The Ugandan social enterprise Smart Havens Africa is helping vulnerable communities acquire homes affordably and sustainably. In this way, founder Anne Rweyora, one of the engineers short-listed for the fifth Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, hopes to bring down housing poverty.
Anne Rweyora is the managing director of Smart Havens Africa. She has set up the company to build low-cost, sustainable houses for vulnerable and low-income households in areas where homes are predominantly owned by wealthy landowners. The idea is to make home ownership more accessible to African women in particular.
Her motivation to create accessible housing got her shortlisted for the Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize, along with 15 of her counterparts.
In an interview with BBC, Rweyora explained her motivation: “I lost my father and started experiencing how housing poverty affects all spheres of life when our relatives and my late father’s friends came to grab our property.”
“Over 69% of Ugandans are living in substandard housing. This is not only a Ugandan issue but an African issue. In South Sudan, where I worked, the issue was even worse. That’s where my energy and desire come from.”
Speaking on land accessibility, she said, “In Uganda the land tenure system is favourable. Smart Havens Africa gets this land, which is later sub-divided according to the home units. So, we are building these homes in communities where there are readily available facilities, health centres, accessible roads and water.”
The homes are equipped to use renewable energy and feature rainwater harvesting systems and bio-digestors. They build the houses using locally produced, green material, interlocking stabilising blocks.
“The design of the brick helps to cut the cost since our brick does not require plastering. This cuts the cost by almost 50%. The bricks do not require burning and firing, so it helps us to avoid air pollution and the deforestation of Africa’s forests,” Rweyora said.
The organisation seeks to lift up the communities it works in by providing skills and economic opportunities. They provide training and apprenticeship for women and youth who want to pursue a career in construction or real estate. They also support a local market where women, masons, apprentices, businesses and clients can operate.
Owning a home in Kenya is expensive, hence one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big four agenda that seeks to offer affordable housing that seeks to address the needs of citizens in different income brackets.
Kenyans willing to be part of the Affordable Housing Programme(AHP) can now begin contributing Ksh200 monthly towards owning homes.
Speaking to newsmen in Kenya on Wednesday, Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary Charles Hinga, highlighted thatmore than 225,000 Kenyans have registered to participate in the AHP. “Operationalisation of the voluntary contributions is a significant milestone in the implementation of AHP to interested Kenyans, we are now giving the ability and means to decide how and when they will start their journey towards owning a house,” confirmed the PS. “They can do this by regularly saving in then bomayangu wallet, the amounts that they can afford,” he added.
According to Hinga, the above activation was in response to Kenyans who have been registering on the boma yangu web platform, interested to be part of AHP and subsequently own decent and affordable homes.
He said the process of allocating 228 houses on Park Road in Nairobi will kick off soon. The houses are set for occupation by September this year.
The houses are suitable for individuals in the social bracket earning below Ksh 19,999, the low cost covering Ksh 20,000 to Ksh 49,999, the mortgage gap for those earning between Ksh 50,000 and Ksh 149,999 as well as middle to the high-income bracket of Ksh 150,000 and above.
The houses are to be provided at lower interest rates of between three percent, five and seven percent for social housing, low cost and mortgage gap segments respectively.
Savings for the houses can be made through various payment modes that will be convenient for the contributers, such as www.bomayangu.co.ke where one will need to log in and pay via M-Pesa, card payment or bank transfer.
Another option will be through the Huduma Life mobile App that can be downloaded from google playstore or accessed through www.hudumakenya.go.ke
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) announced today the launch of a new strategic initiative to help develop stronger and more effective affordable housing partnerships in both the policy and business arenas. The objective of these partnerships will be to promote more sustainable, affordable homes for purchase and rental for underserved people and communities, especially minorities and low-to-moderate-income Americans.
“The lack of affordable housing is presenting significant challenges to families across the country. We need to explore how the lending community can better partner with public, private, and non-profit stakeholders to ensure more Americans have access to homes they can afford,” said MBA President and CEO Robert D. Broeksmit, CMB. “As the trade association representing the full breadth and depth of the mortgage lending community, MBA should, and will, be a leader in finding innovative solutions.”
Steve O’Connor, a 23-year veteran of MBA and currently its Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Industry Relations, will assume the new role as Senior Vice President for Affordable Housing Initiatives.
“Steve is uniquely qualified to lead this new initiative,” added Broeksmit. “He knows our members, he knows the issues, and he has strong relationships with a broad group of stakeholders, including affordable housing groups, consumer advocates, and civil rights organizations. Steve has a real passion and drive when it comes to addressing the needs of underserved markets.”
O’Connor currently leads MBA’s Consumer Affairs Advisory Council and serves on a number of industry boards, including the National Housing Conference, the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, the Homeownership Council of America, Quicken Loans’ Consumer Advisory Council, Freddie Mac’s Affordable Housing Advisory Council, and the National Urban League’s Business Solutions Council.
“Housing affordability is an issue facing millions of Americans, both those who rent and those who want to buy a home,” said O’Connor. “There is no easy solution. The only way we are going to solve this is by getting lenders together with policymakers, consumer advocates, community leaders, and other stakeholders, and using our collective knowledge and experience to find the answers.”
Under O’Connor’s leadership, MBA is developing a work plan set around a series of objectives designed to better understand the nature of the problem and why previous efforts have failed, and to build and nurture partnerships in support of affordable housing policy and business practices.
The Scottish government says it is firmly on track to hit its ambitious target of 50,000 affordable homes by 2021. The latest official Scottish statistics published this week show there were more than 9,500 affordable homes delivered in 2018-19, an increase of 12% on the previous year.
As part of this rise, completions of social rented homes accounted for 6,573 of the properties, 25% more than the previous year. The statistics also show a record increase in the number of new build homes completed across all sectors, which reached more than 20,000 for the first time in ten years.
This rise is reflected in the Registers of Scotland property market report, also published this week, which shows that 12% of all residential property sales in the last year were new builds – the highest proportion since 2008-09.
Scottish housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Everyone in Scotland deserves a safe, warm place to live, and I’m delighted that since 2007 we have delivered a total of 86,109 affordable homes including 59,131 homes for social rent.
We are also firmly on track to deliver our target of 50,000 affordable homes by 2021, backed by investment of £3.3bn. The statistics highlight more than half the homes are now completed, with approvals well on course.
“Providing more affordable homes is a crucial part of this government’s aim to create a fairer Scotland, and improve communities through inclusive growth. On my visits across the country, I have seen the real difference these new developments have made to people’s lives.
A home is more than just bricks and mortar – it’s about a sense of identity and belonging. It is also great to see a rise in the number of new homes across all sectors providing choice across all tenures.”
The city of Redmond is looking to create affordable housing in an unusual way. It’s selling two houses to the nonprofit Housing Works after the police department seized them back in 2012.
The seizure of two houses in southwest Redmond were the result of an investigation where a marijuana grow was discovered. The houses were used only to grow marijuana and ultimately were seized by the police department.
Police Chief Dave Tarbet said Tuesday evening he’s glad to see the homes be put to good use.
“It’s a humanitarian approach, in a sense, which our department tries to be about that and tries to help the community as much as possible,” he said. “And obviously we still enforce the law too, but we do try to help people overcome issues in their lives and make their lives better.”
“So I think the sale of these homes to Housing Works so they can be resold as affordable housing is a great opportunity to help two more families in the community,” he said.
Tarbet said it’s not all that unusual for the department to posses “personal property” as the result of an investigation. But he said it’s pretty uncommon to be in the possession of a house.
The money the Police Department will eventually receive from the sale of the homes will go toward drug enforcement and prevention.
Those houses will also be used for a good cause.
They have been used as part of a Housing Works home ownership tutoring program, where people move in and rent them while working to qualify for a loan to buy their first house.
Now, the agency intends to sell them as affordable housing.
Kelly Fisher of Housing Works said the key to their success is working with the city to create more affordable housing options.
“The partnership between Housing Works and the city of Redmond is critical for what we are trying to do,” Fisher said. “We wouldn’t be able to provide these homes for families that are experiencing low income without that partnership.”
Fisher also said the agreement with the city to buy the two homes include 35-year deed restrictions.
That means the houses will stay affordable for years to come, even if they are sold several times.
Fisher said based on the median income for the area, that means the houses will sell for a maximum of $180,000, at this point in time.
The city will wait another week for public comments on the sale of the homes, and if there are no conflicts, the sale will be made official on June 18.
The modest effort started by nine Moorestown churches on Beech Street in 1969 has led to the development of affordable housing for over 1,300 of South Jersey’s low- to moderate-income residents.
MOORESTOWN — One year before New Jersey Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that all municipalities must provide affordable housing, representatives from nine churches in Moorestown recognized the need and pooled their resources together to begin construction on an 18-unit affordable housing complex along Beech Street.
Five decades later, the effort started by those congregations has led to the development of housing for over 1,300 of South Jersey residents in need of safe, decent and affordable places to live.
The Moorestown Ecumenical Neighborhood Development (MEND) is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019, a testament to the foresight of the faith-based organization’s founders that every person deserves the chance to live in a home they can afford, no matter their income.
“This is a very big deal for us,” said MEND President and CEO Matthew Reilly. “For MEND and our founding churches to start in 1969 in Moorestown — not in an impacted urban area, but Moorestown — and just say we need to create some housing in this community so that people who can’t afford to live in the market-rate housing can still live here so we can have a diverse community … is really an amazing accomplishment.”
MEND was founded in 1969 by Boyce M. Adams along with C. Dixon Heyer, Clarence L. Baylor, G.S. Spohn, Warren D. Sawyer, Rev. Fred D. Tennie, Jr., Steward R. Maines and now-retired Superior Court Assignment Judge Harold B. Wells, III, before he was named to the Burlington County bench.
The nonprofit has never strayed far from its original vision and now works to develop, build, manage and maintain housing for low-to-moderate income families, seniors and those with special needs.
In its early days, the organization focused on developing affordable housing solely in Moorestown. From 1969 to the 2000s, it developed nearly 250 affordable housing units across 20 locations throughout the township.
However, when Reilly signed on to lead the nonprofit in 2001, he said, it was struggling financially.
Reilly, who had previously worked for the nonprofit affordable housing developer New Community Corporation in Newark and in commercial real estate lending, wanted to find a way to expand the organization’s portfolio.
The solutions — use the federal Low Income Tax Credit Program to finance more projects and expand MEND’s portfolio to other towns, and form a pioneering joint venture agreement with the for-profit developer Conifer Realty — allowed MEND to develop projects on a larger scale.
“Conifer had larger financial role, and larger ownership, but MEND had meaningful ownership, meaningful control and a meaningful share in the fees that are generated by those projects. That I believe enabled the organization to kick start a new part of its life,” Reilly said.
Since then, MEND has not just developed 770 units across 30 locations throughout Burlington, Gloucester and Atlantic counties, but in the process it has preserved a number of historical buildings by repurposing them into residential complexes — a practice that was in place since its beginning.
MEND has repurposed the old Moorestown Fire Department Hose Company No. 1 building; the former Lenola Elementary School in Moorestown; the old Mitchell School at Springside in Burlington Township; and the 100-year-old Marcella Duffy School in Florence.
“A town being able to take one of these old buildings, save them and repurpose it to make a new contribution to the town, towns generally are really excited about it,” Reilly said.
The Marcella Duffy School is a special place for Melva Gilanyi. It was where she and her late husband graduated from high school in 1949, and where she would call home 46 years later.
“It’s brought good memories back,” Gilanyi said, who moved into MEND’s Duffy Apartments when they opened in 2015. “I’m happy here, it’s a beautiful place. Everybody is nice here, and it’s like a little community.”
MEND has also developed a 104-unit affordable housing complex in Evesham, a development for the elderly and disabled in Medford, along with other projects in Delanco, Deptford and Egg Harbor City. This year it broke ground on its newest project, a 54-unit affordable housing project for seniors at the former site of the Cinnaminson Home in Cinnaminson.
“We’ve been able to expand the mission and help more people, and it’s not easy for nonprofit housing development organizations to not only survive but to stay true to our mission and thrive,” Reilly said. “We’ve been able to do that.”
Gloria Titus, a resident of MEND’s Medford Senior Residence for nine years, moved there after a friend of her mother’s who had lived in another MEND development had praised the organization.
“I knew MEND had a good name behind it,” Titus said. “It’s been wonderful, and I couldn’t ask for a nicer place. It’s small, and you get to know everybody and you make good friends.”
In his time as president and CEO, Reilly has also formed the Friends of MEND — a group of professionals dedicated to fundraising and promoting the nonprofit organization.
“We have a responsibility to make sure people know about MEND and affordable housing and bring awareness to the issue,” said Friends of MEND member Daniel Caldwell, of Stout & Caldwell Engineers.
Caldwell has been a part of the Friends of MEND since its inception around 15 years ago.
“It’s an award-winning organization,” Caldwell said. “It’s a true need in our society, we need affordable housing for everyone. (MEND) is a perfect storm of all the right things: need and leadership that cares and loves what they do.”
Since its start, MEND has earned eight regional and national awards for its projects. Reilly said the key for the nonprofit’s success has been “the steadfast support of our founding churches.”
“The churches have helped maintain the moral compass of the organization,” Reilly said.
He added that as long as it sticks to what has kept it around for 50 years, MEND will continue to provide housing that is very much needed across the state.
“We’ve helped the towns where we are fulfill their obligations to produce and have some affordable housing, and we’ve helped the people in those towns and in the surrounding areas to have the housing that they need. And very unfortunately, the need for the housing that we provide is not diminishing, its growing,” Reilly said.
The number of affordable-housing units coming to the borough will be determined after a fairness hearing in Superior Court in Bergen County on June 20.
That’s when a judge will decide whether the settlement agreement between the borough and the Fair Share Housing Center will satisfy the needs of people seeking low- and moderate-income housing.
The borough of 3,300 people had been in negotiations with the center since 2015 to establish its affordable-housing obligation as mandated by the state under the Mount Laurel Doctrine, which prohibits economic discrimination through land use laws.
Councilman Glenn Pookisian said that if the settlement is found to be “fair and reasonable” to all the parties with a stake in any future affordable housing in town, then the settlement will be approved by Superior Court Judge Christine Farrington. If not, the borough and Fair Share will go back into negotiations.
Under the proposed agreement, the affordable-housing obligation is 287 units, but there’s a “realistic development potential” of 28 units, plus surplus credits of 18, for a total of 46 units. That means the small number of units have a better chance of being built due to existing and soon-to-occur projects in town, such as one at the old Schaefer’s Gardens site and a development by Bergen County United Way.
The units would also be built through policy mechanisms, including the establishment of an accessory apartment program for people in low- and moderate-income brackets and inclusionary zoning.
Pookisian said he’s optimistic. “The state of New Jersey requires us to set aside certain amounts, and we found that it was a balance of satisfying that legal mandate and trying not to change the character of Haworth,” he said.
If the agreement is approved, the borough has four months to amend its affordable-housing ordinance and zoning ordinance, and adopt a Housing Element and Fair Share Plan.
He said the Borough Council had the “unenviable task of responding to the unreasonable demand by Fair Share” for the number of affordable-housing units to be built, before reaching the agreement with the nonprofit. The original number of units, known as the unmet need, was 287.
“We’ve always taken the position that there’s no available buildable properties for any type of significant project, let alone affordable housing,” Pookisian said.
Anthony Campisi, a spokesman for the Fair Share Housing Center, predicted that the agreement will be approved by the judge based on past settlement agreements with other municipalities. Campisi said that since 2015, 285 have entered into settlements with the group.
“We’re really happy to come to a strong agreement that expands opportunities for working families,” Campisi said.
Amazon will donate $3 million to the Arlington Community Foundation to support affordable housing and fight homelessness, and make a $5 million contribution to a similar charity in Seattle, the company announced Tuesday.
Amazon also will match its employees’ contributions to selected local charities that aid housing in the two communities through Sept. 30, up to $5 million.
The initiative addresses concerns in both communities that the company’s robust creation of high-paying jobs — planned in Arlington and well underway in Seattle — drives up housing prices and displaces established residents.
Critics and supporters alike have called on Amazon to do more for local housing. “I want to see Amazon have some skin in the game on affordable housing,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said Monday.
The donation in Arlington is too small to cover the full cost of more than a handful of new housing units, which cost about $350,000 apiece, according to the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance. The need for new affordable units in the Virginia suburbs runs in the tens of thousands, according to local governments and housing analysts.
Instead, Amazon’s donation will create a fund that can both subsidize some costs of new affordable housing — still estimated at only a couple of dozen units — plus pay for services for homeless people or others who can’t afford their rent.
“Some of it may be for bricks and mortar, and some of it may be for support services,” said Jennifer Owens, president and chief executive of the Arlington Community Foundation. “The best uses of that $3 million have yet to be determined.”
She called the donation “generous” and “a significant investment in our community,” which will raise the total charitable funds managed by the foundation to $24 million from $21 million.
Since Amazon announced in November that it was building a second headquarters facility in Crystal City, one of the biggest worries has been about the impact on housing costs. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
The online retailer plans to hire at least 25,000 employees over the next 10 to 12 years with an average annual salary of at least $150,000. The first of 400 to be hired this year began work this month.
Middle- and lower-income residents in neighborhoods near Crystal City fear the Amazon hires will drive up rents and housing prices, and force them to move elsewhere.
“Homelessness and affordable housing are real concerns in Seattle and the Washington, D.C., region,” Amazon Senior Vice President Jay Carney said. “As neighbors in both, we made these donations to [Seattle’s] Plymouth Housing and the Arlington Community Foundation because of their work and progress on housing stability and helping families improve their quality of life.”
Carney said in a May interview with The Washington Post that the company would be able to plan better for its growth in Arlington than in Seattle, and thus would not aggravate housing problems as much. He did not provide details and said it is primarily the government’s responsibility to ensure there is an adequate supply of affordable housing.
Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey (D), who has supported the Amazon project, said he was “pleased to see Amazon’s willingness to work together with other businesses and local community-based organizations to improve outcomes for our residents.”
Owens said Arlington was suffering from a serious housing shortage well before Amazon arrived. The county has lost nearly 90 percent of its market affordable housing over the past 20 years.
She praised Amazon for what she said was a cooperative approach, in which the company sought to work with the foundation to find how to put the money to best use.
“What I’m excited about is that Amazon has come at this as a true partner rather than a prescriber,” she said.
Owens described the financial arithmetic of building affordable housing to illustrate how costly it would be to have a major impact via construction subsidies.
Typically, affordable housing in Arlington is built for households with incomes of about $70,000 a year, she said. To lower the cost so the housing is affordable for households with incomes of about $35,000 a year, a subsidy of $115,000 per unit is needed, Owens said.
So, if the entire $3 million donation from Amazon were used to lower the cost of housing in that way, it would benefit 26 households.
Amazon’s profit in 2018 was $11.2 billion, on which it paid no federal income tax. Asked whether the company’s $3 million donation was enough given the need for affordable housing in Arlington, Owens said, “I don’t think it would be fair to say that anybody in our community is doing enough.”
Now is the time to buy a home in Cape Town, as data from FNB’s latest Cape Town Sub-Regional House Price report shows price decreases in a number of areas across the Mother City.
Those looking to get a property during this prime time will find reduced prices in areas from the Southern Suburbs, City Bowl and the Atlantic Seaboard extending into the Eastern Suburbs like Salt River and Woodstock.
All of these areas showed price declines in the first quarter of 2019 with the Atlantic Seaboard, including Green Point, Sea Point, Clifton, Hout Bay, and Camps Bay, leading the decline.
An average of a 5.1% decline has been experienced by these areas year-on-year, and this is historically the worst noted decrease to date, showing a huge plunge from the previous growth rate of 25.5% in the first quarter of 2016. Taking inflation into consideration, the decline even nears double digits.
Of the areas in the Atlantic Seaboard, according to Private Property only Llandudno still features in the top-ranking suburbs for property growth, coming in at first place.
Area such as Somerset West, Gordon’s Bay and Strand have also experienced a sharp year-on-year price decline, decreasing by 5.3% in the last quarter of 2018 and a further 1.7% in the first quarter of this year.
There seems to be a general trend of upmarket regions in and around Cape Town taking the biggest price knocks this year. Home prices have seen an overall decrease of 1.2% across the city as well as some of the slowest growth rates in the last 10 years.
The Northern Suburbs however have shown particular resilience when compared to other areas in the Cape as well as the Western Seaboard. Area such as Blouberg, Milnerton and Melkbosstrand experience a property price drop from 3.8% last year to 1.8% this year. Area such as Parow, Belville, Durbanville and Brackenfell also experienced growth.
“It is conceivable that the house price deflation we are seeing in some upmarket regions could reverberate throughout the city, resulting in meaningful improvement in affordability. If this happens, any meaningful recovery in national prices would be undermined, which could ultimately prolong the period of subdued house price growth in South Africa. A nominal decline in prices is conceivable at this point,” FNB economist Siphamandla Mkhwanazi told The Citizen.
Legislators criticized the state Department of Public Safety for approving millions in spending on permanent affordable housing developments when lawmakers wanted the money to go to emergency and short-term housing for people looking for places to live after disasters.
A report to a legislative committee on Monday said the department did not follow state law or best practices when it selected the N.C Community Development Initiative to receive state money and gave it up-front, lump-sum payments of $5.35 million.
The Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee voted to refer the report to the attorney general and other committees.
Mike Sprayberry, the state emergency management director, defended the decision to spend the money on permanent housing, but lawmakers said that was not what they wanted.
“People have to be held accountable,” said Rep. Craig Horn, a Weddington Republican and a committee co-chairman. “You didn’t give me the impression that we’re going to hold people accountable.”
In an email, Kimberly Askew, the Community Development Initiative’s senior vice president of operations and administration, said all its work met requirements outlined in its written agreement with the state.
“We used the funds in accordance with that agreement and are very proud of that work and the positive impacts it has had,” Askew wrote.
The legislature appropriated $9 million for emergency and short-term housing for people displaced by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, western wildfires and tropical storms, said a report from the legislature’s Program Evaluation Division.
The Department of Public Safety let the Community Development Initiative use the money for grants and loans for new construction and land purchases for future development, according to the report.
Sprayberry said not all the $5.3 million was spent on new construction, that some when to fixing homes. By the time the state appropriated funds, months after Hurricane Matthew hit, there was no need for emergency housing and the state couldn’t find anyone to take the money, he said. Meanwhile, communities hit hard by natural disasters had longstanding needs for permanent affordable housing, he said.
If there was no need for emergency or short-term housing, said Rep. Julia Howard, a Mocksville Republican, legislators should have been asked to redirect the money.
“Just to rebuild communities with new development, that was never the intent of the legislature or the directive,” she said. “You took liberties where liberties should not have been taken.”
The program evaluation report said the Community Development Initiative gave loans and grants to develop or redevelop housing in Fayetteville, Wilson, and Rocky Mount that were probably outside the legislature’s directive. The spending includes at least $1.8 million to buy land for future development in Rocky Mount. The grant went to a limited liability corporation affiliated with the Community Development Initiative. The LLC could be considered for-profit, the report said.
Further, more than six months after the agreement with the Community Development Initiative expired, the department has not recovered $1.3 million the organization didn’t spend or that was going to be used after the spending deadline, the report said.
In the email, Askew said the Rocky Mount LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Community Development Initiative, which is a tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation.
In a written response, Sprayberry defended the decision to work with the Community Development Initiative, and called the lack of affordable housing an emergency.
“According to the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, after Hurricane Matthew there was a shortage of 192,000 affordable housing units in the disaster declared counties,” he wrote. “NCEM (N.C. Emergency Management) determined the Initiative, established in 1993, was a solid vehicle to assist NCEM in providing families with an affordable housing solution. NCEM in partnership with the Initiative worked successfully to provide 433 units in Robeson, Cumberland, Edgecombe and Wayne counties.”
Sprayberry said the department is doing an internal audit, and would get back money left unspent or spent on projects or activities that were not allowed.
He wrote that the Community Development Initiative has been told it must return at least $1.6 million it has not spent and may have to return $1.7 million in disallowable expenses if it cannot justify them. The state may ask for more money back, depending on the results of an internal audit, Sprayberry wrote.