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To Fix Its Housing Shortage HongKong is Building an $80 Billion Artificial Island

Hong Kong will spend around $80 billion to build one of the world’s biggest artificial islands.

Secretary for Development Michael Wong said in a speech Tuesday that around 1,000 hectares of land would be constructed to deal with Hong Kong’s “serious shortage of land supply.”

The project’s total cost will be around 624 billion Hong Kong dollars ($79.5 billion), Wong said.

The new “land” will be formed near the existing island of Lantau, and will provide up to 260,000 residential units, he added. Seventy percent of the new homes will be public housing.

Hong Kong is home to about 7.4 million people. The territory has its own laws and currency, while traditions of transparency, low taxes and light regulation have helped make it a major global financial center.

High demand and short supply have driven property prices to “unaffordable” levels in recent years.

Although Wong said the new island would help Hong Kong “withstand the increasing pressure of the population,” the plans have faced criticism.

Greenpeace responded to Wong’s announcement with a statement urging the government to develop Hong Kong’s former agricultural sites instead, claiming that it would be a more cost effective and environmentally friendly strategy.

Zhu Jiang, senior project director at Greenpeace, said the move was a “retrogression.”

The idea for the development of an artificial island was first floated by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, who said in a policy address last year that it would help to ease the housing shortage.

Source: Chloe Taylor, CNBC

Report Shows 1000s of Virginians May Need Affordable Housing by 2040

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) – By 2040, thousands of people in central Virginia will face a housing crisis unless action is taken now.

That’s the news that came out of an affordable housing talk between statewide advocates and those on the local level on Tuesday, March 19.

That report comes from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

While it’s not public yet, the consultant says the area will face a 12,000-unit gap in two decades, which is about a quarter of the size of Charlottesville.

The fallout from 2017’s white supremacy rallies in Charlottesville is having a major impact on the work affordable housing advocates are now doing in the city.

“You have more advocacy now and you have more individuals that weren’t quite aware of the problem,” Yolunda Harrell of the New Hill Development Corporation said.

That’s changed. But how it has changed took center stage at a Housing Virginia meeting at CitySpace on Tuesday.

“Charlottesville has a lot of innovative things that it has focused on around affordable housing,” Erica Sims, the senior adviser for Housing Virginia, said. “It’s really pushing the needle. It’s pretty unique.”

Housing Virginia is a statewide organization focusing on this housing issue.

Members met with city leaders and affordable housing proponents to learn about policy, development, and where the money is coming from to support affordable housing efforts.

“The goal is just to see how do we create a spectrum of housing instead of polarizing housing,” Harrell said.

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission had a consultant look at the region, which includes the city of Charlottesville, along with Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa, and Nelson counties.

The results indicate the area will face a 12,000-unit gap in two decades. “The conversation has moved beyond a debate about whether or not affordable housing is needed,” Sims said.

“It’s part of how we as a community have more equity,” Harrell said. “Everyone needs to have all the choices that they would like to have in terms of where they want to live.”

A Weldon-Cooper Center study also shows white home ownership in Charlottesville is up 21 percent since 2000.

However, black home ownership is down 23 percent in the city during that same time.The city’s attempt to overhaul zoning policy could help change these statistics.

 

Source: Nbc29

Kenya waives building approval fees for affordable housing projects

Kenya’s Nairobi City has waived building approval fees for affordable housing projects as a move to attract more investors into the city as it gears to achieve President Uhuru’s Big 4 Agenda on affordable housing.

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko said the move by his administration will pave way for the county and national government to start construction of housing units to meet the 200,000 set target in 4 years time.

“My cabinet has approved waiving of building fees for all housing projects in Nairobi as our commitment to support affordable housing programme. This applies to projects being undertaken by private investors, county and national government”, said the governor during a groundbreaking ceremony byEdermann Property in Ngara Estate where they seek to construct affordable houses.

Affordable housing

The affordable housing Programme aims to construct 500,000 housing units across the country by 2022. Nairobi will launch phase one of the affordable housing programme this year in estates such as New and Old Ngara, Jevanjee, Ngong Road, Pangani and Suna road. Phase two of the project will include Bondeni, Lumumba, Shauri Moyo, Bahati, Ziwani, Gorofani and Jericho. President Uhuru Kenyatta will soon launch the national government affordable housing programme on Park Road Estate, Nairobi.

The governor further commended the move by private investors to construct affordable houses in Nairobi urging them to utilize local skills and local materials in their projects to promote the Kenyan economy.

Sonko added that they have developed Nairobi County Housing Bill in order to manage all county houses and also Nairobi County Staff Housing Bill which will help the county in developing houses for its workers.

Nairobi City County Sessional Paper Number 1 of 2018

Nairobi County Government recently passed Nairobi City County Sessional Paper Number 1 of 2018 as a guiding framework for housing projects in the city conducted by either the government or private investors.

“This policy will help us carry our housing agenda and we will require all developers to comply and follow the guidelines stipulated in the session paper. The policy states how housing units will be shared, how tenants can be relocated and how long projects should take, among others,” noted Governor Sonko.

Source: Constructionreviewonline

Lagos Is ‘Sixth Least Expensive City in the World’

Lagos has been ranked as the sixth cheapest city in the world to live in, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit survey.

The survey compares more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services. These include food, drink, clothing, household supplies, and personal care items, home rents, transport, utility bills, private schools, domestic help, and recreational costs

The report said it has some correlation with its sister ranking, the global liveability survey and thereby confirmed Lagos as being less liveable.

Caracas, Damascus, Tashkent, Almaty, and Bangalore ranked one to five respectively

“After five consecutive years of decline, oil prices bottomed out in 2016 and rebounded in 2017 and 2018, along with other commodity prices. At the very basic level, this will have an impact on prices, especially in markets where basic goods make up the bulk of the shopping basket. But there are further implications” .

The report said Oil prices will continue to weigh on economies that rely heavily on oil revenue. This could mean austerity, economic controls and weak inflation persisting in affected countries, depressing consumer sentiment, and growth.

Here is the full list of the ten cheapest cities in the world:

1. Caracas (Venezuela) 2. Damascus (Syria) 3. Tashkent (Uzbekistan) 4. Almaty (Kazakhstan) 5. Bangalore (India) 6. Karachi (Pakistan) 6. Lagos (Nigeria) 7. Buenos Aires (Argentina) 7. Chennai (India) 8. New Delhi (India)

The survey also listed the top 10 most expensive cities in the world to live in, making Paris, Singapore and Hong a Kong the most expensive city in the world.

The most expensive cities in the world are:

1. Singapore (Singapore)

2. Paris (France)

3. Hong Kong (China)

4. Zurich (Switzerland)

5. Geneva (Switzerland)

6. Osaka (Japan)

7. Seoul (South Korea)

7. Copenhagen (Denmark)

8. New York (US)

9. Tel Aviv (Israel)

10. Los Angeles (US)

Source: Premium times

Even tech workers can’t afford to buy homes in San Francisco

Everyone knows living in the San Francisco Bay Area isn’t cheap, especially for people like teachers, firefighters, and service-industry workers whose wages haven’t kept up with the skyrocketing cost of housing in one of the nation’s most expensive places to live.

But increasingly, even tech workers — some of the Bay Area’s highest-paid residents — are having a hard time achieving the bedrock of the American Dream: home ownership. These workers average six-figure salaries but increasingly can’t afford to buy a house in San Francisco, where the average home value is around $1.34 million and the median down payment needed was around $250,000 last year. And although there’s been a bit of a slowdown in recent sales, that’s expected to change quickly. A new class of freshly minted tech IPO millionaires are set to “eat San Francisco alive,” as described in a headline of a recent New York Times story.

When Joshua Davis, 28, a software engineer at a machine learning startup who said he makes upward of $100,000 a year, was looking to buy a one-bedroom condo in Oakland, he knew most places would be far above his budget of $500,000. So he considered fixer uppers. He was hoping he could find somewhere that, with a little bit of work, could be a place to settle down — somewhere he could paint the walls any color he wanted.

But he quickly realized that was an unrealistic goal. One place he saw had a rotted mud sill, the structure that provides separation between the house and its foundation. Someone showing the house offered do a “Mickey Mouse job” to repair it for $20,000, but Davis knew that would only be a temporary fix. The house was seriously structurally flawed.

“These were the kinds of places that were affordable,” said Davis, who gave up on the idea of buying a home for now. He’s hoping the market will eventually calm down. In the meantime, he’s paying around $2,300 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in Downtown Oakland.

Davis isn’t alone. Around 70 percent of tech workers for top tech companies living in the Bay Area say they can’t afford to buy a house near where they work, according to a recent study from the workplace chat app Blind, which polled around 3,000 tech workers. Many of the employees surveyed are high-skilled talent — engineers, product managers, and data scientists — who may be able to make rent but can’t afford to buy a home.

The fact that these relatively highly compensated employees like Davis are having problems is a sign that the housing situation in the Bay Area has become an untenable and unsustainable situation for tech’s workforce. And while tech giants like Facebook can afford to pay their employees a median salary of $240,000, other smaller players in the industry are wondering how much higher salaries can go to keep up with the cost of housing, and how much longer tech workers will live in an area they can’t afford.

Companies like Facebook and Google have already started to build housingspecifically for their own employees next to their sprawling mega-campuses. At one point, Facebook offered a $10,000 bonuses to employees who lived near the office to alleviate the strain of housing costs and reduce commute time. Almost every major tech company provides private, free shuttle buses that transport workers from Silicon Valley — where tech campuses like Google and Facebook are located — to relatively more densely populated areas like San Francisco and Oakland.

Last month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated $500 million through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative toward building and preserving affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area. While half a billion dollars is a lot, it won’t be enough to single-handedly change the market dynamics of housing in the Bay Area, where for every 4.5 jobs created, only one new home is added, according to the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area. But it’s a sign that tech companies are taking the issue of rising housing costs in their headquarters seriously.

“I do think the large corporations want to work with cities to address the housing issue because they want to expand and they want their employees to have a place to live,” said Lisa Matichak, the mayor of Google’s hometown of Mountain View.

Matichak and other members of the city council are in the process of reviewing competing plans from Google and another company to build more offices on a coveted 30-acre plot of land in the city. One of their chief concerns is making sure the development includes not just office space, but new housing units. In Silicon Valley’s Mountain View, the median home is priced around $1.6 million dollars and the average one-bedroom rents for $2,800, according to online real estate platform Trulia.

And with a new wave of San Francisco tech companies an hour to the north like Uber, Lyft, Slack, and Airbnb expected to go public soon, there will be thousands of new millionaires who may further crowd the housing market, further driving up prices. While there will be a cohort of freshly minted IPO techies, there will be many more who don’t win in the startup lottery.

“I’m guessing with all these IPOs from Lyft and Airbnb and stuff, these prices are only going to go up,” said Davis. “If these prices get crazier and crazier, I don’t know if I’ll able to afford to live out here.”

A housing crisis

Housing prices in the San Francisco Bay Area have skyrocketed at such an extreme rate that the housing shortage and homelessness in the city has been deemed a “human rights violation” by a UN official. In the past seven years, the percentage of households that can afford to purchase a median-priced home in the San Francisco Bay Area has decreased by over 50 percent, according to the California Association of Realtors.

Of course, the people this hits the hardest are people working in sectors that aren’t as high paid as tech — like the service industry, teaching, and law enforcement. A recent study found that a whopping 90 percent of workers in Silicon Valley have seen their real wages, meaning their annual salaries adjusted for inflation and rising cost of living expenses, decline over the past 20 years.

That means economic inequality is getting worse in tech’s capital during the same time period that companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Uber have popped up and created billions in value for those lucky enough to be early investors or employee shareholders living in the area.

Some labor advocates have blamed tech for contributing to this economic disparity. A few years ago, protesters hurled rocks at tech worker commuter buses that have become symbols of new money and gentrification. Tech is changing the face of what were once working-class, immigrant neighborhoods in San Francisco like the Mission, where Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg owns a home he bought for $10 million in 2013. But now, even many of those tech workers sitting in the shiny charter buses also can’t afford to live in the Mission, or any of the equally expensive Peninsula suburbs along the way to Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters.

“If the engineers and programmers of the world can’t afford to keep up with rising costs, how in the world are other people ever going to afford to live comfortably here?” said Jeffrey Buchanan, director of public policy at Bay Area-based labor-backed nonprofit, Working Partnerships USA.

The tech worker affordability divide

When it comes to purchasing power to buy property, not all tech workers are created equal.

At major tech companies like Google and Facebook, over 50 percent of workers are contract workers — many of whom make less than their full-time salaried counterparts. There are reports of Google employees who sleep in their vans in the parking lot — taking their showers in the office gym and eating meals in the company kitchen. The engineers doing this are extreme cases; most programmers making six figures may not be able to afford a home, but they can afford a place to rent.

The options are more limited for many others, like the unionized Google janitors who make around $26 an hour including benefits, according to numbers labor union SEIU shared with Bloomberg last July. If those workers are working 40 hours a week, that would put them at an annual income of around $50,000 a year — a little more than half of what the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development considers to be “low income” for a family of four in Google’s home county of Santa Clara.

Because it’s harder for lower-salaried employees to get by in the Bay Area, some tech companies have outsourced large portions of their workforce in functions like content moderation and customer support to places where salaries — and rent — are cheaper, like Phoenix, Arizona.

But these companies can’t outsource everyone they need to keep their San Francisco operations running. They still need facilities workers to keep the lights on, cooks to keep the programmers fed, and janitors to keep the buildings clean at their sprawling campuses.

And aside from the service workers, temps, and contractors at tech companies, the housing crisis is also hard on entrepreneurs and startups.

Davis said the machine learning-backed visual search startup he works for, Zorroa, used to staff most of its programmers remotely, outside California, where their salaries went further. Now that the company has raised a round of VC funding, it can afford to pay more of its workforce enough to live in the Bay Area, Davis said.

By some metrics, California’s entrepreneurship scene is slowing down relative to other startup locales. The Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit that measures entrepreneurship in the US, found that places like Maine and Washington, DC, had higher indicators of startup activity than California in their latest report. This makes sense given that more people are moving out of the Bay Area than moving in, according to a 2018 report last year from two leading Silicon Valley community organizations. And a survey from the Bay Area City Council in 2018 found that 46 percent of Bay Area residents want to move.

The struggle that these smaller startups go through represents an existential crisis within tech’s core: If Silicon Valley and San Francisco are valuable because they’re a hub for scrappy engineers, what will happen when only the elite of the elite, the post-IPO techies, can afford to buy homes in the city? Sure, younger programmers can squeeze into tinier and more strained living situations, but that becomes harder for people who want to start families.

“The people who move into the San Francisco Bay Area tend to be younger than the people who move out,” said Issi Romem, chief economist at online real estate company Trulia. “By the time people want to settle down, that’s when they hit this wall of affordability.”

There’s also an interesting split in the housing economy. While the prices of homes have gone up astronomically in areas like San Jose in the past several years, rent has been rising at a much slower pace. “It’s a bit of a mystery to economists,” said Jeff Tucker, an analyst on the economic research team at online realty company Zillow.

What this means is that 20- and 30-something tech workers who are relatively well-compensated may be able to keep up with rising rents, but buying a home will remain perpetually out of reach.

These workers are in a much more fortunate position than many of their neighbors, who may be struggling to keep a roof over their heads. But they’re also stuck. For the programmers and product managers who want to own a home but also want to keep pursuing their promising careers in San Francisco, there’s no immediate solution except to wait around in the hope that the housing market will crash.

Can tech solve this crisis?

Some tech leaders are trying to help solve the housing problem.

“I think there’s been this question of, ‘Oh, tech money, is that going to solve our housing crisis?’ And I think it’s taken quite a long time for companies to get serious about what they’re doing,” said Kristy Wang, community planning policy director at a nonprofit research, education, and advocacy organization focused on issues of planning.

While donations like the money from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative might help, some housing advocates view them as only scratching the surface of a much bigger issue. Matthew Lewis, director of communications at California YIMBY, a pro-development housing advocacy organization, said that while philanthropy efforts help, they ultimately make a “tiny dent” in a housing market that’s as crowded as San Francisco. The YIMBY acronym plays on the well-known NIMBY — for “not in my backyard” — by giving it a “yes” instead.

The solution, as Lewis sees it, is pretty straightforward: “Just build more damn housing.”

In order to do that, developers need city approval, which can be difficult to get based on strict zoning laws that limit density in San Francisco and even more so in Silicon Valley’s suburbs. While some locals argue that these policies preserve neighborhood character, critics argue they are classist: benefitting those who already own property at the expense of others, especially minorities and lower-income residents.

History reveals a dark past to the intentions of many zoning laws in the Bay Area. One of San Francisco’s oldest housing density laws, the Cubic Air Ordinance of 1870, was largely used to criminalize Chinese residents living in boarding houses. Across the bay, similar laws were used in Berkeley to separate more affluent white residents from their black neighbors.

Fast-forward to today and the Bay Area is still revealing deep societal divides in local debates over housing density.

In a city council hearing this past September in Apple’s hometown of Cupertino, one local teenager said he was against high-density affordable housing because it “would mean that we would have uneducated people living in Cupertino.” He and his fellow neighbors were concerned that it would make current residents “uncomfortable.” The city’s mayor dismissed the comments as being made by a “kid” who didn’t know better — but to many, they revealed a candid unveiling of the true feelings of older residents who are anti-development.

But there’s another strain of critique against changing zoning laws. In a city like San Francisco, increased density laws could allow rapid development of multimillion dollar luxury condos that mostly benefit the wealthy, and at least in the short term, displace rent-controlled apartments or other cheaper housing.

In the past, YIMBYs in San Francisco have been accused by some local anti-gentrification activists of being pro-development without enough caution for those locals who could get displaced. Now, Lewis says, YIMBY is working with these groups to advocate for other measures like rent control and affordable housing quotas. The group is also pushing for an amended version of a statewide bill, SB50, that would reform zoning laws to allow for denser construction of housing in areas near major public transit hubs and job centers. It has the support of the Bay Area Rapid Transit’s board of directorsbut faces opposition from some local leaders such as the executive director of the LA County Democratic Party.

While there are certainly many minds — and opinions — debating solutions to the Bay Area’s housing crisis, all this will take a time. Some tech workers say they’re losing patience.

Paul Anzel, 32, is a data scientist who dropped out of his physics PhD program to work in tech in the Bay Area. After years of struggling to save enough to buy a home in the Bay Area — and fighting for more housing development — he finally decided to give up. He, his wife, and their small child moved to San Antonio, Texas, where with the same income they were able to buy a two-bedroom home.

“The Bay Area housing problem isn’t going to be instantly fixed. It’s going to take a long while and a big political will,” said Anzel. “Once I had my kid, I realized there’s no sense in bashing my head against a wall.”

Other tech workers, many of them younger and without families, still feel the pull of the Bay Area, despite the frustrating housing situation.

“There’s a certain amount of energy when you walk around,” said Davis. “All these people who you go around and talk to who have built these great things before you and have the experience to learn from. It’s hard to leave.”

Source: Recode

Oregon bill would make it easier to build affordable housing

Democrats want to design their way out of Oregon’s housing crisis and are considering a proposal clearing the path for developers to build more apartments and townhouses.

The move comes on the heels of a landmark rent control measure and is meant to be part of a multi-pronged approach to combat the state’s housing shortage.

Speaker of the House Tina Kotek said Monday the effort will “increase housing choice and the supply of more affordable housing.”

House Bill 2001 would end single-family zoning. Cities with more than 10,000 people would be required to offer, in addition to single-family homes, what’s known as “middle” housing options. That means building more residential structures with multiple dwelling units, like duplexes and triplexes.

Proponents hope the idea will give residents more affordable housing options in cities and suburban neighborhoods, while allowing for more development. If passed, Oregon would become the first state to eliminate single-family zoning. Minneapolis voted to restrict the practice last December,

The Oregon measure also responds to criticisms from the state’s recent rent control law, which broadens tenant protections and limits the amount landlords can increase rent per year. Economists have warned that the state needs to focus on housing supply, and that rent control could dissuade developers–making the housing crisis worse.

Builders in Oregon have not been able to construct enough houses and apartments to meet the demands of the thousands of people moving to the state for jobs and in some cases, for a lower cost of living. Many people move to the state from California.

The plan is meant to alleviate a rental market that’s reaching capacity. A study from the economic consulting firm ECONorthwest found that only 63 new housing units were created for every 100 new families in Oregon from 2010 to 2016.

And that’s made it near impossible to find housing in the state’s major cities. In Portland, 95 percent of all apartments were occupied in 2018, according to RealPage, which provides data to the real estate industry. The cities of Salem and Eugene also had occupancy rates over 95 percent.

Economists say the high housing demand has caused rents to skyrocket. One in three renters pay more than 50 percent of their income on rent, far higher than the 30 percent recommendation set by Congress.

But homeowners have slammed the idea to ease zoning restrictions, flooding the Legislature with written testimony saying the measure will destroy the character of neighborhoods and lead to overcrowding. Some city officials have also come out against the idea, saying it encroaches on local control.

Meanwhile, lower-income residents maintain that the proposal is necessary, as it’s especially difficult to find diverse and affordable housing options near urban areas. Brandon Narramore, a Portland resident, said he’s just one of the many young renters that can’t afford to live in a single-family home or in any of the luxury apartments being developed.

And his situation isn’t just unique to Portland. Narramore added that his brother, a mill worker from Medford in southern Oregon, also struggles to find affordable housing that fits the needs of his young family.

“I do not believe my nephew should be blocked access to the good schools and amenities of nice neighborhoods because zoning maps outlaw the types of housing his father can afford,” he testified.

Source: AP

Study: Lack of affordable housing affects health

More than half of Texas’ poor children live in families where 50 percent or more of household income goes to housing, leaving little money left for necessities such as healthcare, a new national study shows.

That lack of affordable housing carries a ripple effect that can also lead to a lack of healthy food, an inability to fill prescriptions or seek medical care, transportation problems and it influences where children go to school, which can ultimately determine their success as adults, researchers concluded.

“Where we live matters to our health, ” said Joe Hinton, a researcher with the 2019 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, an annual project that looks at health and demographic indicators at the county level across the United States. “All people don’t have the same opportunities for a long and healthy life.”

In Harris County, for instance, 23 percent of the county’s children live in poverty — more than triple the rate in Denton County. The overall child poverty rate in Texas is 21 percent.

The study also shows that one in five households in Harris County face “severe housing problems,” which could include high costs, overcrowding or even a lack of plumbing or functional kitchen.

Compare that to nearby Fort Bend County, which reported 14 percent of households experienced such housing problems.

Statewide there is a deep divide when it comes to race and housing. Overall, the 20 percent of black households who face severe housing problems is double that of white households.

The study, released Tuesday, is a collaborative effort between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It uses the most recent available data from a range of sources, much coming from last year.

While Texas is often thought to be immune from the affordable housing crisis typically associated with California or New York, the data from Texas counties are eye-opening and should be studied further, Hinton said.

A wide range of indicators were broken down county-by-county, including life expectancy, birth weight, number of days with poor physical or mental health, level of education, sleep deprivation, access to healthy food, firearm fatalities and even length of commute.

According to the 2019 ranking, the healthiest county in Texas is Hartley, followed by Denton, Williamson, Collin, and Fort Bend counties. The least healthy county, although not all counties reported, is San Augustine followed by Duval, Morris, Hall and Marion counties.

“”It’s unacceptable that so many individuals and families face barriers to health because of what they have to spend on housing, ” said Dr. Richard Besser, chief executive of Robert Wood Johnson, in a statement.”We are all healthier and stronger together when everyone has access to safe and affordable housing, regardless of the color of their skin or how much money they make.”

Source: Chron

PenCom, CBN, Others Move To Bridge N16trn Housing Deficit

Plans are underway to allow pension contributors access 25 per cent of savings in their respective Retirement Savings Accounts (RSAs) for mortgage finance, HousingNews has learnt.

The new arrangement is to enable the federal government to close the over N16 trillion housing deficits in the country. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had in November 2018 hinted that Nigeria’s present housing deficit stood at a staggering 20 million houses, which experts, said would require over N16 trillion to address.

To this end, insider sources in the pension industry revealed that the National Pension Commission (PenCom) is into talks with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), mortgage firms, and other relevant stakeholders to fine-tune the current guidelines to regulate the initiative.

When the guidelines are released, they will facilitate access to home ownership by pension contributors as well as bridge the housing deficit in the country. Section 89 (2) of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014 provides that a Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) may, subject to guidelines issued by PenCom, apply a percentage of pension fund assets in the Retirement Savings Account (RSA) towards the payment of equity contribution for residential mortgage by an RSA holder.

While this provision is already in the guidelines for the country’s pension scheme, the regulator is now working on the implementation by dialoguing with the relevant stakeholders.

When the initiative starts, the intending beneficiaries are expected to make formal applications to their respective PFAs, while such contributors are only allowed to access a maximum of 25 per cent of the RSA balance as equity contribution for a mortgage loan.

Moreover, a contributor, it was learnt, can only access this mortgage finance once in a lifetime. With such beneficiaries expected to be in active employment, either as a salaried employee or self-employed, the RSA holders too, according to findings, must have been contributing consistently for a minimum of 10 years, prior to the application for a draw-down.

The title to the property, according to the proposed guidelines, must be a fully perfected one and free from any encumbrances, while the property to be financed through pension fund must have a comprehensive insurance policy in the name of the borrower, to cover the replacement or reinstatement cost of the property.

The insurance policy is expected to note the RSA Fund as one of the first loss payees, to cover the equity contribution released by the PFA. The mortgage loan amount, it was further learnt, is a minimum of N1.5 million and a maximum of N50 million with the tenor of the mortgage loan ranging between five and 20 years.

In an interview with Housing News, the acting director-general of PenCom, Mrs. Aisha Dahir-Umar, confirmed that the commission was working on the guidelines to enhance the implementation of the initiative.

According to her, “the commission is currently working with the CBN and other stakeholders in the mortgage sector in developing appropriate guidelines.

These guidelines are expected to be issued in 2019, and will allow RSA contributor to access and utilise part of his or her RSA balance towards equity contribution in respect of home-ownership mortgages.”

This, she said, would boost the real estate market and equally contribute to the socio-economic development of the country. Before now, the chairman, Petra Real Estate Investment Club, Mr. Emmanuel Oyewole, had said that the government was not doing enough to address the housing deficit in the country and that experts put Nigeria’s housing deficits at 17 million units.

The figure has since surged as there has not been a corresponding increase in supply as the population increases.

“The situation is worse in the cities where demographic distribution averages 15 per cent for high income earners, 25 per cent for middle income earners and 60 per cent for the low income earners whereas the available trends in the provision of housing units, by both public and private organisations, are unfortunately, 70 per cent, 20 per cent and 10 per cent in favour of high, middle and low income earners respectively,“ he stated.

Osinbajo, who was represented by the permanent secretary, Political and Economic Affairs Office (OSGF), Gabriel Aduda, at a conference recently, charged the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) to rise to the greater responsibility of seeking innovative ways to attract funding for housing provision, through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) and partnership with relevant government and financial institutions.

He noted that the raising of long-term housing bonds and other specialised financial instruments would guarantee the provision of affordable housing for the public.

He directed that these initiatives must be targeted at achieving the ultimate aim: more affordable houses for the greater numbers of Nigerians

Finding Home: Affordable Housing Crisis Leads To More Homeless Students

Third-grader Naveah Taylor bounds out of Reid Park elementary school in a pink jacket and backpack. Her favorite subject is math.

“I learned about adding fractions,” she said. “You only can add the numerator but not the denominator.”

Naveah started school in Charlotte this year. Kindergarten was in Jacksonville, Florida. First and second grade were in Atlanta. Then her parents couldn’t care for her anymore, and she and her brother Dakari came to live with her grandmother in Charlotte. He’s adjusted to second grade here and his favorite subject is science.

“I like that we go and explore stuff,” he said referring to an experiment about the densities of liquids. “Like at school the other day, we did a rainbow jar.”

Dakari and Naveah are with their grandmother now. Alohma West brought the kids to live with her in the one-bedroom apartment in west Charlotte she already shared with her son’s family. With seven people and several air mattresses, it’s a tight fit.

“We are still there on top of each other,” West said. “But it’s still better than being outside on the street.”

West’s grandkids are considered homeless under a federal law called McKinney-Vento. The classification applies to students living in a motel, car or emergency shelter. It also applies to those living in someone else’s home because they lost theirs or can’t afford their own. This qualifies Dakari and Naveah for meals, academic support and transportation from wherever they are to their home school that year.

The Department of Education reports more than 29,000 kids in North Carolina were considered homeless in the 2016-2017 school year. About three-quarters of those are living with other families because it’s too expensive to live on their own.

According to Shantiqua Neely, it’s not necessarily because people don’t have jobs. She’s the executive director at A Child’s Place, the organization helps homeless CMS students and families. She said it’s because rent is too expensive.

“Over half of our parent and caregivers that we serve are employed,” Neely said. “Things like affordable housing and lack of access to livable wages, and other factors like inter-partner violence and histories of eviction, play a big role in contributing to what we are seeing as family homelessness.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has the largest population of homeless students in North Carolina. Last year the district has identified almost 4,600. That’s up from nearly 2,500 10 years ago.

Neely said she is paying close attention to Charlotte’s efforts to make affordable housing a priority. The city says there’s a shortage of about 24,000 affordable housing units. She said she’s excited to see big corporations pitching in.

“I’m happy that we are talking about it in Charlotte,” Neely said. “But I’m looking for the day where it starts to translates to the population that we are serving.”

The city just approved spending more than $2 million to renovate nearly 80 apartments in east Charlotte to and keep them affordable. A quarter of those units would fall in the budget of most of the families that are in Neely’s program. She said the average family she serves makes about $800 a month.

CMS found through Project LIFT, a public-private partnership focused on west side schools, that kids moved so much that it’s difficult to track their progress. 50 percent of kids transferred to other schools after one year in the program. Neely said that movement is mainly within west Charlotte schools.

“We are servicing a family at one school and then we are in a meeting talking about that family, but that family is now at another school,” Neely said. “They are going back and forth all because parents are trying to look for that stability.”

Federal law requires the district transport kids from wherever they live to their home school for the rest of the year — even if they move outside the district. McKinney-Vento specialist at CMS Sonia Jenkins said about half of the 3,800 homeless kids this year live outside of their school zone, some even moving to Rock Hill or Gastonia because it’s too expensive to stay in Mecklenburg. She said the district spends $2 million on their transportation.

West is searching for a more permanent place and wants her grandkids to have some stability after years of being on the streets and sometimes living in squalid conditions.

“They definitely need a stable environment coming from not being fed, to being abused, to living with rats,” West said. “I mean, I listen to stories now that they have been with me a while. They are opening up more and they are telling me how the rats used to sleep in bed with them and it breaks my heart.”

CMS found students considered homeless were more likely to be behind in reading skills and tend to miss school more often.

School buses are pulling up and kids file out into the parking lot of the Center of Hope Salvation Army shelter in time for dinner. Today it’s chili, cornbread and salad.

As Kimberly Washington gets her food, she tells me her 8th-grade son didn’t get to school that day.

“He actually missed it this morning,” she said. “[The school bus] was one minute early.”

Because Washington doesn’t have a car, her son stayed at the shelter. They have been living in the shelter for a little more than a month. Washington said she ended up here after bouncing around homes of her family and friends. It started when she left an abusive relationship.

For a time, she was renting a room in a house — it was expensive. Then, she lost a temp job.

Washington is about to start as a cashier at Chick-fil-A. She’s planning to start saving up so she and her son can move out of the shelter. But as she looks for places, she’s finding rent has gotten more expensive.

“The wages that are earned in Charlotte, the compensation matching the cost of living. It just simply doesn’t,” she said. “I don’t understand how even though market rates increase, how rates of pay don’t match that.”

Washington’s applied for housing assistance but like many others, has been on the waitlist for years. She said she’s not expecting to get a voucher anytime soon.

But Alohma West is proof that a voucher doesn’t make it easier to find a place. She’s been looking for a bigger place for her and the two grandkids with a voucher, which provides a little more than a $1,000 a month. She said she’s called more than 30 places and is on several waitlists.

“But the problem is everywhere you look, nobody wants to take the voucher,” West said. “I can’t just sit. I have to get out. I don’t have a car so I have to look for something on the bus line. It’s been rough.”

While dealing with all this stress, West is trying to keep life normal for her 8- and 9-year-old grandkids. They have a homework routine after school and on the weekends, she tries to take them to free activities.

Often Dakari, her grandson in second grade, said they end up doing stuff at the apartment.

“Because she do not have a car to take us anywhere,” he said. “So lately, she hasn’t had enough money to do stuff so we just do stuff at home.”

His sister Naveah added that she’s looking forward to finding another place to live that’s less crowded so she can take her Christmas present out of the box. She’s been waiting a few months to open the easy bake oven.

“We got to get a bigger space because there’s a baby in the house and he messes with completely everything,” she said.

West has until May to find a place with the voucher before it expires. She is searching for anywhere in the county so the children can stay in CMS schools.

Source: Wfae

Affordable housing top challenge in region when attracting people

While the local economy is healthy there is a need to attract new people to the Grey-Bruce-Huron-Perth region to fill jobs.

That according to Executive Director of the Four County Labour Market Planning Board Gemma (JEM-ah) Mendez-Smith.

She says there are some troubling indications even though unemployment is at an all-time low.

And one obstacle is a shortage of affordable housing.

“We have a very low unemployment rate, we have a vibrant economy,” said Mendez-Smith. “We need to grow the work force and one of those ways will be inviting people to move to our region and live and work in our region. So we need to consider how we will house them and that’s a huge discussion.”

Mendez-Smith says people looking at coming to the region to take entry level jobs for minimum wage or slightly more can’t afford the housing that is currently available to them.

She adds transportation has long been considered the major obstacle to people looking at moving into our rural areas because of little or no public transportation. But that challenge has now been eclipsed by the shortage of affordable housing.

Source: Blackburnnews

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