneva.

15. Switzerland — The small European nation was named the best place in the world to live. It's the 11th-wealthiest nation in terms of GDP per capita, and it is extremely attractive to businesses thanks to its low corporate tax rates. The United Nations also has one of its main offices in the city of Geneva.

14. Iran — Iran “has long been of interest to global powers because of its strategic location within the Middle East and its abundant supply of oil and other natural resources,” according to US News. The nation holds a whopping 9% of the world’s oil reserves.

14. Iran — Iran

13. Turkey — Turkey is the gateway between the Middle East and the European Union, and the relationship between the two bodies is increasingly important as conflict rages in nearby countries. In September, British Secretary of State Boris Johnson said Britain would support Turkey’s long-fought bid to join the EU, but an increasingly tense relationship between Turkey and several EU nations could hinder its progress.

13. Turkey — Turkey is the gateway between the Middle East and the European Union, and the relationship between the two bodies is increasingly important as conflict rages in nearby countries. In September, British Secretary of State Boris Johnson said Britain would support Turkey's long-fought bid to join the EU, but an increasingly tense relationship between Turkey and several EU nations could hinder its progress.

12. Canada — Canada was named the second-best country to live in by US News, but its power didn’t quite match, even though it is the US’s largest trade partner.

12. Canada — Canada was named the second-best country to live in by US News, but its power didn't quite match, even though it is the US's largest trade partner.

11. South Korea — A contentious relationship with its isolated neighbour in the north means South Korea often receives military and political support from the world’s superpowers. It is one of the world’s largest reserves of foreign investment and is also the world’s sixth-largest exporter.

11. South Korea — A contentious relationship with its isolated neighbour in the north means South Korea often receives military and political support from the world's superpowers. It is one of the world's largest reserves of foreign investment and is also the world's sixth-largest exporter.

10. United Arab Emirates — The UAE is one of the world’s largest importers of arms and, after Saudi Arabia, has the second-largest defence budget of any of the Arab states.

10. United Arab Emirates — The UAE is one of the world's largest importers of arms and, after Saudi Arabia, has the second-largest defence budget of any of the Arab states.

9. Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves have allowed the country to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the Middle East. The gulf state has long been viewed as a close ally of the US, the UK, and other Western nations.

9. Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia's oil reserves have allowed the country to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the Middle East. The gulf state has long been viewed as a close ally of the US, the UK, and other Western nations.

8. Israel — For a country with a population of just over 8 million, Israel has an outsize influence on the world stage. Despite its ongoing Palestinian conflict, the Jewish nation has a strong economy and a high level of education and per capita income for its citizens.

8. Israel — For a country with a population of just over 8 million, Israel has an outsize influence on the world stage. Despite its ongoing Palestinian conflict, the Jewish nation has a strong economy and a high level of education and per capita income for its citizens.

7. Japan — One of the most technologically advanced nations, Japan boasts the world’s third-largest economy, having recovered from the 2011 tsunami that shattered its infrastructure and manufacturing.

7. Japan — One of the most technologically advanced nations, Japan boasts the world's third-largest economy, having recovered from the 2011 tsunami that shattered its infrastructure and manufacturing.

6. France — With a GDP per capita of $42,384 (£34,581), France boasts one of the largest economies in Europe and is one of the world’s top exporters of weapons. Its influence extends around the world “through its science, politics, economics and perhaps above all, culture,” US News writes.

6. France — With a GDP per capita of $42,384 (£34,581), France boasts one of the largest economies in Europe and is one of the world's top exporters of weapons. Its influence extends around the world

5. Germany — Often seen as the economic powerhouse of Europe, the continent’s most populous nation has seen its role on the world stage become increasingly important since reunification in 1990.

5. Germany — Often seen as the economic powerhouse of Europe, the continent's most populous nation has seen its role on the world stage become increasingly important since reunification in 1990.

4. United Kingdom — “The United Kingdom is a highly developed nation that exerts considerable international economic, political, scientific and cultural influence,” US News writes. While it isn’t known how its expected exit from the European Union would affect the country’s standing, the nation seems to have so far withstood the shock of the referendum result.

4. United Kingdom —

3. China — The rise of China is quite remarkable. Home to 1.4 billion people, the country already has the world’s largest military, and experts predict it will be the world’s largest economy by 2050.

3. China — The rise of China is quite remarkable. Home to 1.4 billion people, the country already has the world's largest military, and experts predict it will be the world's largest economy by 2050.

2. Russia — Russia capitalised on its natural resources to become one of the world’s wealthiest nations. Its military spending as a percentage of its GDP continues to outstrip that of countries within NATO by a considerable distance. It currently spends 5.4% of its annual GDP on defence — the closest a NATO country comes by comparison is the US, which spends 3.3%.

2. Russia — Russia capitalised on its natural resources to become one of the world's wealthiest nations. Its military spending as a percentage of its GDP continues to outstrip that of countries within NATO by a considerable distance. It currently spends 5.4% of its annual GDP on defence — the closest a NATO country comes by comparison is the US, which spends 3.3%.RIA Novosti/Reuters

1. United States — Nearly 75% of respondents said they lost “some respect” for US leadership after the 2016 presidential election, but the country is still ranked the most powerful. Its economic, political, cultural, and artistic influence shapes the world, and a mammoth defence budget of about $600 billion (£494 billion) and its leading economy put it at the top.

1. United States — Nearly 75% of respondents said they lost

50% of the world’s poor live in 5 countries

Of the world’s 736 million extreme poor in 2015, 368 million—half of the total—lived in just 5 countries. The 5 countries with the highest number of extreme poor are (in descending order): India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh.

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They also happen to be the most populous countries of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the two regions that together account for 85 percent (629 million) of the world’s poor. Therefore, to make significant continued progress towards the global target of reducing extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.90 a day) to less than 3 percent by 2030, large reductions in poverty in these five countries will be crucial.

However, we mustn’t lose sight of the numerous other countries with high poverty rates. As poverty projections to 2030 for these five countries reveal, uneven outcomes are likely.

When projections are based on countries growing in line with past growth rates (the regional average over the last ten years), extreme poverty in India and Bangladesh approaches zero by 2030 but extreme poverty in Nigeria, DRC, and Ethiopia remains quite elevated.

The uneven progress across these 5 countries is indicative of the broader uneven progress globally. An outcome where extreme poverty is nearly eliminated throughout the world except in one region, sub-Saharan Africa, certainly does not portray a picture of a world free of poverty. As emphasized in the Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report 2018, we should go beyond the focus on reducing the global poverty rate to below 3 percent and strive to ensure that all countries and all people can share in the benefits of economic development.

What you most know about investing in real estate in 2019

Despite the negative narratives on Nigerian real estate market, especially about the growing vacancy rates, negative growth, falling contribution to GDP, etc, it remains a major and irresistible investment asset class.

The market is estimated at N4.7 trillion with a yearly demand of 1 million housing units where only an estimated 100,000 units are supplied, meaning that opportunities are limitless.

The market fundamentals are clear and compelling. Demographics and consumer purchasing power are strong, but people-issue or population is stronger. Nigeria has a large number of people who are very aspirational. The median age here is estimated at 19 years while the average age is 27.

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This means that the country has about 75 million people between the age of 16 and 27, implying that  the future is bright because all these people have to live, work, eat and play; they also have go to school and hospital somewhere and real estate envelopes all these and provision has to be made for them.

The implication of this is that the opportunities are there but these opportunities, according to experts, exist for investors who have the patience, and are ready to listen to, and dimension the market to understand what the market really wants and at what price.

There are particular segments of this market that investors can invest in and reap profitably this new year and these include the short-let apartments, co-working spaces, student housing and small-sized multi-family units apartments.

Short-let apartments in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja have grown in popularity and according to Ayo Ibaru, a director at Northcourt Real Estate, “this growth is partly driven by the tepid return of expatriate technicians and the influence of Airbnb”, explaining that Nigeria became the fastest growing market in Africa for Airbnb, the platform that allows property owners earn income on their residential assets, growing by over 200 percent in the last five years.

To meet the growing demand in this segment of the market, landlords in prime locations are converting their assets to this use and are enjoying occupancy rates higher than standard residential building.

The vacancy factor in the prime residential market has been quite high in recent time. The rates in the standard residential apartments have hovered around their H1 2018 figures with Ikoyi recording 30 percent, Ikeja GRA, 26 percent, and Oniru, 33 percent among the highest.

Figures from a Northcourt Real Estate recent outlook report for 2019 shows that GRAs 1, 2 and 3 in Port Harcourt recorded vacancy rates of 6 percent, 11 percent and 20 percent respectively and continue to show potential principally for their security advantages when compared to most parts of the city.

Co-working space is coming up thick and investment opportunity here is huge. Demand which is driven mostly by millennials and start-up community is growing exponentially. This is despite Grade A office vacancy rates which remain high with existing 400,000 square metres stock of office space and over 40,000 square metres expected in the market in the new year.

“Millennial and the start-ups community continue to drive up the demand for co-working spaces with service providers seeking to convince traditional large-scale employers of the benefits of co-working just as corporates are in conversations geared towards putting up underutilised space for co-working use”, Ibaru confirmed.

Student housing is emerging investment frontier that guarantees investors high yields and stable cash-flow. “This investment asset gives about 22 percent returns which are more than double what commercial real estate gives, not to talk of residential real estate which gives 4-5 percent returns per annum.  For this reason, we are encouraging other developers to come in”, Abaypmi Onasanya said.

Munachi Okoye, CEO, MCO Real Estate, affirms. He explained that demand for this asset class is chiefly driven by the widening gap between a growing student population and little or no accommodation supply, especially in public schools.  “The ability to sign a long lease on land belonging to a higher institution or acquiring land adjoining a higher institution, building and charging a ready pool of student off-takers a market rent with 100  per  cent  occupancies  leading  to  a  stable  cash-flow,  sounds  like  a  real  estate developer’s dream”, he noted.

The increase in student population is a reflection of the national population growth which, as at October 31,2018, according to United Nations estimates, was 197.4 million-an equivalent of 2.5 percent of the total world population. The country’s annual growth rate is estimated at 2.6 percent.

Another profitable area for investors in 2019 is the small-size apartments including studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. Market research shows that demand here is huge but supply is sparse.

“This is one area of housing where there is a huge gap which is not being addressed. Over 60 percent of people who are looking for houses to rent today are not looking for 3 or 4-bedroom apartments, but 1 and2-bedroom”, MKO Balogun, CEO, Global PFI, confirmed in an interview.

The demand in this sub-market is such that any available supply is taken up within one month of entering the market. Periwinkles Investment’s multti-units Oxygen Apartments comprising mainly 2-bedroom apartments sold out in two weeks of launching into the market.

African Capital Alliance is developing over 500-unit Blue Water Lagos in collaboration with Elalan Construction. The first phase of the development comprising 119 apartments is almost 40 percent sold out still at topping out stage.

These underscore the level of demand for this class of assets and, according to experts, the demand will continue to grow because “the economic recession which the country went through between 2016 and 2017 left hard lessons for families whose basic needs including housing and accommodation have to be redefined, with a lot of them favouring smaller housing units”.

 

Power, interest rate, others slowed business in 2018 — CBN

Business activities were slowed down by an insufficient power supply, high-interest rates and other challenges in 2018 financial period.

This was disclosed in the ‘monthly business expectations survey report’ by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Statistics Department in December 2018.

The CBN, in the report, stated that “firms identified insufficient power supply, high-interest rates, unfavourable economic climate, financial problems, unclear economic laws, unfavourable political climate, and insufficient demand as the major factors constraining business activity in the current month.”

It, however, added that the respondent firms expected the naira to appreciate, and inflation and borrowing rates to rise in January 2019.

The highlights of the outcome of the business expectations survey in December 2018 also showed that respondent firms expressed more optimism on the macroeconomy in December 2018.

It stated that respondents’ outlook on the volume of the total order, business activity and financial conditions (working capital) were positive during the review period, and more optimistic when compared with the previous month.

The December survey was carried out from December 10 to 14, 2018, with a sample size of 1,050 businesses nationwide.

A response rate of 98.6 per cent was achieved, and the sample covered the services, industry, wholesale/retail trade, and construction sectors.

The respondent firms were made up of small, medium and large organisations covering both import- and export-oriented businesses.

Respondents’ outlook on the volume of total order and business activity in December 2018 remained positive, as the index stood at 22.9 and 22.7 points, respectively when compared to 17.4 and 18.7 points, respectively recorded in the previous month.

Equally, respondents’ outlook on financial conditions (working capital) and average capacity utilisation improved as the indices stood at 21.4 and 25.5 index points, when compared with the 13.0 and 20.8 points, respectively recorded in November 2018.

Respondents were relatively more optimistic about the access to credit in the review month, with an index of 2.2 points.

All sectors except the construction sector expressed optimism on own operations in December 2018.

Respondents from the construction sector expressed comparatively less optimism on own operations in the review month with an index of 0.0 points, when compared with the 0.1 points reported in November 2018.

The most expensive cities in South Africa in 2019: Joburg vs Cape Town vs Pretoria

Data group Numbeo and expat portal Expatistan have published their Cost of Living indices for 2019, listing the cheapest and most expensive cities to live in across the globe.

The indices compare the cost of living across the world relative to a reference city – New York City for Numbeo and Prague for Expatistan – which has an index score of 100 (100%). The index looks at the relative costs across several categories, including rent, the cost of food, transport and entertainment.

It also takes the local purchasing power into account.

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If another city has, for example, a rent index of 120, it means that on an average in that city, rents are 20% more expensive than in New York City. If a city has a rent index of 70, that means on an average in that city, rents are 30% less expensive than in New York City.

Numbeo’s index assesses 433 cities, while Expatistan looks at 327 cities.

In the Numbeo Index, Swiss cities rank as the most expensive in the world, with prices up to 30% higher than in New York – while Indian cities rank as being some of the cheapest, with prices less than a fifth of those in New York.

With Expatistan, relative to Prague many US cities are ranked as being the most expensive, with Swiss cities also featuring. The trend of Indian cities being cheapest, however, is consistent on both lists, although the Ukraine, Argentina, Turkey and Mexico also feature.

South African cities

South African cities rank in the middle, globally, with Pretoria ranked as the most expensive city in the country on both indices.

Johannesburg is ranked second, and Cape Town third, with Port Elizabeth fourth on Numbeo’s index and Durban fifth. In the Expatistan rankings, Port Elizabeth and Durban are switched around.

#NumbeoExpatistan
1PretoriaPretoria
2JohannesburgJohannesburg
3Cape TownCape Town
4Port ElizabethDurban
5DurbanPort Elizabeth

Cost of living in SA

The rankings list specific data on the cost of living in South African cities.

The table below covers five categories (transport, rent, salaries, utilities and entertainment) which contain the average prices across all four major cities covered by Numbeo and Expatistan.

CityAverage disposable salaryMonthly transport costsRent for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centreBasic utilitiesMeal for two people at a restaurant
PretoriaR15 481R1 200R4 897R1 273R500
JohannesburgR18 126R700R6 281R1 395R500
Cape TownR16 306R370R10 709R1 009R500
DurbanR15 124R350R4 839R1 093R400
Port ElizabethR11 833R460R3 727R1 152R400

The graphs below outline how the average salary is portioned across South Africa’s major cities.

Pretoria

Johannesburg

Cape Town

Durban

Port Elizabeth

 

NIESV to partner varsity on training

The Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Abuja chapter is to establish linkage with the University of Abuja for manpower development of its members.

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In a statement by the chairman of the branch, Mr. Charles Oghenero Ebiai, the move will help to provide professional trainings to current and future practitioners as a way to ensure that they meet the demands of the society.

He also called on practitioners and members to commit to professional standards by ensuring that they carry out their duties in line with the ethics of the profession, and to work towards the advancement of humanity through accurate valuation and timely delivery of projects.

He charged practitioners to at all times seek to uphold the ethics of practice in all that they do.

“We must shun all forms of violations of standards,” he said.

Source: Victor Gbonegun

UK Housing Review of the year – 2018

Housing was once again firmly at the top of the news agenda in 2018.

The fallout from last year’s Grenfell Tower tragedy still dominated the headlines, with the inquiry into the fire opening and Dame Judith Hackitt releasing her controversial report into building regulations.

We also found the extent to which cladding similar to that which encased Grenfell has been used on hundreds of blocks up and down the country. The battle to have these removed is still raging, and could go well into next year.

But it wasn’t just Grenfell that exercised the minds of the housing sector. The year also saw the publishing of the Social Housing Green Paper, the government document which may – at long last – signal a change of attitude from Westminster when it comes to how it deals with the sector.

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That change of attitude has already been reflected in the introduction of strategic partnerships with housing associations and the scrapping of the borrowing cap for local authorities. Of course, both initiatives are squarely aimed at one goal: reversing the trend of decreasing housing numbers.

We won’t know how successful these strategies have been for some time. Nor will we know if the Homelessness Reduction Act has made any impact on the all-too-visible rise in homelessness and rough sleeping.

But, as with so much, 2019 might be the year when answers to these questions start to reveal themselves.
Below, our team of journalists reflect on another busy – and at times difficult – year:

The Social Housing Green Paper

As the year began, the government continued its series of ‘roadshows’, asking tenants about what should be in its forthcoming Green Paper. While these were held behind closed doors, Inside Housing obtained a letter from then housing minister Alok Sharma revealing concern from tenants about issues including the level of so-called ‘affordable rents’.

But before the roadshows were complete Mr Sharma hit the road in a different way – reshuffled out of his job and into the Department for Work and Pensions. In his place came Dominic Raab, who carried out the last roadshow and continued to work behind the scenes on drafting the policy document which Sajid Javid, the communities secretary hadpromised would be the “most substantial report of its kind for a generation”.

But then Mr Javid left too – moving to the Home Office to take over when Amber Rudd fell on the sword marked Windrush scandal. He was replaced by James Brokenshire, and we entered a period of promises made and promises broken over when the paper would be published. Behind the scenes – Inside Housing understands – the revolving door of ministers tinkered with the content, each seeking to put their own stamp on the document.

In July Inside Housing learned one of the key measures would be the introduction of ‘league tables’ of social housing providers. In August, this was confirmed when the 76-page document was finally released.

It contained the league table suggestion, as expected, as well a promise to give the regulator sharper teeth to act on residents’ concerns – teeth which, it must be noted, were removed by Grant Shapps in 2010 as the coalition government’s “bonfire of the Quangos” raged.

The paper received a lukewarm response. Its measures to tackle stigma were flimsy (street parties). The opposition and the national media attacked it for lacking muscular policies to build new social homes. The housing association sector frothed over the potential negative consequences of league tables. Grenfell survivors slammed it for not going far enough.

As summer receded into autumn, the consultation opened and closed on November 5. We now await the findings and the next steps. Behind the scenes, experts say the regulator is adamant that consumer regulation will become a much bigger part of its role and is evidencing this already in recent judgements.

The next step is the official response to the consultation from ministers. But with Whitehall’s gears now chronically clogged with Brexit, the story of the year mirrors a script by Harold Pinter – halting dialogue, a cast of the powerless, and a plot which ends in the same place it began.

Development: Homes England’s strategic partnerships

Nick Walkley, chief executive of Homes England, is spearheading the new delivery of a new house building programme

The dawning of the new year also saw the birth of a new delivery body for the government’s housebuilding programme: Homes England.

More important than a name change for the erstwhile Homes and Communities Agency was a fresh approach to development. As revealed by Inside Housing in January, Homes England launched its strategic partnership project, which chief executive Nick Walkley described as a move away from a “parent and child” relationship with housing associations.

Mirroring the approach taken in London by the mayor’s office, these partnerships would see the government body help with land assembly and financing, as well as grant.
The first wave of partnerships was announced in July, with eight associations or groups of associations sharing £590m and a promise to build more than 14,000 affordable homes by 2022.

A further eight partners were named in October, with a funding pot of £653m from the government’s Affordable Homes Programme.

The change in approach seemed to mirror a new phase of the relationship between government and housing associations. This was never more evident than at September’s National Housing Federation (NHF) annual summit at which Theresa May gave the keynote speech.

The prime minister gave her backing to the strategic partnership model, but challenged associations to use government support to build more homes. She also announced an extra £2bn of funding for the post-2022 Affordable Homes Programme.

However, that speech came against a backdrop of falling delivery. At the same summit, the NHF released research showing that soaring land costs had driven down the number of new homes its members were completing.

With the spectre of Brexit looming over the country – and build costs likely to be hit hardest by a no-deal outcome – only time will tell whether the government’s rhetoric will be matched by reality in 2019.

Diversity among social housing leadership teams, or the lack thereof, has been one of the major topics of 2018 and in January Inside Housing launched a new Inclusive Futures campaign to shine a spotlight on the issue further.

Inclusive Futures research showed the scale of the challenge facing the sector when it came to inclusive leadership teams. Just 4.5% of executive teams were BME. The figures also revealed just three out of 64 associations to respond were led by a BME chief executive, while just 34% of chief executives were female, 1% had a disability and just 1.6% of board members were LGBT.

We set the sector a five-step challenge to ensure an inclusive future, including prioritising inclusion, collecting data on the diversity of the workforce and setting targets for recruitment from under-represented groups.

Inside Housing also pledged action, including taking forward the Women In Housing Awards, convening the first ever Inside Housing Inclusive Futures Summit in October and publishing the first in a series of diversity audits of our own coverage. In June we published our first ever BME leaders list.

Several housing associations pledged to adopt the Rooney Rule, which obliges them to shortlist women and BME candidates for senior roles, while the first batch of graduates completed the Leadership 2025 programme, which aims to help BME leaders into senior positions and is sponsored by L&Q, Optivo, BME London and supported by the mayor of London

Grenfell Inquiry

Dany Cotton, commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, gave evidence to the inquiry

 

The Grenfell Inquiry began in May with heart-wrenching testimonies from friends and relatives of the victims.

As the inquiry progressed, detailed expert reports were released, which bought to light new facts about the deficiencies with the tower’s refurbishment.

Then came months of cross-examination of the firefighters who battled the blaze. This period of the inquiry was painful – the scrutiny of how the London Fire Brigade dealt with the fire, how well prepared it was for a major disaster and how useful its equipment had been was clearly necessary, but it was tough on the men and women called to answer for these failings, many of whom were battling their own trauma from the night.

Nonetheless, when it concluded we knew a lot more about the failure of the stay put advice and the apparent lack of information which led to it being issued, the poor communications equipment firefighters relied on, and the lack of knowledge or preparation in the force for a cladding fire like Grenfell.

“During closing statements, corporate participants pushed the blame around or refused to speak at all”

Then came the testimonies of survivors. These were, if anything, even harder to hear. They did expose though the extent of failure in some key aspects of the building’s refurbishment which may have contributed to the spread of the fire. There was evidence of endemic problems with fire doors and extensive complaints about new windows which have been blamed for letting the fire in and out.

More evidence followed in recent weeks, including from Robert Black, chief executive of the Kensington and Chelsea Management Organisation (KCTMO), who compounded some of the anger against his organisation by revealing that he sat on information needed by firefighters for two hours without forwarding it, and spent some of the night preparing for media questions the next day.

During closing statements, corporate participants pushed the blame around or refused to speak at all, while survivors called on the chair to issue robust interim findings and expressed anger at senior members of the fire service.

We close the year in the knowledge that the inquiry will not return for its second phase until 2020 – a lengthy delay and one that has sparked fear among some that justice could be denied.

Rising Stars

The annual Inside Housing/Chartered Institute of Housing Rising Stars competition, which showcases the talent and commitment of up-and-coming housing professionals, was revamped in 2018.

Ten shortlisted candidates wrote blogs for Inside Housing, took part in a live Twitter chat and faced off in a public vote. The finalists then participated in a round table debate with judges and sector leaders.

After a fierce competition, Oliver Harling, a trainee surveyor at Irwell Valley Housing Association, emerged as the winner.

Movers and shakers

Kate Henderson was appointed chief executive of the National Housing Federation

There were several high-profile appointments and moves among senior executives in the sector in 2018.

David Orr brought his 13-year reign as chief executive of the National Housing Federation to an end when he stepped down in September.

In June, the NHF announced that Mr Orr’s replacement would be Kate Henderson, chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association. Ms Henderson was described in June in an Inside Housing profile as “a passionate advocate of garden cities who has not been shy to criticise government”.

Jo Boaden announced her retirement as Northern Housing Consortium chief executive in December and will be succeeded in 2019 by her deputy Tracy Harrison.

Clarion Housing Group had no less than three chief executives in 2018. Long-serving CEO Keith Exford retired at the end of March, handing over the reins to Midland Heart boss Ruth Cooke. However in a shock move just five months into her tenure, Ms Cooke announced her resignation from the role, citing “personal reasons”. Clare Miller, director of governance and compliance, took over as chief executive.

Elsewhere there were new chief executives for several large housing associations, including Catalyst, Southern, Midland Heart, Sovereign and Gentoo, while David Bennett announced he will be standing down as chief executive of Sanctuary after 27 years in January, to be succeeded by chief financial officer Craig Moule.

Exclusive Inside Housing research in October revealed 44 chief executives of the largest housing associations in the UK have left their role since January 2015, taking with them 511 years of experience.

The borrowing cap scrap

One of the major housing policy announcements last year waschancellor Philip Hammond’s deal to allow councils to bid for £1bn of additional borrowing capacity for housebuilding.

In 2018, the government went one better. At the Conservative Party conference in October, Theresa May used her keynote speech to announce that the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing cap would be scrapped altogether.

The HRA cap had set individual limits on local authorities’ ability to borrow for investment in new homes since 2012.

The prime minister’s announcement was warmly welcomed – particularly by Lord Gary Porter, chair of the Local Government Association, who told Inside Housing it was “the single biggest change in social housing since Thatcher”.

Behind the scenes, some in the sector remain wary, concerned that there may still be onerous strings attached to the new borrowing freedoms.

“The single biggest change in social housing since Thatcher” Lord Gary Porter on the axing of the cap

However, the HRA cap was abolished less than a month later on the 30 October, with loans then only subject to the same prudential rules as other local authority borrowing.

It was all quite a surprise – though arguably, this policy had been coming for some time. As Inside Housing reported in July, bids for the pot offered by Mr Hammond had flooded in over the summer. Applications eventually easily surpassed the £1bn mark, and ministers have said the level of demand for this programme was instrumental in the decision to scrap the cap.

Furthermore, a number of councils – led by Stoke-on-Trent, Sheffield and Newark and Sherwood – had been in talks with the government over expanding their HRA debt capacities since early 2017, and had been met with definite interest from ministers.

Of course, this is all about housebuilding numbers, and the big question now will be whether town halls can deliver on ambitious promises. Estimates on how many extra council homes can be built in the absence of borrowing restrictions vary from just 9,000 to around 100,000. The main sticking point is likely to be capacity: building hundreds or thousands of homes from virtually a standing start is far from easy.

Homelessness

The Homelessness Reduction Act came into force in England in April, conferring duties on local authorities to prevent homelessness. As a result, councils are now required to assess more homeless applications, provide more advice services and support people to enter or remain in stable accommodation for a longer period.

In July we looked in depth at how two councils were responding to the challenge, while official figures in December showed councils haveaccepted homelessness duties for more than 65,000 households in the first three months after the law came into effect.

Despite the new law, many councils found it a struggle to house people, and we revealed in August that 290 councils spent nearly £1bn on temporary accommodation in 2017/18.

In December we uncovered figures suggesting Universal Credit is making people homeless

Wales

2018 saw a number of firsts in Welsh housing policy, including the launch of Rent to Own in February- a government-backed home ownership initiative for Welsh housing associations –and, in a victory for Inside Housing’s Homes for Cathy campaign, the announcement in February of a Housing First programme to combat homelessness.

The Welsh government’s housing regulation team also published its first ever ‘lessons learned’ report in December following intervention in Cardiff Community Housing Association in March.

It was a busy year on the housing front for the Welsh government, which announced an overhaul of its grant regime in October.

Ministers ditched plans for one huge grant programme incorporating housing and non-housing funds, after concerns were raised that this could lead to Supporting People funding being diverted elsewhere.

The Welsh government finished the year with an announcement thatthe rent settlement for 2019/20 would allow landlords to increase rents by inflation only.

Also in the headlines in 2018 was housing association Trivallis, which is introducing a modified version of Living Rent for its tenants.

The impact of the Grenfell Tower fire on the country’s other high-rise blocks and their cladding systems would be a persistent theme of 2018.

In January the government’s Building Safety Programme had identified 299 buildings with aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding – by the end of the year that number would rise to 441.

It emerged that private leaseholders could face bills of tens of thousands of pounds as freeholders and developers refused to act and pay for the work.

In March, residents at the Citiscape tower block in Croydon were told they would have to pay £2m to re-clad the block after losing a property tribunal case. It was a similar story for blocks in London, Manchester and Leeds.

Barratt would become the first developer to offer to cover the costs of re-cladding in April, when it agreed to foot the £2m for work on Citiscape. Only a handful of other companies would follow suit.

For the majority of blocks action would be slow, with 243 private blocks still yet to see their cladding removed.

Councils and housing associations were faced with paying for the removal of cladding from nearly 160 of their blocks at the start of the year.

Mr Brokenshire finally brought in legislation banning combustible materials from high rises. He also vowed to provide financial support to local authorities to accelerate remediation work on private blocks

Under mounting pressure, prime minister Theresa May announced a£400m fund to pay for the removal of ACM cladding on social housing blocks.

In October, 31 housing associations received £116m and 12 local authorities were handed £132m to pay for the work.

Many of those who wanted to see firmer action taken on cladding were pinning their hopes on Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations, which was eventually published in May. However, it failed to include a recommendation for an outright ban on combustible cladding and was labelled a “whitewash” by critics. The government nevertheless announced in December it was to implement the recommendations in full.

In a dramatic twist hours after the report’s publication, housing secretary James Brokenshire announced he would consult on an outright ban of combustible materials despite no mention of such a ban in the review.

It was not until November that Mr Brokenshire finally brought in legislation banning combustible materials from high rises. He also vowed to provide financial support to local authorities to accelerate remediation work on private blocks.

However, questions have been raised over the effectiveness of both moves. Councils have said it could still take months or years for work to start, and freeholders would still likely force leaseholders to foot the bill.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee said the ban did not go far enough and needed to cover all existing and planned high-rise blocks.

Scotland

In Scotland, social landlords debated the ability of the sector to achieve the Holyrood government’s stated aim of building 50,000 affordable homes by 2021, with 35,000 at social rents. The government continued to pump money into the building of new homes. It also pledged to install sprinklers, in contrast to the government south of the border.

Meanwhile, in a bid to cut homelessness, Scottish ministers backed an expansion of the Housing First scheme, which seeks housing for rough sleepers and then builds in support around it.

In Glasgow, there was consternation over the planned eviction of asylum seekers from temporary accommodation in the city by outsourcing giant Serco.

It was a busy year for the regulator north of the border: it consulted on a new framework and flexed its muscles several times, intervening in a number of problem cases.

The rise of REITS and the First Priority saga

It was the second month of 2018 when investment funds with a newfound interest in social housing took their first hit.

After growing rapidly throughout 2017, real estate investment trusts (REITs) like Civitas and Triple Point, along with private equity investors like Henley, Equitix and Gravis Capital, seemed like they were in a strong position.

Interest from the stock market was still keen and funds were splashing the cash on supported living units leased to small housing associations across the UK.

In February, however, came a bolt from the blue. The Regulator of Social Housing declared that one of the funds’ larger housing association partners, First Priority, was non-compliant with its standards for financial viability and had a “fundamental failure of governance”.

The work to save First Priority began almost immediately and we now know that the housing association almost became insolvent in March thanks to unsustainable deals it had signed with investors. Inside Housing revealed this and more of the inside story of First Priority in an in-depth investigation last month.

First Priority’s crisis swiftly had an effect on the REITs’ share prices, even those that weren’t directly involved in the troubled association.Triple Point and Civitas both saw their share prices fall in April.

A couple of other REITs attempted to launch in the social housing space at around this time, with one of them, Fundamentum, warning as it did so: “There will be another First Priority.”

Fundamentum, however, failed to raise any money, with experts on the market telling Inside Housing it had picked the wrong time to enter the lease-based social housing space.

First Priority’s crisis swiftly had an effect on REITs’ share prices, even those that weren’t directly involved in the troubled association

At the same time, the regulator expanded its investigations into this sector-within-a-sector, writing to dozens of other housing associations with business models similar to First Priority, warning of “conflicts of interest”.

Starting in May, the regulator began putting lease-based housing associations on its ‘grading under review’ list, meaning they may be in breach of its standards on governance or financial viability.

In June, another REIT – Horizon – attempted to launch, but missed its fundraising target as well, with interest from the stock market still low.

Once the summer was over, however, activity from investors began to pick up, with Triple Point raising £100m on the stock market in October.

REITs and private equity funds alike continued to buy up properties,even leasing them to an association still under investigation by the regulator.

More and more housing associations were added to the regulator’s list over the summer, before it dropped another bombshell in November. Trinity Housing Association, it said, was non-compliant with standards on governance and financial viability. Another association,Westmoreland, followed soon after.

Two other housing associations remain on the regulator’s list, with judgements expected on both before too long.

This wasn’t the only outlet for private equity’s newfound interest in social housing, however; 2018 also saw the entrance of the world’s largest property investor, Blackstone, into the social housing sector.

Blackstone bought a registered provider of social housing, Sage, whilethe huge institutional investor Legal & General set up its own landlord.

Rumours abound in the financial markets of massive interest in setting up similar for-profit registered providers. Given the size of the funds already getting stuck into the sector, the scale of ambition here should not be underestimated. This is definitely a trend to keep an eye on in the new year.

Northern Ireland

How long could society continue to function without a government? It sounds like an essay title in an undergraduate political theory exam, but it is also an experiment that Northern Ireland has been living out for two consecutive years.

The power-sharing agreement between the unionist DUP and republican Sinn Féin collapsed in January 2017 and remains deadlocked, with the country passing the world record for longest period without a government in September.

As a consequence, this year has been one of little policy progress in the world of Northern Irish social housing – a policy devolved to a government which does not exist. In January, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) was required to put a contingency plan in place after the collapse of Carillion, with which it had a huge heating contract.

But later the story turned to the future of the NIHE itself. The giant landlord, which manages the country’s 86,500 social homes, revealed it faced a ‘perfect storm’ of funding pressure and political uncertainty which could lead it to effectively abandoning half of these homes to disrepair. The organisation wants to convert itself or transfer stock to become more like a housing association and therefore gain the freedom to invest – but without political leadership, this will continue to stall.

Elsewhere, housing associations started developing offsite schemes and private rented housing – and there was a focus on more mixed-tenure development.

But it was political uncertainty that was the dominant theme of the year, with the lack of a government meaning there was no mechanism to stop the bedroom tax impacting many more households despite a political commitment that it would not apply, nor to take the measures necessary to take housing associations off the national balance sheet.

The sector will be eager for more certainty next year.

 

The leaseholders stuck in buildings with Grenfell-style cladding

There are almost 300 private buildings around the country with Grenfell-style aluminium cladding, including 205 residential blocks.
Leaseholders face fears over fire and, in many cases, crippling bills to fund its removal.
This week the Housing Podcast visits two of these sites to ask what happens next.

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