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Urban Planning Can Make the Middle East More Resilient to Outside Forces

Cities in the Middle East and North Africa are centres of innovation and investment, pivotal to economic growth and development across the region. At the same time, they are vulnerable to severe impact from a range of challenges, shocks and stresses that can be both natural and man-made. The growth of sustainable cities needs to be disaster-proofed.

From emergency planning to infrastructure investment, from adaptations in urban planning to risk financing: resilience and sustainability are two complementary paradigms of urban development in the Mena region. One cannot exist without the other. We should go beyond conventional approaches to risk reduction and advocate a forward-looking approach to urban development, encompassing the spatial, physical, functional and organisational dimensions of any inhabited settlement. A resilient city assesses, plans and acts in preparation for all kinds of hazards to enhance lives, foster an environment for investment and drive positive change.

 

Urbanisation trends continue to transform cities into unique hubs for services and housing, and to fulfil the promise of social inclusion and better social and economic opportunities for all citizens. However, if not properly managed and planned, these same trends can put a severe strain on urban water, waste, housing, energy and utility systems, unleashing long-term stresses on their efficiency and exposing their weaknesses, particularly when impacted by internal or external forces.

Most Mena cities are increasingly exposed to natural disasters such as flood, extreme heat or drought and climate-related shocks. What we have been observing in the region is that while the number of natural disasters around the world has almost doubled since the 1980s, it has almost tripled in Mena countries, with more than 370 natural disasters affecting 40 million people over the last 30 years, costing $20 billion.

The impact of these disasters on cities has been aggravated by a number of factors, including the rise in population density. In total, 62 per cent of Mena population live in cities while the urban population is expected to double by 2040. Water scarcity, migration to cities from rural areas and from neighbouring countries, flawed policies affecting cities, and climate change all have a lasting impact on Middle Eastern cities.

Last year there were more than 70 million people forcibly displaced around the world, according to the UN Refugee Agency. Syria accounted for most of the 13.6m newly displaced people worldwide. More than 80 per cent of forcibly displaced people from the region (primarily from Syria, Iraq and Yemen) now live in towns and cities. The urbanisation of forced displacement means the displaced are no longer in isolated areas but merged into existing urban populations. Their move to cities is often based on a perception that cities offer better economic opportunities, increased security, a degree of anonymity, greater access to services and closer proximity to markets.

In fact, the urban spatial footprint can increase rapidly as a result of an influx from displacement, as seen in Beirut or Amman. A large influx of displaced people arriving in cities and towns can double or triple population growth rates in months or weeks. While the impact on cities such as Amman will be somewhat noticeable, expansion is most visible in smaller municipalities such as Mizyara and Zahle in Lebanon, and Mafraq, Zaatari and Ramtha in northern Jordan, where populations have doubled in some cases and new settlement development drives rapid expansion of the urban footprint.

“Urbanisation trends continue to transform cities into unique hubs for services and housing, and to fulfil the promise of social inclusion and better social and economic opportunities for all citizens”

Most Mena governments have embarked on resilience and development in response – from setting up early-warning systems, building institutions and infrastructure to better handle disasters and gathering an accurate picture of the risks they face.

The city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, which was affected by flooding in 2009 and 2011, has undertaken significant steps towards flood-risk reduction by improving drainage infrastructure and land use planning. Dubai has implemented development for urban search and rescue, contingency planning, firefighting and emergency response.

The Jordanian port city of Aqaba has instigated a variety of initiatives regarding earthquake risk reduction, including risk assessment, public awareness, urban search and rescue, and community voluntary teams. Meanwhile Fez in Morocco has community-level disaster risk management initiatives and the coastal city of Byblos in Lebanon, known to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, has an action plan to mitigate risks, including identifying opportunities that the city can take to improve its resilience.

These good practices display the importance that concerned city authorities attach to disaster risk reduction for the safety of their populations. There is a need to replicate such good practices on a wider scale in the region.

But to implement these plans successfully and manage increasingly large and complex urban systems, there is a need for better co-ordination at a central and local level, increased participation of the private sector in urban development and a devolution of responsibilities and budgets to local authorities.

We also need to make sure fast-growing cities do not lock in high rates of carbon emission or put people at further risk of disaster. It will take a combined effort from the public and private sector to build resilience in all Mena cities.

Source: thenational

Nigerian government intensifies effort for adequate housing

The Nigerian government has said it is intensifying efforts to ensure that its citizens own houses.

The Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board said this will be done in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s agenda on bridging the housing deficit in the country.

The Executive Secretary of the Board, Dr. Hannatu Fika, said this while briefing journalists during an inspection of housing projects across the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria.

Dr. Fika said the move became necessary giving the crucial roles of public servants in the economic development of the nation.

According to her, all public servants are entitled to the housing loan and should take advantage of the scheme.

“At least the houses speak for themselves. It is not imaginary. This estate belongs literary to Federal civil servants who identified a developer and introduce the developer to us and instructed us to pay their own loan to the developer so that he can build houses for them and this houses you are seeing are houses that came through partnership between the developers and civil servants.”

“This estate is christened Amal Pepple Housing Estate, after one of our former Head of Service and for now, there are over 220 houses and more are going to be constructed because the land is very big,” she disclosed.

When giving an overview of the inspection, she said the Engr Ebele Okeke Housing Estate, also named after a former Head of Service which was earlier inspected will be commissioned in September.

She therefore urged the developers to ensure everything is completed before the day of commissioning.

“Liberty 1, which is now Engr Ebele Okeke Housing Estate is fully developed and occupied. You have seen it yourself, and Liberty 2, which is close to Liberty 1, we planned to commission it in July, but unfortunately the developers weren’t ready. So, we urge them to hasten and finish up. Because quite a number of the owners of the houses in that Estate want it as carcass so that they can redesign it the way they want.

“And i think we are contributing our quota as a Board maximally to the reduction of the housing deficit in the country especially now that we have a Government that is willing to provide houses for most citizens. You know Civil Servants are a critical sector in the citizenry of this country,”She said.

Talking on support from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, which the Board is under, she said the support is maximal.

“Everybody is giving us support otherwise you wouldn’t have seen what is on ground. Because housing is one of the programmes of government which is one of the major ones. She is giving us 100% support both morally and spiritually,” she said.

When asked if there could be an option of allocating lands to civil Servants to develop by themselves instead of houses, she noted that it’s a good idea, but it all boils down to the same thing, same expenses, giving the funds that will be used to build the house.
“but connected to that we have approached the FCT and it has given us land in Wasa district, which will make the houses more subsidised,” she explained.

Dr Fika further advised Civil servants to key into the Scheme even if it’s the carcass.

One of the developers, Arc Rotimi Fason, said his company is ready for the September commissioning.

“As you can see we have all equipment on ground including the transformer. We are currently working on the drainage and we will soon complete it,” he said.

About five housing estate were inspected by the Executive Secretary Federal Government Staff Housing Loan Board within the FCT.

Inside Multi Billion Naira Kano Economic City of Brains and Hammers Ltd

Phase 1 ready by Dec 

Developer The first phase of the Kano Economic City (KEC) project has reached 85 per cent completion, making the December, 2019, deadline for construction work to be completed realistic.

Conceived about 12 years ago by the administration of a former Kano State Governor, Malam Ibrahim Shekaru, and estimated to gulp about $461m, the project faced a major setback when the parties involved could not reach a balance in the financial agreement involved. KEC is strategically located along the Zaria-Maiduguri Road, just a 15-minute drive from Kano Town. Under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) agreement, the KEC project was expected to be implemented in three phases spanning five to seven years under a joint venture partnership between the Kano State Government and a foremost indigenous real estate and infrastructure development company, Brains and Hammers Limited.

Upon completion, the project will be developed under a Build, Operate, Own and Transfer (BOOT) arrangement. The city was designed on a 117.2-hectare to provide over 80,000 Square Metres (sqm) of mega wholesale and retail warehouses and 10,000 shops and stalls targeted at harnessing product value-chain opportunities, as well as to improve economic growth. KEC is designed to accommodate a World Trade Centre (WTC), a wholesale and retail market comprising state-of-the-art warehousing facilities totalling over 80,000sqm and over 10,000 wholesale and retail shops, an education institute, light factories/industries, a conference centre, banks, an office complex, a health center, police station, fire station, international coach station, a five-star hotel, among other modern facilities

. The developer, Brains and Hammers Limited, said the central components of KEC included, but was not limited to trailer and passenger motor parks, amusement park and petrol stations. However, the project was said to have been abandoned for some years until the present Kano State Government under Gov. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje resolved to complete it under its bid to reassert the state as one of the leading economic centres in the country. Gov. Ganduje made a commitment to see that the project comes to reality.

After mobilising the co-partners to site, the governor recently visited the Phase 1 site of KEC; which when completed will house mega GSM and pharmaceutical markets. He said, “My administration is particularly interested and determined to make a global city in Kano that can compete with other business cities in the world in order to have full and better economic potentialities and opportunities for the benefit of all.”

The Head of Design and Project Coordinator of Brains and Hammers, Arch. Muhydeen Afolabi, said his company would secure hybrid funding for the project, coordinate technical development and construction of the market, market various products, as well as services of KEC and discuss off-taker financing models with prospective financiers. Arch. Afolabi added that the Kano State Government on the other hand, would provide land as equity contribution to the project, policy formulation and enforcement in respect to trade and commerce which would accelerate and support occupation of KEC.

Afolabi further revealed that the state government would lead the sensitisation of traditional rulers and the general public, as well as joint facility management of the market complex for a period of 25 years with an option of a renewal. He said, “We have gone far on it, and as you are aware, the Kano State governor was here some time ago and he saw how far we have gone. The December deadline is realistic as all construction works have reached 85 per cent.”

Afolabi further said KEC had been designed to have 10,000 shops in Phase 1, 38 world class warehouses, 280-trailer capacity parking space, among other services needed in a world standard market, adding that the project also had provision for an agricultural hub that would house grains, a space for large and small scale industries, a leather processing unit, a meat unit and other commodities, with an up-to-date ICT centre, a hospital and offices for regulatory and security agencies.

Source: dailytrust

Birmingham’s Temporary Accommodation Tower

At 20 storeys tall, Barry Jackson Tower is clearly visible from Birmingham’s infamous Spaghetti Junction just over a mile away.

One Birmingham City Council employee tells Inside Housing how her colleagues are “proud” when they turn off the M6 to make their way into the city and catch a glimpse of the newly refurbished building in Aston, glistening a pristine white in the morning sunshine. That pride comes from what the council has done here.

An unloved 1960s tower block, incongruously dumped among the low-rise estates of the surrounding area, Barry Jackson Tower was a hive for anti-social behaviour and had been scheduled for demolition.

That changed two years ago, when the council hit on the idea of using some of its obsolete buildings as temporary accommodation to alleviate a growing homelessness crisis. In June this year, the first families began moving into the tower’s 160 ‘units’ (the council prefers that word to ‘flats’ when describing temporary accommodation). Meanwhile, to the south of the city centre in Highgate, others were starting to occupy the 55 units at Magnolia House, a former care home.

Inside Housing is being shown around the recently reopened facility during a sweltering hot lunchtime in July by Sharon Thompson, Birmingham’s cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods and previously its advisor on homelessness. Having been a homeless teen in the city herself, Ms Thompson has a personal incentive to find solutions to what has become an epidemic.

“I think it’s a statement,” she says as we talk in a communal area on the second floor. “In that it’s driving down the use of bed and breakfast [(B&B) accommodation], then, yeah, it’s a huge statement.”

The use of B&Bs as a short-term salve for homeless families has been on the rise in Birmingham. A year ago, according to council data, there were 700 families staying in B&Bs across the city. Today, partly thanks to the opening of Barry Jackson Tower and Magnolia House, that number is below 400.

Ms Thompson says that reducing the reliance on B&Bs is a big motivational factor, not just because it is more expensive for the council to pay for rooms in them than in their own managed accommodation, but also because of the effects it has on people trying to find a permanent home.

“A big thing was when people said they couldn’t bring food in [to B&Bs],” she elaborates. “These things make a huge difference to people.”

In contrast, there is a shared kitchen – as well as a shared bathroom – for every two units in Barry Jackson Tower, and an individual fridge for each family. “This shows them that, as a council, we value you as individuals and we will support you in the meantime to get you into permanent accommodation,” adds Ms Thompson.

But the use of B&Bs is just one symptom of a crisis that has engulfed all of the UK’s major cities

this decade, with Birmingham no exception. Street homelessness in the city increased by 53% in the past year and by 588% since 2012.

The last official count in 2018 revealed that 91 people were sleeping rough; in the previous year the count was 57. Meanwhile, the council is handling 600 homelessness applications each month. With 12,900 households already on the housing waiting list and 2,900 in temporary accommodation of one sort or another, it is easy to understand the scale of the challenge.

The repurposing of the two buildings is part of a preventative strategy that launched in 2017, in response to the passing of the government’s Homelessness Reduction Act, legislation that places the onus on councils to prevent homelessness, rather than take action only once someone becomes homeless.

While Ms Thompson says that Birmingham’s “biggest focus has been getting families out of bed and breakfast”, the strategy – which she herself drew up during her stint as the council’s homelessness advisor – goes further than that.”

“The Homelessness Reduction Act meant we had to change our systems anyway, so we looked at the whole thing together,” Ms Thompson continues. “Barry Jackson and Magnolia are just two of the things that came out of it.”

 

 

She says that the strategy was aimed at “looking at it [homelessness] in a whole system way”, adding that it is being treated as a “city-wide approach, not a council-only approach”.

In practical terms, this approach resulted in the formation of the Birmingham Homelessness Partnership Board, comprising individuals from 30 organisations including charities, private landlords and public sector bodies. The board reviews the council’s progress against the aims of the its homelessness prevention strategy on an annual basis.

The strategy itself has five strands: universal prevention, targeted prevention, crisis prevention and relief, homeless recovery, and sustainable housing. And it appears to be bearing fruit: of the 300 homelessness cases each month that the council identifies as ‘preventable’, 44% are in secure, permanent accommodation six months later.

Ms Thompson explains how the conversion of Barry Jackson Tower and Magnolia House “sits in between” the crisis management and prevention parts of the strategy. That is because besides providing the physical space for families, the two buildings also provide what she calls “wrap-around services” to try and prevent repeat homelessness and put families staying there on the path to getting a home of their own.

“What we don’t want is a cycle of repeat homelessness,” confirms Andy Perry, senior service manager in the council’s temporary accommodation team, which is responsible for the two buildings as well as the four other facilities across the city. “We want people to move on to permanent accommodation.”

There are around 25 council staff working in Barry Jackson Tower, and another nine in Magnolia House, although the level of staffing is constantly assessed. Many of these are in place to provide the kind of services Ms Thompson is talking about. There is, for example, a full-time finance officer on site to help households that might be struggling to get on to Birmingham’s housing register because they are in debt.

 

Mr Perry says that the officer’s appointments diary is full every week. “There’s a financial angle to lots of people who end up in these circumstances,” he explains.

Haja Obayd and her six children are among the families for whom money was a cause of their homelessness. They were renting privately until they started falling behind on their rent payments and were evicted.

“We were living in hotels and Travelodges for a couple of months,” her 18-year-old daughter Hana Abdul Moore tells Inside Housing. “It’s better here. In the hotels, we didn’t have kitchens and we had to eat out all the time. It’s more like home here.”

Part of that feeling comes from the staff and services that are on offer. Many of the reception and security staff speak Arabic, which Ms Abdul Moore says helps her mother, who sometimes struggles with her English, to feel more at ease. Meanwhile, they are being helped in their application for a permanent home.

In Magnolia House, Zartaisha Rashid has been living in a ground-floor room with a bunk bed alongside her three-year-old son, Hussain Ali, since June. They have been homeless since they obtained a visa 18 months ago.

Ms Rashid tells Inside Housing that she preferred the privacy of her previous temporary accommodation, which she shared with just two other women, but she acknowledges the importance of the additional services she can now access.

“Everyone is friendly and the staff are really nice,” she says. “If you need any help, they are here for you. We are homeless and whatever the council can do, they are doing it for us.”

Financial difficulty has been identified as one of the leading causes of homelessness in Birmingham, but the council’s strategy is also specifically targeting another: domestic violence.

Women’s Aid, a charity that works with domestic violence victims, is one of the 30 organisations with a place on the Homelessness Partnership Board. In March, as part of the over-arching homelessness strategy, the council helped establish a domestic abuse hub, where victims at risk of homelessness can access advice and support.

“We have a system that looks at their needs and their risks [so] we can get the wrap-around support in place,” explains Maureen Connolly, chief executive at Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid. She says the work with the partnership board has helped start “conversations about new ways of doing things”.

 

Women’s Aid has a worker in Barry Jackson Tower but Ms Connolly would, on balance, rather victims stay in their own home instead of moving to temporary accommodation whenever possible. “By the time they get here, they are down the road of living with it for a long time,” she elaborates.

It is an illustration of how many intersectional challenges a city like Birmingham has when it comes to homelessness – and how far it still has to go. Nevertheless, the refurbishment of buildings on such a large scale is a clear sign of intent.

The cost of renovating Barry Jackson Tower was £11m, while Magnolia House came in at around £5m. Mr Perry says that Barry Jackson Tower will be “cost neutral” at a 95% occupancy rate. Since it opened at the start of the summer, it has had a 98% occupancy rate. When Inside Housing visits, only one unit is empty, and even that is due to be filled the following day.

There is no time limit for how long people can stay in either of the buildings, with the only restriction being that single men cannot live in any of the units.

“Some families need a few days; some may need two or three months,” adds Mr Perry. “We don’t set timescales for them. You make the call at the right time.”

Timing is also important when it comes to broadening what is still very much a pilot approach.

“What we wanted to do is to make sure to get things right here before rolling it out,” confirms Mr Perry. “What we don’t want is to think we know best and then mess things up. We want to make sure we make the right impact.”

Source:  insidehousing

Lagos and the Imperatives of Environmental Regeneration

Cleaner environment is among the yardstick for ranking cities and for attracting multinational companies as well as investors. Ranking of cities is helpful in terms of employment and development opportunities. Multinational companies are attracted to set up their offices in the cities with good rankings. Avoidance of degradation is another benefit of a clean city.

It is, therefore, with a view to promoting environmental regeneration in Lagos State that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu made Health and the Environment a major pillar of his administration’s THEMES Agenda. Indeed, one of the earliest actions of the governor was the signing of his first Executive Order to address sanitation as well as cleaning of drainages in the State.

Since it came on board, the Sanwo-Olu administration has demonstrated the zeal and willingness to enhance improvement in the state’s waste management system. The administration is resolved to rid the state of waste, necessitating the introduction of “Lagos at 4 am” operation and other laudable initiatives aimed at improving the state’s environmental architecture. “Lagos at 4 am” is an initiative to ensure wastes are evacuated and carted away in the early hours of the day as it is done in major global cities.

The Sanwo-Olu administration has disclosed plans to undertake waste sorting for households, as well as the provision of bags for bottles, kitchen wastes and other items, emphasising that waste sorting has potentials for economic growth by way of providing employment opportunities. This is hinged on the promotion of 3 ‘R’s-Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

One vital strategy that the administration is already employing to improve waste management in the state is ensuring synergy between PSP operators and the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) in order to attain a cleaner environment. Presently, LAWMA is working assiduously to collaborate with PSP operators. This is being done by encouraging them to reinvest in the business so that the confidence of the public in their capability could be restored. Presently, LAWMA is doing well in this direction as a reasonable proportion of the PSP operators are already back in business. This explains why heaps of refuse are gradually being eliminated along Lagos roads.

LAWMA is equally intensifying efforts to preserve the environment. To this end, it recently clamped down on Sangotedo Market, Eti Osa, Lagos due to indiscriminate dumping of refuse and poor hygiene practices. LAWMA has also commenced an intensive clearing exercise to clean the Adeniji-Adele canal, just as it urges residents to think of making money from their recyclable items, instead of dumping them in canals. The exercise is to be extended to other clogged drainage channels in the state.

Tree planting is another strategy being used by the state government to protect the environment. Trees have been scientifically proven to be very useful as first line of defence in the fight against global warming as they absorb the carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere, replenish the air with oxygen and also contribute immensely to the aesthetics of the environment. They also check erosion and stem the tide of windstorm by serving as wind breakers. On another note, trees are brilliant cleansers. They remove other pollutants through the stomates in the leaf surface.

In order to fully maximize the environmental benefits of trees, Governor Sanwo-Olu has urged Lagosians to support his government’s tree planting vision. The governor urged residents “to join hands with his administration to rid the state of waste, as well as improve the aesthetics of the environment by adorning it with ornamental plants, beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees”.

Governor Sanwo-Olu has, no doubt, demonstrated immense knowledge and commitment of how to tackle climate change when he emphasized the strategic importance of tree planting in bringing about a healthy environment and protecting the general wellbeing of the citizenry, saying “it remains a strong tool to tackle the effect of climate change and global warming”.

It is, therefore, not a surprise that Lagos State used the theme ‘Clean and Green is our Perfect Dream’ for this year’s tree planting sensitisation campaign to accentuate the THEMES Agenda of the State Government which plays significant emphases on improving citizen’s health and creating a sustainable environment.

One unique message that should resonate across the State and, indeed, Nigeria from the 2019 Sanwo-Olu tree planting day messages was the one that enjoined Lagosians thus: “As we mark our birthdays, let’s plant a tree; as we dedicate our children, let’s plant a tree; as we celebrate our children’s graduation, let’s plant a tree; whatever memorable event that we do, let’s endeavour to mark it with planting of trees. This little act of benevolence to nature can actually save our planet from further destruction”.

Similarly, on-going cleaning up of the Badagry axis is another pointer to the administration’s strong resolve to improve the state’s environmental landscape. While matching his talk with actions, particularly to reinforce his first Executive Order on zero tolerance for environmental abuse, respite has now come for road users and residents along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway as work has commenced on the reconstruction of the all important road.

While executing the Governor’s Executive Order, the State Environmental Task Force has begun massive clearing of all illegal structures and shanties built on setbacks on the stretch of Eric Moore to Trade Fair on Lagos-Badagry Expressway. This is in a bid to clean up the entire stretch to pave way for reconstruction and completion of the expressway.

The move is in line with the state government’s zero tolerance on environmental degradation and sanitation, as well as tackling traffic menace in the Lagos metropolis. The state government is also working along the Oshodi-Abule Egba corridor to secure it for a clean-up exercise aimed at reclaiming rights of way for free passage of vehicles and improving the aesthetics of the environment.

Essentially, the purpose of clearing the Badagry axis of shanties was to also activate the BRT corridor and ensure the roads are free of miscreants and illegal traders. Residents are, therefore, advised to vacate this corridor and desist from all illegal activities along the axis. They are also advised to desist from indiscriminate dumping of refuse forthwith and make good use of large Dino bins and containers provided along the corridor.

Certainly, the determination of the Sanwo-Olu administration to achieve a greater Lagos, especially through environmental regeneration is, without doubt, on course. But then, Lagosians need to also walk the talk with the state government by playing their part in the dream to make Lagos greater.

Source: pmnewsnigeria

Green Architecture and Sustainable Economic Growth in Nigeria

You don’t need a green roof, a vertical garden or a green wall to live in a green building.

Climate change will not destroy the earth. The planet will go on for millions of years, long after human life has expired but climate change, however, can destroy the species of life on earth that cannot adapt fast enough to new and changing conditions.

This entire process of building design that reduces the harmful effects on our health and environment is known as green architecture or green design. Green architecture is a sustainable practice of green building design which is designed and constructed with keeping the environmental standards in mind.

Today, we find ourselves at a crossroad on making choices about architectural standards, building materials and new construction, along with the operation and maintenance of buildings, account for a considerable sum of the total greenhouse gas emissions.

Knowing this reality, architects are supposed to carry the responsibility of building properties without deteriorating the planet’s environmental structure or depleting its resources any further. Sustainably designed buildings aim to lessen the impact of greenhouse emissions on our environment through energy and resource efficiency.

Sustainability presents itself as a unique challenge in the field of architecture construction projects typically consume large amounts of materials, produce tons of waste, and often involve weighing the preservation of buildings that have historical significance against the desire for the development of newer, more modern designs.

Increasing CO2 emissions are believed to result in irreversible changes in the global climate and the global environment, the consequences of which are hard to predict, but which are believed to impose tremendous economic cost of mitigation and adaptation, if not catastrophic effects on the human future.

Green Homes illustrates the multiple environmental, economic and social benefits arising from a transition towards energy-efficient housing. It outlines the required institutional changes and provides some basic principles for successful policies.

For a world aiming towards a balanced and inclusive green economy for sustainable development, Green Homes is more relevant than ever today. In spite of the sustainability and affordability benefits of Green Houses, the progress made by Nigerians and the Nigerian government is so little compared to advanced nations where Green Houses and allied concepts are very popular.

The concept of Green Houses has become very significant just as the waves of green movement are sweeping across the world. Apart from benefits that such houses promise to the environment, they are cost-effective and would lead to a more sustainable economy.

Source: Legit.ng

Private renters living in hazardous homes thanks to ‘weak regulations’, says Citizens Advice

Hundreds of thousands of tenants in England are living in hazardous homes with problems such mould or faulty fire alarms due to “weak and confusing” regulation, according to Citizens Advice.

The charity found that almost one in three tenants surveyed said their house did not have a carbon monoxide alarm despite requiring one. That equates to 900,000 homes across the UK.

Three-fifths of tenants identified disrepair in their home during the last two years that was not caused by them and that their landlord was responsible for fixing. One in six of those said the disrepair was a major threat to their health and safety.

Citizens Advice also polled landlords, finding widespread gaps in knowledge of their legal responsibilities to tenants.

A quarter of landlords failed to ensure that there was a smoke alarm on each floor of all of their properties.

Almost half (49 per cent) did not know they face a penalty of up to £5,000 for not checking smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in working order on the first day of the tenancy. The same proportion didn’t know the penalty for not carrying out a gas safety check.

“Too many private renters live in hazardous homes – often with potentially fatal flaws,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

“Weak and confusing regulation means landlords can struggle to understand their legal obligations, while tenants find it hard to get problems in their homes resolved.

It suggests creating a home “MOT”, setting a “fit-and-proper-person” test for landlords and standardising rental contracts.

The government has made reforms in the private rented sector in recent years, such as laws to ensure all rented homes are fit to be lived in, banning most tenant fees, and proposed the abolition of “no-fault” section 21 evictions.

But Citizens Advice claims that renters still lack the power they need to ensure standards are consistent, and landlords and tenants lack the knowledge they need for standards to be upheld.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “It is truly alarming that so many private renters are living in homes which aren’t up to scratch and compromise their safety. A safe home is a basic standard that every renter has the right to expect.

“It’s critical that every landlord is aware of their responsibilities and stays in step with the new Fitness for Human Habitation Act, which sets out standards to keep renters safe.

“But if landlords don’t follow these rules, renters should be armed with the power to challenge their poor behaviour.

“That’s why the government’s planned ban on no-fault evictions must become law as quickly as possible, so that private renters can speak up about safety concerns without living in fear of a revenge eviction.”

Halfway Into 2019, How Is The Housing Market Holding Up?

Hard to believe we’re already halfway through 2019.

Headed into the year, all eyes were on the housing market as it showed signs of softening for the first time in recent memory. A sharp rise in inventory, talk of more rate hikes and shrinking home price gains in the fourth quarter of 2018 created a cloud of uncertainty.

Six months in, it’s safe to say that the sky isn’t falling. But you might think of the real estate market right now as behaving like a C student that isn’t living up to its full potential.

“The housing market is doing fine,” said Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors. “But it certainly can do better given what’s happening with job creation and the historically low mortgage rate that is currently in place.”

To make sense of this transitional period, it’s time for a midyear market pulse check. Here’s how leading industry economists are piecing together the first stretch of 2019 and what they say is in store for the future of housing.

Affordability challenges yank back price growth 

“For the first time in a long time, we’re starting to see prices correct,” said Skylar Olsen, Director of Economic Research at Zillow. “And the big thrust that’s changing that narrative is the affordability challenge.”

She explains that when home values outpace incomes so aggressively, the two “have to snap back together eventually,” which is in effect what’s happened.

In April, the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index dropped for the 13th month in a row. To be clear, home values are still going up nationally; they’re just rising at a more moderate rate. Annual gains for April clocked in at 3.5%, down from 3.7% in March.

But in some markets the shift has been far more dramatic.

Take Seattle. For two years price growth accelerated faster there than anywhere else in the country. Then between April 2018 and April 2019, the year-over-year price change shrunk from 13.8% growth to a 0.0% flatline. Over the same time frame, San Francisco fell from 10.9% to 1.8% annual gains.

Notice a trend? The markets with the fastest growth fell the hardest. Some exceptions bucking the norm have been Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tampa, their resilience due to how hard they were hit by the 2008 housing crisis.

“I would say the price appreciation of 3% is a healthy development,” added Yun.

Mortgage rates drop, but buyers aren’t jumping the gun

After four benchmark rate hikes in 2018, the Federal Reserve signaled it planned on two more increases this year. That gave analysts every reason to believe mortgages were well on their way 5.5%.

But in March the Fed moved away from that intent and showed signs of even lowering the interest rate (whether that will happen is still TBD). As expectations changed, mortgage rates dropped from 5.09% to 4.09% between November 2018 and June 2019.

However, low interest rates aren’t like an immediate caffeine jolt for the housing market. “It doesn’t impact the down payment,” said Olsen. “And that’s the real struggle, right? Just because mortgage rates dropped doesn’t mean I can suddenly reenter the housing market.”

Demand is also tied to homebuyer sentiment, which isn’t necessarily strong right now. In June, consumer confidence dropped 9.8 points to the lowest level since September 2017 as a result of tensions surrounding the trade wars, according to the Conference Board.

“Consumers are picking up on that lack of certainty about the economic outlook,” said Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com. “And that’s not necessarily going to inspire them to make large purchases like a house.”

Inventory challenges persist on the low-end price points 

Overall inventory has started to creep up a bit this year, though it’s deceiving to try and judge the state of affairs without seeing how the market is truly split in half.

“There is plentiful inventory on the upper end market, so the housing shortage is really on the mid-priced and low ends,” said Yun. “Because the property tax deduction has been limited, there is less desire or greater financial burden from owning than before, so the upper-end market appears to be generally softer.”

In addition experts say builders have faced a number of obstacles to ramping up new construction, including high land prices, labor barriers, material costs, and the onerous process to obtain permits.

All this puts pressure on profit margins so when builders do construct a new house, it tends to be more on the luxury end.

Finally, as people move less often and more boomers decide to age in place rather than downsize, “that’s just kind of holding up a lot of the inventory that otherwise would be lubricating the whole system,” Olsen added.

So together these dynamics have created a tale of two markets.

“If you’re selling an entry level home, you’re probably still looking at a pretty competitive market in most places,” said Hale. “But if you’re selling a more expensive home you probably have to adjust your expectations.”

Cost of living and taxes sway local market conditions 

Nationally, housing conditions could be described as a seller’s market that’s gradually moving more in favor of buyers.

Drill down to the regional or local level though, and it varies. For one, some metro areas outside of major cities have stayed warmer as they catch the spillover of priced-out buyers (see: Tacoma). Strong job creation and reasonable cost of living has kept Midwest markets like Louisville and Indianapolis thriving, along with markets that resemble the Midwest in affordability. Rochester, New York is a prime example.

But there’s always exceptions. Go to Chicagoland, and you’ll hear agents tell a very different story.

“It’s definitely a buyer’s market here,” said Kim Alden, a Realtor with Baird & Warner in the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Illinois. “Inventory is a lot higher. Buyers are negotiating harder than ever because there’s a lot of people who want to sell their house and they’re using that to get the lowest price that they can.”

Alden says that 65%-75% of her listings come from people who want to leave the state of Illinois altogether to escape new and existing state tax laws.

With supply high, she’s seeing sellers experience disappointment that they can’t get as much money for their house as they expected, with one exception: updated, smaller homes are “flying off the shelves.”

“I listed a little three-bedroom, bath and a half for $178,000, and in the first weekend we had 33 showings,” Alden recalled.

Apparently anywhere, an affordable turn-key home remains a hot commodity.

But high-end sellers will need to bust out the paint and spruce up their curb appeal to attract buyers.

What about the rest of the year? 

Real estate experts remain optimistic about housing’s prospects for the latter half of 2019. Olsen expresses that even if GDP growth weakens and wages slow, it’s likely that the market is primed for some kind of a rebound.

The biggest reason for this is that as huge waves of millennials continue to reach peak home-buying age, that will put pressure on demand not only this year but in the years to come. And it’s hard to argue with long-term demographics. If a recession does hit at some point as part of the economic cycle, housing would therefore be impacted though perhaps not devastated.

Ultimately after a long post-recession hot streak, housing was due to break fever. The hope is that the market will heat up a little slower next time and create some normalcy. For now, consider it a short-term correction, and hope that more homes will come on the market that people can actually afford.

“The perfect scenario going forward,” Yun said, “even off into the next couple of years, is if there can be a robust increase in new home construction, the housing market will be more of a bright spot for the broader economy.”

Manufacturers Tackle NESREA over Environmental Policies

The manufacturers complained that the agency’s regulatory functions were not properly aligned thereby affecting operations of manufacturers.

The Chairman, PMGMAN, Okey Akpa, said, “Today, in Nigeria, manufacturers in the industry are constantly faced with environmental challenges bordering on regulations, obtaining permits, over-regulation, balancing the ecological system in the wake of growing concern for environmental sustainability and the use of green energy, multiplication of functions by government agencies, among other challenges.

“Without the alignment of the functions of these agencies, manufacturers will be burdened with additional costs of production which would continue to make products manufactured in Nigeria uncompetitive in the international market.

“These challenges necessitated this interaction with the management of NESREA who are responsible for some of these issues. This gathering is also aimed at fostering a cordial relationship between MAN members and the agency so as to have a better understanding of their policies/functions; explore areas of collaborations and partnerships at creating a friendlier business environment for manufacturing in Nigeria.”

Also speaking, the Director General, MAN, Mr Segun Ajayi-kadiri, who was represented by the Head, Corporate Affairs, MAN, Mr Ambrose Oruche, said, “I believe that we all are aware that the activities of NESREA are crucial to safeguarding our environment.

“It, therefore, suffices to say that your agency can provide solutions to the challenges being confronted by our members in their various locations as it relates to the environment.

“It is in the light of the above that our members decided to organise this meeting with decision makers of NESREA to provide firsthand information to our members on how to conduct their businesses without infringing on environmental laws.”

The Director General NESREA, Prof Aliyu Jauro, who was represented by the Director, Inspection and Enforcement, Mrs Miranda Amachree, noted that the key issues of concerns prevalent in the industrial sector were; some facilities indulging in sharp and unethical practice, improper disposal of solid waste, poor housekeeping and unsound chemical management.

He said, “There is therefore the need for improvement with the level of compliance to the submission of environmental documents such as the permits and environmental audits that are used to monitor the environment.

“We realise the problem being faced by businesses on the issue of multiple regulations and multiple taxation among government agencies. While the solution does not entirely lie with NESREA, the agency has made concessions where necessary, particularly under the chemical import clearance regime.

“We have now harmonised the clearance system with the permit of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, so once you show us the permit from NAFDAC, you are issued the import clearance for your raw materials.”

On the environment audit cycle, Jauro said that could not be resolved without the environmental impact assessment Act.

“Let me assure you that agency will be guided by equity and fairness in the regulation of the manufacturing sector. It will conduct its activities in a way that will prevent unnecessary burden on the regulated community so long as the extant environmental laws are complied with,” he added.

The NESREA DG advised manufacturers to engage the services of environmental officers to handle the environmental units of their facilities, to ensure self-regulation and proper submission of documents.

He disclosed that the agency had flagged off the implementation of the Extended Producer Responsibility programme in the electronic sector, with MAN as board member, adding, “The agency will soon commence enforcement to ensure compliance.”

Source: Punchng

Experts Set Agenda for Buhari Government on Environment

Civil society groups and experts have examined the Buhari administration’s four years’ of environmental stewardship, saying that much needs to be done in the protection of the natural resources through conservation and sustainable practices.
They believe that the Federal Government scored major point in the United Nations Environment Programme report and clean up of the Ogoniland, and pushing for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in the superhighway project in Cross River State.
The Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey told The Guardian that the process for the EIA was strictly implemented and the promoters were committed to it. “ This aspect of EIA is a plus in which we have not seen in any other administration,” he said.

However, he argued that there is no baseline for assessment of the environment sector. According to him, without that, it will be difficult to assess the government yearly or on regular intervals in terms of air pollution and water.

“People are not warned on the type of air they breathe and we still have contaminated site and oil spills. We don’t see serious sanctions on the oil companies,” he added.

The, Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, said despite the clean up of Ogoni touted as an environmental legacy project, the government scored near zero for its poor environmental protection record.

“There is a lack of an acceptable key performance indicators for the clean up. Although 16 contractors have been reportedly mobilized to site in December 2018, the key performance indicators have not been made public by Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) indicating a lack of transparency and accountability of the process.

“The clean up contract awards have been corrupted as political patronage for politicians to enrich themselves at the detriment of the poor impacted victims of the oil and gas pollution.

“Nigeria lacks a holistic approach to environmental protection and sustainable development. It has failed to put in place a National Environmental Action Plan that will specify a framework of action to deliver on set national targets measured by clear indicators on an annual basis,” he said.

Dr. Ojo stressed that government should properly clean up Ogoni, restore public confidence and redeem its dented image as well as put in place a framework for the clean up of the oil polluted Niger Delta that has been the source of protests and violent conflicts.

He added: “As a conflict resolution mechanism, the federal government should delineate the Niger Delta as ecological disaster area and declare environmental state of emergency to focus on the Niger Delta and end gas flaring.”

Bassey urged the government to conduct an environmental audit of the country and put in place a comprehensive drainage master plan to tackle recurring flooding as well as an integrated solid waste management system.

South East Outreach and Communication Adviser, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Paddy Ezeala said, tougher measures should be put in place to checkmate wanton emission of noxious and deleterious gases through gas flaring and use of outdated machines.

He also advised that electricity challenges should be addressed to minimise the use of power generating sets that emit harmful environmental pollutants, including nitrogen oxide, currently the single most important ozone-depleting emission.

Source: GuardianNg

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