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Dollar buyers are the winners as prime London property tumbles

The cost of property in London’s most expensive neighborhoods tumbled in 2018, with buyers using the U.S. dollar making the largest savings.

Analysis of three prime property areas in the city suggested that sold house prices at the top end of the London market averaged around 6 percent less in 2018 from the year before.

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New data published by real estate analysis firm LonRes also revealed that more than half of properties had to fall in price before managing to achieve a sale.

Moreover, during 2018’s fourth quarter those buying top London property in U.S. dollars are estimated to have averaged a 36 percent saving compared to 2014’s peak prices. The value of sterling has fallen sharply with a steep drop in value shortly after the result of the 2016 referendum on the U.K.’s membership of the European Union (EU).

Roughly £2.9 billion ($3.7 billion) of housing stock was sold in the prime central London area in 2018 compared to £3.5 billion in 2017.

Meanwhile, transactions in the fourth quarter of 2018 were down 13 percent, compared to the same period in 2017.

Brexit, the U.K.’s exit from the EU, was cited by some 69 percent of agents who answered the survey as the root of the slowdown in 2018. Almost half said Brexit would remain the biggest drag to demand in the year ahead.


Home ownership: Most Americans aspire to own their own homes

Owning a home is still very much part of the American dream with those who have their own property and tenants believing it to be an important aspiration, new research has found.

Some 75% of non-owners believe home ownership is part of the dream while one in 10 current home owners do too, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors.

When non-home owners were asked for the chief reason why they currently do not own a home, most respondents said it was because they were currently unable to afford a mortgage.

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Indeed, NAR data shows that in the last quarter of 2018 some 43% of non-owners said they did not own a home because they were not in a position to purchase, which was down from the third quarter of 2018, when 49% of non-home owners answered the same.

Also in the fourth quarter, 33% of non-home owners said they do not own because current life circumstances are not suitable for ownership, while 16% said they need the flexibility of renting.

In addition, the survey looked at the main reason why non-home owners would buy a home in the future and found that throughout 2018, some 28% to 31% of non-owners each quarter said an improvement in their financial situation would be the top reason that would encourage them to buy a home in the future.

In each quarter 26% to 30% of non-owners said a change in lifestyle, such as getting married, starting a family or retiring, would be the primary reason they would make a future home purchase.

‘However, as the survey confirms, significant lifestyle changes like marriage or starting a family often spur non-owners to pursue home ownership,’ he added.

But he pointed out that while home sales were slightly down in 2018, there is still a sizable pent-up housing demand. ‘Economic growth, interest rates, and the supply of moderately priced homes will dictate how well the real estate industry will do this year,’ Yun said.


£250 million of housing deals will see 25,000 new homes built in England

Almost £250 million of housing deals have been agreed by the Government to deliver 25,000 more homes across England, it has been announced.

The package includes over 10,000 new homes being built on Ministry of Defence land at seven military bases in conjunction with Homes England under the accelerated construction programme.

Some £157 million will be used for housing infrastructure in Cumbria and Devon, building roads and natural green spaces alongside developments while in London, more than 1,500 new homes will be built at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park thanks to a £78 million loan helping to fund the development.

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Secretary of State for Housing James Brokenshire said that the deals are all part of the department’s drive to make the housing market work for everyone and deliver much needed homes across the country.

‘We delivered 222,000 homes last year which is the highest number in a decade, but we must keep upping our game as we strive to hit our target of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.

‘By investing in infrastructure, freeing up public sector land and offering targeted loans we are making the housing market work. These deals struck today will help us build almost 25,000 more homes, which is another symbolic step towards our home building targets,’ he pointed out.

Homes England have agreed a partnership with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation to develop land being released by the Ministry of Defence and there is the potential for more surplus Army land to be used in the future.

Under the Housing Infrastructure Fund the deal for schemes in Devon and Cumbria will pay for a new motorway link road between south Carlisle and the M6, unlocking up to 10,000 new homes at St Cuthbert’s Garden Village.

In Devon, some £55 million will be spent on road improvements and other infrastructure so that 2,500 homes can be built to the south west of Exeter.

Two new neighbourhoods of 1,500 homes will be built in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park following a £78 million loan from Homes England, part of the Government’s £4.5 billion Home Building Fund, which provides development and infrastructure finance to home builders.

It is anticipated that the first phase of the development will be completed in summer 2021, with work at East Wick and Sweetwater being fully completed by 2028. Work has already begun on phase one of the site, which will include 130 new affordable homes and 105 for private rental, as well as more than 33,000 square feet of business and creative space.

In addition, up to 650 new homes will be built on three sites in Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield, Hertfordshire, using Modern Methods of Construction which mean properties can go up more quickly.

The scheme, which is receiving £10.6 million of funding from Homes England, is the first to benefit from the government’s £450 million Accelerated Construction Programme. Work is due to start on the first site in Hatfield town centre in June.

Source: Propertywire

Election: Corp members get N35,000 each as election duty allowances says NYSC

The National Youth Service Corps on Wednesday revealed that each corps member deployed as ad hoc staff for the 2019 general elections will be paid N35,000.

It also said that no fewer than 17,000 corps members had been confirmed as ad hoc staff for the elections in Ogun State.

The Ogun NYSC State Coordinator, Mrs. Josephine Bakare, disclosed this while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abeokuta at a sensitisation programme for corps members.

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Bakare also confirmed that each corps member participating in the election would receive a total of N35,000 as duty allowances for the February 16 and March 2 elections.

She also assured corps members that adequate provision for welfare and accommodation had been made with the NYSC Local Government Inspectors, which they could access.

Bakare, however, appealed to pregnant corps members to refrain from participating in the exercise for their safety and those of their unborn babies.

Also speaking, Mrs. Franca Olaleye, the NYSC Assistant Director of Human Resource Management, who represented the Director-General, Maj.-Gen. Suleiman Kazaure, urged corps members to be diligent.

“You must give your best representation and fly the NYSC flag aloft.

“Patriotism, discipline and commitment must be your watch word as you engrave your names in gold in the history of the elections, making it not only peaceful but also successful.

“This assignment is very sensitive and as such no one of you must be caught displaying partisanship or collecting graft or inducement from anyone.

“If you are caught in any incriminating or irresponsible act, you will be apprehended and prosecuted accordingly,” Kazaure said.

Kazaure further urged corps members to be on the lookout for miscreants who disguise as corps members to perpetrate mischief.

“You must be vigilant and report anyone who is seen in very newly sown uniform. If the person is authentic, they must be able to identify themselves appropriately.

“Ogun State is fully prepared to secure your lives,” he said.

Security representatives from the army, police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, who sensitised corps members on safety awareness measures, also provided them with distress call centre numbers.

Some given numbers are 08139880080, 09092989929 and 07052374757.

FG, Dangote flag off Ofeme-Abia road reconstruction

Succour and development will soon come to the people of Ofeme Community in Abia State, as the Federal Government and Dangote Industries Limited Tuesday flagged off the reconstruction of the roads and bridges in the community.
The construction of the road will be handled by AG-Dangote, a subsidiary of Dangote Industries Limited. The project is covered under Executive Order #7 of 2019, titled Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme, where “Participating investors will use tax credits to reduce corporate taxes payable to government until they recoup the value of their investments in roads and bridges.”
Speaking at the flag off event, president/chief executive, Dangote Industries Limited, Aliko Dangote, extolled the Federal Government for the executive order 7, which allows private sector intervention in the provision of critical infrastructure. Dangote who was represented by the South South Regional Director of Dangote Cement, Okoro George, said a new dawn is coming to Ofeme community, as the deplorable state of their roads would soon be a thing of the past. 
He explained that the 16-kilometre road would form a ring road around Ofeme and connect it at two points to the Enugu Port Harcourt Expressway while the two bridges connecting the town to other communities would be rebuilt. According to him, “the entire road network will be built on concrete pavement instead of earth pavement which gives a lifespan of about 40 years, will contain drains on both sides while the surface will be made of concrete also instead of asphalt.”
He added that AG-Dangote has established itself as a construction company of repute having delivered the 26-kilometre Ibese-Itori concrete road in Ogun State, the 2-kilometre Apapa-Wharf dual carriage concrete road, the ongoing 43-kilometre Obajana-Kabba concrete road and the 35-kilometre Apapa-Oworonshoki Expressway.
Dangote Group, he said, pioneered the use of concrete for road construction in Nigeria, adding “Countries that have achieved self-sufficiency in cement production have found it expedient to adopt the construction of concrete roads because they are cheaper, more durable and environment friendly. I believe Nigeria should not be an exception. We must move with the times.” He promised that Dangote Group is ready to partner more with government in the provision of critical infrastructure so as to lift the standard of living of the people.
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, speaking at the flag off described the Ofeme Community road network reconstruction as a gigantic project that open the community and surrounding towns to development.
The minister, who was represented by Federal Controller of Works, Abia State, Nwankwo Chukwudike said the project on completion would open up access roads to manufacturing clusters in the area, reduce high cost of transportation and raise the standard of life for the people. He said movement of agriculture produce from the farming hubs will become cheaper and easier, bringing in more income.
President general, Ofeme Progressive Union, Ndubuisi Kanu, in his welcome address, expressed gratitude to the Federal Government and Dangote Group for selecting his community as one of the beneficiaries of Executive Order 007.
He said, “We also use this medium to thank the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola. Our thanks and gratitude goes to Alhaji Aliko Dangote who has shown so much love to the people of Ofeme.”
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okey Enelamah in his remarks at the flag off said the present administration, desirous of providing critical infrastructure, enacted Executive Order #7 which involves partnering the private sector. He said the road reconstruction project is one of the many development oriented projects coming to the community.
Chairman of Dangote Cement, Aliko Dangote had earlier made strident calls for adoption of concrete roads in the country. He urged the federal government to embrace the option of using concrete for roads in the country. Aside from being very cheap, he said concrete roads are more durable and that its maintenance cost is near zero.
According to him: “We are pushing for Nigeria to do a concrete road. It is cheaper to do a concrete road that will last over 40 years than to do a bitumen road. It will also help in eliminating corruption. The project is for the benefits of the community. It is obvious that the option for concrete roads will be the solution to solve the road infrastructural decay in the country. This is because concrete road is less expensive than asphalt road by almost 23 per cent and also we can build concrete road in less time.
“Even in terms of maintenance, we don’t need so much resources to maintain it like the asphalt roads. In countries like Brazil, Portugal, India, where they use concrete roads majorly, they don’t have the type of road challenges we have in Nigeria because concrete roads can last for a minimum of 40 years as against asphalt roads that can last for between seven and eight years. So, the good option for the Nigerian government will have to be for them to embrace the use of concrete roads,” he added.

FCT cooperatives- Group decries extortion

The Abuja Cooperative Federation has decried alleged harassment and extortion of money from cooperative societies by the Office of the Chief Registrar of Cooperatives (FCT) Abuja.

At a press conference held in Abuja on Monday, the acting president of the cooperative federation, Mr Emmanuel Atama, said despite the stand of the government on good governance, transparency, accountability and anti-corruption, some persons hiding under the guise of re-certification and revalidation of cooperative societies in the FCT are engaged in unwholesome practices for selfish reasons.

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He said “the letter conveying the exercise emanated from pseudo consultants not the chief Registrar of Cooperatives, FCT. More so, the letter which came with  the directive to pay the N10,000 each to the accounts of the FCTARDS IGR accounts, Cooperative Consult and Cooperative Society Limited respectively came from the so-called consultant. The letter was neither dated nor signed by the author,” Atama said.

He further said the intimidation and harassment of cooperatives by the Chief Registrar of Cooperatives and the Agriculture and  Rural Development secretariat to de-register any corporative society that failed to comply with this purported  recertification exercise through text messages and the media, was quite disturbing and unlawful.

When newsmen met with the Chief Registrar of Cooperatives (FCT) Abuja, Hajiya Hassana Muhammed, at the sensitization workshop for Recertified and Revalidated Cooperatives in the FCT at Archives House, Abuja yesterday to respond to the above allegation, she walked away and told  reporters to wait. All effort to get her to speak was ignored.

However in her speech at the workshop, she said the cooperative registry’s function is to enforce cooperative laws, rules and regulations.

Lafarge CEO Claims “good times” despite possible 2018 loss

The Chief Executive Officer of Lafarge Africa Plc, Mr Michel Puchercos, said the the cement maker is on its way back to profitability. But available figures dispute this claim.

Speaking recently in Gombe State during a customer appreciation event, the CEO claimed that the company is finally reaping the benefits of a recent business transformation exercisewhich, supposedly, improved its operational efficiency and relationship with its customers.

In his own words:

“our new strategy has started to deliver results and we are on a new path of profitable growth.”

Speaking further, the CEO expressed the company’s commitment to relate better with customers whom he also referred to as partners. This is because the customers are the ones that have helped the company to maintain its market share, according to Mr Puchercos.

But the company might have ran at a loss last year

According to information contained in the company’s recently released third-quarter result for the period ended September 30th 2018, it ran at a loss after tax of N10.3 billion. What this means, therefore, is that Lafarge Africa Plc could, most possibly, declare a full-year loss for 2018.

Meanwhile, a possible full-year 2018 loss for Lafarge Africa Plc would not be the first in recent times.

No thanks to stiff competition posed by the likes of Dangote Cement Plc and BUA Cement, the company has been struggling to maintain profitability.

Little wonder the company ran at a N7 billion full-year loss in 2017, compared to a N19.8 billion profit after tax in full-year 2016.

About Lafarge Africa Plc

The company, which was incorporated on February 24th 1959, is majority-owned by Zurich-based Lafarge Holcim. This makes Lafarge Africa a subsidiary of the company.

The company is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), where it enjoys a Premium Board classification.

It has a market capitalisation of N112,754,567,120.00, and its stock is currently trading at N13 pet share.

How smart districts can drive urban innovation

Hosted by Dublin City Council in the Smart Docklands area, the value of smart districts was a key point of discussion during the 14th 20-20 Cities roundtable meeting, convened by Cities Today.

The Smart Docklands district was officially launched in February this year. Jamie Cudden, Smart City Programme Manager, Dublin City Council and co-chair of 20-20 Cities, said that what was lacking previously was a platform for start-ups, big tech, the city, and academia to come together.

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“Essentially we have a collaboration model where we as the city can act as the independent voice and broker,” he said. “Cities need to be at the heart of that, to shape the application of emerging technologies in a way that benefits the city and its citizens.”

Smart Docklands is jointly funded by the city and Trinity College Dublin. Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer, London said that involving universities was crucial to the success of a smart district.

“Today smart districts are not only home to university campuses but also spaces where new and unique collaborations between university departments and cities can be developed. UCL’s new space at Here East in the Olympic Park, London between the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment and the Faculty of Engineering Science is one such example and another is what we see through the Smart Docklands here in Dublin.”

Nearly half of the 15 city chief innovation, technology and digital officers in the room said that they had a smart district of their own–all at various stages of maturity.

James Noakes, Councillor and Cabinet Member for Energy and Smart Cities at Liverpool City Council, asked his peers if such districts are better off being allowed to develop on their own.

“Some creative areas of cities have sprung up organically,” he said. “They were created by people because the city knew when to step out of the way and only stepped in when they were called upon.”

Similarly, how to recreate and foster such creative areas of a city needs to be better understood.

“Why is this particular area booming?” asked Maddie Callis from City Possible, Mastercard. “People went there first and then it became smart; what is there to be learnt?”

Others asked if smart districts would still be relevant in 10 years’ time, joining the likes of science parks.

Bart Rousseau, Chief Data Officer, Ghent, said that his city lacks new land or brownfield sites to create a district of its own from scratch.

“We can look at hub areas if that is the case,” he said. “Proximity [of hubs or smart districts] to the rest of the city is an asset, as is ensuring there is benefit and value to people. Retrofitting a medieval city like mine with 5G will create noise, roadworks and complaints from residents. We need to bring this back to making a better life.”

Ensuring social issues are included is equally important, noted Trevor Dorling, Director, Digital Greenwich, London.

Michael Guerin, Programme Manager, Smart Docklands Dublin, said that being in the heart of the city and working closely with several different community groups of varying backgrounds, has meant Smart Docklands is continuously developing solutions with citizens as a key focus.

Similarly, Paddy Flynn, Director of Geo Operations, Google said that as the largest corporate resident–the tech giant established its European headquarters in the Docklands 15 years ago–it has been heavily involved with the local start-up ecosystem and community development.

Other topics discussed over the two-day meeting included multi-city accelerators, data sharing with mobility services, and digital rights and data commons.

Government should prevent the misuse of weak infrastructure- Professionals

Professionals in the construction industry have called on government and its agencies to rise up to their responsibilities of ensuring sanity so as to avert a repeat of the mayhem that became the fate of the Leventis/Apapa Bridge prior to its reopening last Wednesday.

That Nigeria is faced with a miserable infrastructure deficit is no news. In fact, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) in December 2018 predicted that by 2040, Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit would hit $878bn.

Also, that the country is completely bereft of a decent maintenance culture in all facets of its being is also no news. However, what is news is the degree to which its citizenry consciously and deliberately contributes to the decay that has become the fate of its remaining badly depleted infrastructures.

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Some developed countries of the West such as the United Kingdom and the rest, have succeeded in leapfrogging their economy by focusing strengthening and funding their infrastructures. When the infrastructures are functional, every other sector is forced to pick up.

Such was the fate of the Leventis/Apapa bridge in Lagos where some time in 2016, some unscrupulous elements selling petroleum products underneath the bridge set that vicinity on fire, thereby burning the bridge and destroying its beams, to the extent it had to cave in.

This singular activity set the economy back by several degrees as motorists plying that route were subjected to a hellish kind of hardship; in addition to which the monies that were supposed to have been invested in infrastructures elsewhere, were used to carry out capital repairs that took Julius Berger more than two years to complete.

However, one other contribution to infrastructure decay that has confounded Nigerians, is the act of indiscipline and impunity by tanker and truck owners on that route. How does one explain the permanent presence of a lineup of stationed tankers and trucks all the way from Apapa to Onipanu at Ikorodu Road and the length of Apapa Oshodi Expressway on top of the bridges that have a limited amount of weight to carry?

Though the Lagos State government is not happy with the development, from all indications it is beyond them.

Even though, during the reopening of the Leventis/Apapa bridge last Wednesday, Funsho Adebiyi, Director Highways, Federal Ministry of Works, South West, disclosed that government was going to take drastic action against all forms of abuses that would cause damage to bridges in Lagos, Nigerians are aware that it is just an empty threat as the activities have been ongoing for quite a long time. If the government had actually wanted to arrest the situation, they would have done that long ago, especially, as it concerns truck and tanker owners association.

Citing the Ikeja LASUTH Bridge as an instance, he advised that government should station law enforcement agents underneath the bridges or build barriers around the stretch of the bridges underneath to monitor movement of persons. According to him, once people cannot gain access to the underneath part of the bridge, it then becomes secured.

“If you check the bridge around Ikeja by LASUTH, you find law enforcement agents around that area, making it difficult for miscreants to gain access and carry out nefarious activities there, especially, turning the place into their place of abode. The same thing can be done in other places where you have such facilities.  Unfortunately, if you don’t handle Nigerians with iron hands, you are not likely to get any positive response.”

Looking at it from another angle, Owivry noted that the major problem is basically the heavy duty vehicles plying and sitting on the bridges. After determining the weight of vehicles that can ply the bridges, government, he said, can always mount barricades at the point of accessing the bridge.

“Mounting a barrier at the point of accessing the bridge will better check such vehicles. When you get to the point of accessing the bridge and discover that your height cannot go through, evidently, you will be forced to look for alternative route. I think that will be more effective.

“On the other hand, you can mount law enforcement agents at the edge of the bridge to control vehicular movements. But then again, that one has its own challenge, you are not likely to have law enforcement agents 24/7 in such location.”

Also, Engr Ombugadu Garba, Chairman, Apapa branch of Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) noted that the reopening of the bridge will boost the economic life of people that ply the route, but also asked if underneath the bridge is supposed to serve as accommodation and market place for miscreants?

He explained that a lot of things are going on in the country which ought not to be and then called on government and its agencies to wake up to their responsibilities.

“Agencies of government must ensure that those bridges are cleared of any activities that would endanger the people and the infrastructure. All those areas serve as hideouts for unscrupulous fellows and most of these atrocities go on under the bridges. They should do everything within their power to prevent a repeat performance.

“Another aspect is that the stakeholders, especially, the truck owners association should be sensitized. Let them also know the implication of their actions on those bridges so that once they are sensitized some of these menace will be reduced.  Also, government needs to open other means of transportation like the railway system. If they are constructed and maintained, the pressure on our roads will be reduced drastically; it will also make our roads durable.”

For Engr. Akintayo Akintola, former chairman, Ikeja NSE, he noted that he hope the miscreants are not back to under that bridge. The problem, he said is with sustainable maintenance. He however asked if the nation was maintaining for maintaining sake or for sustenance purposes.

According to him, the bridges are meant for moving vehicles and not stationery vehicles. But that when trucks and trailers get stationed on top of the bridges, Nigerians shouldn’t expect a miracle.

“It is like you buying a kitchen knife and using it to cut grasses, it won’t work. Sometimes, we redesign in our usage for what is supposed not to be. Also, how do we maintain, do we wait for the infrastructure to get so bad before we can talk of repairing them like what happened on Third Mainland bridge.

“Our government is interfering in so many things but at the end of the day things get out of hand. They should give it to the right agency to maintain and allow them to do their work, don’t interfere. Only ensure they do their assigned jobs. Because we lack maintenance, the road that is supposed to last for 30 years, ends up lasting for two years.”

A call was put across to Inuwa Abdullahi, vice chairman, National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) on how he thinks stakeholders, which includes his members, can contribute to the maintenance and longevity on the nation’s infrastructure. He responded that he was busy and that he was going to call to respond to the question.

However, even after a second call, he picked and gave the same excuse and as at the time of filing this report, he still has not called back neither did he respond to a text message that was sent to him to that effect.


We will ensure success in the home owners programme- Amosun

The Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, has said that the Homeowners’ Charter Programme conceived by his administration would come to a successful end, as extra resources would be made available to ensure that every qualified applicants obtain their land title documents.

The governor stated this during the 37th edition of the presentation of Certificate of Occupancy and Building Plan Approval to another batch of beneficiaries at the Arcade Ground, Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.

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Amosun, represented by the special adviser and director-general, Bureau of Lands and Survey, Jumoke Akinwunmi, said he was happy with the success recorded so far, assuring that the distribution of C of Os would cut across, as government already knew how many land title documents left to be distributed to successful applicants.

“The success of this programme is when you see beneficiaries come out in large numbers to receive their documents. So, we are determined that the programme will come to a successful end and finish very strong.  If we need to put extra resources to make things happen, as far as HOC programme is concerned, we will,” he said.

In his welcome address, the senior statistician, Ogun State Property and Investment Company (OPIC), Mr. Kayode Oke, said the programme has made it possible for people to secure C of O, building plan approval, stamp duty on land agreements/receipts in a seamless manner and at a cheaper rate. Speaking on behalf of the beneficiaries, Mr. Marcus Ransanwo, from Ijebu-Ode, thanked the state government for the good gesture, saying the programme was a good initiative.

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