#HumanRightsDay: The right to housing still eludes SA’s most vulnerable citizens

South Africa’s Constitution protects everyone’s right to access adequate housing. This principle was spelt out in law when the Court issued a landmark ruling in 2000 that stipulated the most vulnerable people – “those living in extreme conditions of poverty, homelessness or intolerable housing” – should be given priority access to housing.
A new law to effect this was passed in 2001. But, 18 years later, the law hasn’t been implemented. The main reason is that the country’s municipalities still don’t have adequate plans setting out the time frames in which they will provide adequate housing for thousands of people in desperate need.
 
The most recent data shows that there are about 3.3 million people living in informal settlements. This includes those living in temporary relocation areas.
 
Tens of thousands of South Africans are living in emergency housing areas known as “temporary relocation areas”. These were established by municipalities as emergency housing for displaced people. But they have proved not to be temporary at all. In fact, some relocation areas have grown in size. This has left both the people who were originally moved into them on a temporary basis, as well as newcomers, in a situation of limbo.
 
This reveals an epic failure by local, provincial and national governments to deliver social housing, as required by the Constitution. This unresponsiveness of government needs scrutiny by the South African Human Rights Commission, which is constitutionally mandated to promote, protect and monitor the realisation of human rights in the country, including access to housing.
 
And Parliament, in its oversight capacity, should hold the government to account for its failure to provide housing for the most vulnerable as espoused by the 2000 landmark judgment.
 
Relocated, and abandoned
 
One relocation settlement is Blikkiesdorp, a poverty-stricken community 30km east of Cape Town. Blikkiesdorp was established in 2007. It was meant to provide temporary shelter for 650 displaced, indigent people. A decade later, the city still has no definite plans to provide adequate housing for those people. The number of residents has since swelled to 15 000 in about 3 000 dwellings.
 
A similar situation is also found in Johannesburg, where 118 households were evicted from the Marie Louise informal settlement in 2001 and placed in temporary relocation areas. Although the move was only supposed to be for 18 months, this community is still without adequate homes seven years later. This, despite the courts ordering the City of Johannesburg to provide them adequate basic housing. As with Blikkiesdorp, there are still no precise time-frames for when this community will receive adequate basic housing.
 
In Durban, the Jadhu Place informal settlement was devastated by a fire in 2008 which displaced 600 households. A decade on, these residents remain in temporary shelters. They don’t know when they will be properly housed.
 
All these situations violate the Constitutional Court’s 2000 ruling and subsequent legislation. They also go against the policy guidelines the Court provided in 2008 for emergency housing.
 
Who has failed?
 
South Africa’s Constitution obliges the government – specifically the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, which is responsible for municipalities – to provide social housing for indigent South Africans.
 
Since the landmark Grootboom case, the Housing Development Agency has provided National Policy Guidelines for emergency housing programmes.
 
Places like Blikkiesdorp were supposed to be a short-term housing solution. But, a decade later, its residents still live in the area. They endure poor basic services like water and sanitation. This is contrary to the 2008 court judgment that provided guidance for dignified temporary housing.
 
In 2016, the then-mayor of Cape Town demanded that her officials present her, in two weeks, with a plan which would set out time-frames for the rehousing of Blikkiesdorp. Two years later, the city has confirmed there are currently three housing developments for Blikkiesdorp but “poor contractor performance” has caused indefinite delays.
 
The South African Human Rights Commission is constitutionally mandated to take steps to secure appropriate redress where human rights have been violated – such as is happening in Blikkiesdorp. It confirmed in a report in 2015 it was aware that people relocated to temporary areas end up living there forever.
 
But it has done nothing to ease the plight of people like those living in Blikkiesdorp.
 
What needs to happen?
 
Communities that are relocated to temporary areas are deemed to be “vulnerable” by the Constitutional Court and need to be provided with adequate housing as a matter of priority.
 
Local government is compelled by policy guidelines which provide clear steps on how this should be done. There are three steps to be followed.
 
The first is relocate to a temporary area, then maintain the place adequately and, lastly, relocate the affected people to permanent housing. Importantly, the community must be involved in setting the time-frames for the allocation of permanent housing.
 
Staying indefinitely in a temporary housing area is a relegation of just administration principles as set out in the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act. Actions by government that materially and adversely affects the rights or legitimate expectations of any person must be procedurally fair.
 
The Human Rights Commission and Parliament are the custodians that should ensure the government upholds its constitutional obligations to provide adequate housing.
 
Blikkiesdorp and other displaced communities have a right to fair administrative action in line with their legitimate expectations. The Human Rights Commission needs to prove its worth and hold the government to account on time-frames to provide adequate housing for these people – and others in a similar situation. This should preferably be complemented by parliamentary oversight.
 
* Soraya Beukes is  Doctor of Public Law and researcher at the  University of the Western Cape.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
Source:  SORAYA BEUKES

Enforcing Building Insurance

The recent collapse of a three-storey building in the Ita-Faji area of Lagos Island Local Government, in which many people including school children lost their lives calls for enforcement of the compulsory building insurance laws, which implementation has been lying low over the years.

Building insurance is one of the five compulsory insurances stipulated by insurance Act 2003, but has been far from implementation at both federal and state levels.

When THISDAY visited the collapsed building site, it was discovered that the building had no insurance cover and none of the dead or injured victims had any form of insurance.
Indeed, one of the land owners in the area told THISDAY that houses in the area have no insurance and that most landlords in the area have no knowledge of insurance.

During the visit, many people were wailing and relating to members of the media, their sufferings and hopeless conditions.
What was more worrisome was that some of the structures close to the collapsed building are also in deplorable conditions.

Clearly, the Ita- Faji situation was just one out of many cases of building collapses that have happened in Lagos and other parts of the country in recent times.
Barely three weeks ago, in Apo Mechanic village Abuja, a story building collapsed trapping six people and there was also another reported case in Ibadan, last week.

In addition, in recent times, fire outbreaks in markets have become more frequent.
Unfortunately, when these happen, with the exception of the Ita -Faji case where the Lagos State governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, has promised to take care of the hospital bills of the victims, especially the school children, both the dead and surviving victims are often left to their fate.

For the dead victims, their dependents are often left without any form of compensation mainly because in most cases, owners of the building run away for fear of facing the wrath of the law.
Here in Nigeria, it is fast becoming the custom to expect government to take responsibility of certain things common knowledge should teach people to do to stay safe.

For instance, government, after the 2012 flood that rendered many people homeless, had mandated that people who built their houses near canals and other flood passages should remove such houses and look for safer places, but till date, people are still living in such areas and have not cared or planned for the unexpected.

Presently, people are still occupying houses with shaky foundations.
Section 65 of the Insurance Act requires the owner or occupier of every public building to be insured against liability for loss or damage to property or death or bodily injury caused by collapse, fire, earthquake, storm or flood.

The Act defines a public building as one to which members of the public have access for educational, recreational, medical and commercial purposes. The penalty for non-compliance is a maximum fine of N100,000 or one-year imprisonment or both.

Also, Section 64 of same Act, stipulates that for insurance of buildings under construction, every owner or contractor of any building under construction with more than two floors must take an insurance policy to cover liability against construction risks caused by his negligence or that of his servants, agents or consultants which may result in death, bodily injury or property damage to workers on site or members of the public.

This insurance policy also covers liability for collapse of buildings under construction. Failure to comply with this provision is an offence punishable with a fine of N250,000 or three years imprisonment or both.

Despite these laws, house owners and owners of building under construction care less about insuring their houses.
But insurers have stressed that this is not supposed to be as insurance firms are set up for the purpose of mitigating risks.

According to them, if Nigerians can take insurance covers especially the compulsory building insurance when there is collapse of this nature, insurance companies would be there to compensate the victims.

To the President, Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN) and Managing Director Consolidated Hallmark Insurance Plc, Eddie Efekoha, insurers are now focusing on retail insurance that covers individual policies like building, life, motor insurances as the corporate insurance has been saturated and over marketed.

He urged insurers to look critically into retail insurance areas that take care for such policies, adding that there lies the future of insurance and safety of Nigerians and their assets.
Few years back when cases of building collapses became more frequent, some state governments started enacting their compulsory building insurance.

States such as Imo and Lagos states were at the fore front of this.
The Lagos state government had commenced the enforcement of compulsory building insurance on owners of buildings across the state. It had also established a safety institute where stakeholders in construction work can be trained and certified to prevent frequent cases of collapse buildings in the state.

The Director General of Lagos State Safety Commission, Hakeem Dickson, had said the state government would synergise with a consortium of insurance companies and the National Insurance Commission, (NAICOM) to achieve this.
He was of the view that if residents in Lagos embraced building insurance policy, it would save them from untold hardship, losses and the hopelessness associated with emergency situations.
He also stressed that insurance companies have the financial capabilities to compensate and pay claims to victims of disasters than government.

This decision by the state government then, was in line with long standing crusade by both the insurance industry regulator, NAICOM, the umbrella body of insurance underwriters, the Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA) and other stakeholders in the industry on enforcement of compulsory insurance nationwide.

They have for many years been agitating for implementation of sections 64 and 65 of the 2003 insurance Act.
Its enforcement waas been lying low until when NAICOM in collaboration with the industry operators kicked off campaign on the enforcement in the six geopolitical zones of the country.

The expectation was that by now, everybody would have embraced this policy and a significant number of buildings in Nigeria covered by the insurance policy.
NAICOM, precisely, in October 2017, had inaugurated a technical committee that would drive the enforcement of public building insurance in Nigeria.

The committee was made up of representatives of NAICOM, the Federal Fire Service (FFS), representatives of states fire service from the six geo-political zones and
the Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA).
Since then nothing has been heard about the work or achievement of the committee.

Attempt by THISDAY to find speak with the Deputy Commissioner for Insurance Technical, NAICOM, Mr Sunday Thomas, immediately the Ita- Faji building collapse occurred and the workings of the technical committee, proved abortive.
But what is certain is that NAICOM itself and the insurers are no longer at ease with the long delay by the lawmakers in amending the insurance Act 2003.

The 2003 insurance Act was enacted a year before the Pension Act 2004, but the Pension Act has been amended since 2014, while the Insurance Act 2003 before the lawmakers is still yet to be attended to.
A former Managing Director of Niger Insurance Mr. Kola Adedeji, had said inadequate and ineffective framework for the insurance industry are challenges that must be tackled.
According to him, insurance law makes provision for NAICOM as the regulator to enforce the insurance laws, but provides no means of enforcement.

In the case of compulsory building insurance, there is no separate enactment for compulsory insurance of public buildings.
He noted that this inadequate legal framework makes it completely difficult to enforce the provisions.

Pointing out its other pitfalls, Adedeji said: “The policy is meant to cover legal liabilities of either owner or occupier at what point in time does the occupier have legal liabilities or insurable interest in the building he or she is occupying?
“Despite these pitfalls, Lagos State government in 2017, took the bull by the horns to enforce the law by ensuring that owners of buildings in the state put in place insurance cover for the third party.”

While some said it is a good development, others said what Lagos residents need is solution to problem of building collapses not compensation.
They also feared that it would increase the cost of building in the state, which would in turn increase the already high cost of house rent in the state.

Insurance industry observers argued that using the insurance operators for enforcement would not yield much result because the insurers had often said they were handicapped in enforcing the policy because they find it difficult going into any standing building or building under construction and to ask for insurance policy paper.

The insurers have always wished the law enforcement agents would be assigned to act on their behalf.
But the NIA Chairman Mr Tope Smart had before now said Nigerians should learn to be safety conscious and to be sincere to themselves especially in things that affect their lives like the building insurance.
According to him, if a Nigerian can have money to erect five story buildings, the person was supposed to think about the safety of the workers.

When THISDAY contacted to comment on the Ita-Faji collapsed building, he declined to comment.
Industry analysts are of the opinion that prompt amendment of 2003 Act is the solution to the problem. They pointed out the N100,000 and N250,000 fine attached to violators of the compulsory building insurance should be reviewed.

Source: Ebere Nwoji

Why buildings collapse in Nigeria

As other countries are challenging and breaking engineering boundaries, approaching a kilometer in height of buildings, piercing through the skies and going closer to the clouds, going deep down the sea and stretching several kilometers, digging deep underneath the earth, breaking through rocks and building mega structures with resilience and flexibility to withstand earthquake, Nigeria is still struggling to build robust one storey, two storey and three storey buildings that won’t collapse.

Buildings have collapsed, are collapsing, and are likely to continue collapsing in Nigeria. But the recent collapse of a three storey residential, business, and educational building all under one roof, on one foundation and housing some innocent school children points to our insensitivity and lack of willpower to face the problem head-on. Buildings collapse due to myriad of reasons from natural to manmade and in some cases, due to negligence.

To start with, our schools of Engineering are not preparing seasoned engineers. Our schools are only producing students that memorised what they can’t put into practice on site.

So many engineers out there can’t use design codes, interpret, and implement engineering drawings. Also, some engineers leave construction site at the mercy of artisans with less or no supervision. Like the average Nigerian, most engineers are corrupt.

Reducing quality and diverting and making excess money on site.

Clients, especially the general populace focuses on the money aspect of a building over quality. As a result, most people resist engaging professionals, solely supervising and handling every aspect of their projects. Contractors on the other hand are greedy.

To maximise profit, they cut all sort of corners. Consultants and government officials are compromised to look the other way. On one of my recent visit to a three storey primary school under construction, I was shocked to realise that the person supervising the project has no engineering background.

In fact, when I asked him about the mix ratio he uses on site, his answer was that he uses his eyes to determine whether the cement is sufficient enough for the concrete from the colour of the cement after combinining it with enough sand, gravel, and water

. In a nutshell, he is not adopting the design mix for the structure. But then, what else do you expect when the contractor is a friend to the governor?

Construction is capital intensive. and in Nigeria, being in charge of a construction site is synonymous to becoming rich. So, everyone wants to join and eat from the cake. That was how a metallugical engineer supervised the construction of a faculty of engineering office while I was an undergraduate. That building brought so much shame to the whole faculty of engineering. Not until it was recently demolished and a new one erected. Because most Nigerians don’t know the difference between architects and Engineers, most architects tend to override engineers and hijack their responsibilities on site. And in some cases, architects will insist on aesthetic over structural integrity.

Source: Yahaya Idris

CONFIRMED: Full Names Of The Survivors Of Lagos Island School Building Collapse

The victims, now in stable condition, comprise 22 females, 17 males and two persons whose gender was not listed.
At least 41 people have survived the building collapse involving Ohen Nursery and Primary School, Ita Faji, Lagos Island, Lagos, Housing News can confirm.

The list of survivors, obtained by Housing News on Wednesday evening, contains 41 names, five of whom are unnamed.

All of them are in stable condition.

The survivors comprise 22 females, 17 males and two persons whose gender was not listed.

Two teachers, three adults were clearly stated, while the 36 other victims are assumed to be children.

At least 12 persons, including schoolchildren, have been confirmed dead, but with rescue efforts still ongoing at the scene of the incident, the figures of both survors and the dead could yet rise.

THE LIST

Building collapse: Architect advocates diligent enforcement of building code

An Architect, Mr Amos Alao, has called for the enforcement of the Nigerian Building Code to avert the recurring building collapse in the country. Alao, the National Secretary, Society of Landscape Architects of Nigeria (SLAN), made the call in an interview with Newsmen on Friday in Lagos. The landscape expert said it was necessary to go back to the drawing board in order to avert recurring building collapse in the country by enforcing the national building code.

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He said: “There have been so many perspectives to building collapse in Nigeria. Some have talked about the structural analysis, architecture or engineering failure, but little is said about the land on which the buildings are standing on. “We are yet to implement the Nigerian building Code which covers that if you are going to build a high rise building, it is supposed to have a certain percentage of soil volume or capacity to hold it. “A lot of things are wrong with the Nigerian construction industry, everybody has this fault, from the manufacturers, to the clients, the engineers and the marketers. “There is a Nigerian building code that needs to be implemented to overhaul the Nigerian construction industry; we need to start from the implementation and enforcement of the building code.

“The code contains what a building requires, for example escape routes, exit routes, all these parameters are stated in the building code.“ He said the building code should contain the provision of facilities a building requires so that in emergency cases, disaster managers could quickly rescue victims like in the recent building collapse in Lagos. “The Federal Ministry of Works and Housing should be charged with the responsibility of implementing and enforcing the Nigerian building code. “With the building code, the responsibility of every engineer will be clearly outlined in the construction of any building without cross-carpeting responsibilities,” the expert said. Alao, who also called for the vetting of building materials imported into the country,called for importers of fake building materials to be brought to book. “Following most building collapse in the country, engineers have always had the bulk of the blame for either structural designs or low quality materials, but it is high time we sanctioned the importers of inferior building materials.

“The engineer purchases iron rods from the market that does not fit the strength specification for the building because its quality was reduced by the marketers. “It is not the job of the engineer to check how strong the metal is, if he completely trusts the marketers. “In most building collapse, the client/owner of the building should be held responsible also, the engineers may complain about the quality of the building materials and the clients insist they go ahead. “When such buildings collapse, the professionals are always held responsible and the clients are nowhere to be found. Every developer is responsible for everybody on the site.” The expert also called on builders to adhere to the books when constructing a building and not cutting corners. “Nigeria can get building construction right with plenty of research, for instance, the oldest storey building in Badagry, we have others also at Calabar and the first suspended floor in Lokoja. “All of these buildings were erected by Nigerians with the input of the Whites, meaning that it is possible to have good quality buildings in Nigeria. “Why our buildings presently cannot stand the test of time is largely because of the materials used. For instance, the textbook says use clean water to mix cement, but here in Nigeria our water is not clean. “When we make use of unclean water to mix cement, we should not expect to get the same strength with cement mixed with clean water.” According to him, buildings are bound to collapse when most builders apply what is different from what they have read in the textbook.

Scores injured, trapped as building collapses in Ibadan

A building collapsed in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital on Friday leaving some people injured and some others trapped.

The structure, which was a three-storey building under construction suddenly collapsed and threw residents of Shogoye Bus Stop area, Bode community in the city into panic.

The building was said to have collapsed around 5:54 pm while bricklayers and other artisans on site were rounding off for the day’s work.

Nobody was confirmed dead as at press time last night but rescue efforts were ongoing.

Four of those who were trapped in the rubble were already rescued by men of the state fire service and volunteer rescuers.
Housing News learnt that some of trapped victims were making telephone distress calls from under the rubble. But when calls were made to one of the numbers few minutes after, an eyewitness said there was no response.

The incident led to traffic gridlock in the area as motorists from Idi Arere and Oja ‘ba and those from Molete end of the city could not move freely.

As usual, crowd of sympathizers swarmed the scene, blocking the road.

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Among those rescued are 42-year-old Olalekan Dauda, Tunde, Toheeb Gbadamosi and Rilwan Oladepo. Dauda said he was working with other artisans on the third floor when the building collapsed. He said he just heard a sudden blast and later found that he and others in the building were trapped in the rubble.

Gbadamosi, 19, said: “Today is my first time of working at this place. I just came around in order to raise some money for my upkeep because things were difficult. I thank God that I came out of the rubble alive”.

One of the firefighters who spoke in confidence, said: “We responded promptly to the emergency as we got to the scene about 35 minutes after the alert.

“We are trying our best to rescue the victims but the challenge we are facing is getting the right equipment to lift the concrete wreckage. Another challenge is the time of the day; it will soon get dark but that will not deter us from doing our best.”

Australian housing market on track for biggest downturn since GFC

Australia’s housing market is on track to experience a slump bigger than both the global financial crisis and the 1980s recession.

National dwelling (houses and units) values slumped by 6.8 per cent since their peak in October 2017, driven mainly by sharp falls in Sydney (-13.2 per cent) and Melbourne (-9.6 per cent), according to new analysis by property data company CoreLogic.

If prices continue to fall at current rates, within one month this downturn will be the largest since 1982/83 when Australia – along with most of the developed world – was in the grip of a crippling recession.

Some downturns are big, and some are small,” said Geoff White, head of real estate at CoreLogic.

“Usually, it’s driven by economic conditions, but in this case it’s more about credit.

We’ve come off a brilliant period where we’ve seen strong growth – but the key is when things go up quite radically, they can go down quite radically. In many cases the growth over the last five years has been unstable and we’re seeing a reaction to that now.”

A key trigger for the downturn is that lending standards have tightened and banks are more cautious to provide credit to prospective home buyers, particularly investors.

Graph showing the housing market downturns The Australian housing market is on track to experience its biggest slump in decades. Source: CoreLogic

 

During the GFC, banks were still prepared to approve loans, as the federal government’s bank guarantee – where the government underwrote the banks to boost confidence – kept credit flowing, while the first homebuyer grant stoked demand.

The tightening of lending standards – especially to property investors – coupled with increased stamp duty for foreign investors, have combined to cause the sharp market decline.

While the current downturn is dramatic, house prices over the longer term still show a positive trend – over the last 20 years the median house price has seen a 275 per cent increase, according to CoreLogic data.

“We’ve had a GFC, we’ve had recessions and yet we’ve still seen the market rise,” Mr White said. “It will always dip and dive, and it depends on the severity.

“This time the economy, across Australia in most major centres, has been performing well. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, interest rates aren’t high. There are great periods of growth and there will be falls.”

Confidence is key

But one commentator argues that economic conditions this time around should make homeowners feel more confident than they may have been during the GFC and the ’80s recession.

Not only is the economy strong enough to weather the storm, but Deloitte partner Nicki Hutley told The New Daily their analysis shows that wages are going up “albeit slowly” and people are still spending.

“When people say it’s the biggest downturn, it was preceded by the biggest upturn.

“In Sydney, for instance, we had houses going up 75 per cent, so for the bulk of people who brought in last five years they’re still ahead of the game,” she said.

Ms Hutley stresses that the drop-off in investor lending is nowhere near the extent of what happened around the GFC and that “things are going in our favour”.

“The biggest risk to Australia is not internal but external – China is the biggest risk at the moment, but even there the government is acting to bolster the economy through fiscal stimulus.

“I’m far less worried about internal [circumstances]. We’ve got good employment rates, there’s income growth, it’s slow but it’s growing and that helps consumption. Thing are going in our favour.”

Source: New Daily

Collapsed Lagos building: State govt must accept blame, persecute those responsible – NGO

A Non-Governmental Organization, NGO, Center for Children’s Health Education, Organization and Protection, CEE-HOPE, has blamed the Lagos Government for the loss of lives in a building which collapsed in Lagos.

Housing news reported that at least 50 children were rescued from the debris by the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), as well as other security agencies.

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Reacting, the group in a statement received and signed by CEE- HOPE’s Executive Director, Betty Abah said the incident was avoidable and took place due to the high level of lawlessness in the country.

The group further urged the Lagos government to persecute and punish those responsible for the incident.

The statement reads: “On the heel of yesterday’s school building collapse incidence on Lagos Island, we commiserate with families who have lost precious children and other family members.

“According to media reports, about 18 persons, mostly children, have lost their lives while 41 were rescued with several of them sustaining various degrees of injuries including some life-threatening ones. These casualties, these heart-wrenching pains are clearly avoidable– a result of the pervasive
lawlessness in our society.


“We, therefore, ask for a speedy investigation and the consequent dispensing of the most stringent punishment for violators of building codes and regulations that led to this avoidable loss of lives.

“A society is only taken seriously when there is adherent to set rules and regulations especially when it concerns the safety of the most vulnerable, in this case, children. People are encouraged to commit a crime when there is no adequate punishment from authorities to serve as deterrence.

“Over the years, Lagos has remained the epicenter of collapsed buildings in
Nigeria owing to the use of sub-standard building materials or persons retaining old, decrepit and defective structures in spite of official evacuation warnings, and with all the attendant deaths of innocent persons (building site workers, tenants etc) yet there has never been any clear stand by the government to punish the defaulters other than stimulated media trials that fizzle with time.

“We, therefore, have no hesitation in laying the blame for this tragedy partly at the feet of the Lagos State Government which has the constitutional mandate to secure lives and property of all Lagosians including school children aspiring to change their fortunes by acquiring an education but has been largely negligent. The well-publicized albeit reactive emergency responses we have seen are not enough and clearly, cannot bring back the precious dead.

“These violators (including the property owner who reportedly defied a quit order from the relevant authorities since 2014), the school authorities and other collaborators must not be spared. Justice must be served without fear or favor. Enough of these recurrent mass murders in Lagos State.”

Property prices to fall as Brexit uncertainty freezes market

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which analyses government’s finances, has predicted that house prices will fall by 0.3 per cent in 2019.

It’s a sharp contrast to its five-year forecast made in October 2018, which saw house prices rise by more than three per cent in the last three months of the year.

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Experts have blamed the lagging property market on a dragged out Brexit and lack of affordability.

In the report published on the same day as the Spring Statement, the OBR said: “Indicators of housing market activity and price expectations have deteriorated significantly since our October forecast and are consistent with a further fall in house price inflation.”

Over the past four months, house price growth has “slowed significantly” reaching 2.7 per cent down from 4.6 per cent the year before.

Now, it expects growth to slip below zero for the first time since 2012, and far below the record rate of seven per cent recorded in 2016.

The damning forecasts come as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) published its monthly market survey and warned that more than three quarters of the 300 surveryors who gave feedback believed Brexit was holding back the market.

It believes that drawn out uncertainty is putting off buyers and sellers who would rather wait for the outcome of the negotiations.

The group also found that activity in general has seriously slowed down, with new buyer enquiries and agreed sales falling for the sixth month in a row.

Hew Edgar of Rics said it was clear from the survey that the “wearisome state of British politics that has arisen from Brexit” is taking its toll on housing.

‘Nigeria real estate funds can solve housing problems’

Funds domiciled in the real estate sector in Nigeria could be what is needed to address the housing shortage in the country. Following a research by FSDH Merchant Bank, that there are limited real estate firms in the country, it is believed that the three now listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) is enough to fix the housing problem in the country.

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The research explained that REFs have not gained much popularity in terms of the numbers available and their size relative to the size of the economy. It explained that there were only three REFs listed on the NSE, which are Union Homes Real Estate Investment Trust, Skye Shelter Fund and UPDC Real Estate Investment Trust.The report observed that there was a significant shortage of affordable housing in the country estimated at about 20 millions.

“This means that Nigeria needs to build between close to 20 million housing units to ensure that Nigerians have this basic human need,” it added. In monetary terms, Nigeria might require between N170trillion and N200 trillion to bridge the housing gap if each unit costs N10million. It said: “Given the rising population in the country, the housing shortage keeps increasing.

‘’Meanwhile, the developments in the real estate sector of the economy, which is where activities that will close the housing shortage will take place, have not been impressive with economic activities in the real estate sector consistently contracting since Q1 201.6.” The report suggested that investors in the retail and high-networth segment could create wealth in real estate through regularly investing in a Real Estate Fund (REF) without investing directly in the brick and mortar.

Explaining REF, the report noted that it is an investment vehicle that pools resource to invest in real estate; therefore, allowing individual investors to partake in the benefits of the underlying properties. The report further explained that REFs are traded on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), just like stocks/shares and could be purchased through stockbrokers, just like other stocks/shares.

The report added that every REF must have a fund manager that manages the fund to ensure the best return to shareholders and a good example of real estate working for the investors. It said: “The holder of a REF will earn a share of the income from the real estate investment through dividends without actually having to buy, manage or finance any housing projects. It is required to distribute at least 90 per cent of their taxable income as dividend. As a result, it provides constant income for shareholders.”

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