During a recent hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell was asked about the housing shortage. Powell responded, “What we hear from home builders is a series of factors that are really holding them back and challenging affordability.”
He said a skilled-labor shortage — which he blamed on immigration policy — a lack of availability of lots, and higher material cost from tariffs resulted in a “perfect storm” for builders.
While the Fed chairman recited three of the industry’s favorite talking points, his analysis failed to get at the root causes of increasing home prices and ignored that the housing-supply shortage is largely a self-inflicted wound from policy mistakes made by many local governments.
Restrictive zoning and onerous regulations — all burdens imposed by local jurisdictions — are the real culprits for the US’s affordability problems.
To get to the root of the country’s affordability issues, one must start with the data, not builder anecdotes.
New AEI Housing Center data identifies new residential construction sales and their price at the property level in near real time. These data allows us to identify the real problems plaguing the housing market by connecting new-construction activity, economic growth, and housing affordability at the metro level.
The first are headline-grabbing places, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Seattle, and Denver out West, where construction activity has failed to keep up with employment growth. The influx of people and slower pace of construction has resulted in rapid home price appreciation (HPA). In these metros, the new-construction share of all sales averages about 10%, while HPA has averaged about 60% from 2012 on, nearly three times income growth.
But not all metros are experiencing runaway HPA. The second group consists of metros largely in the Northeast or Rust Belt with little need for new-construction activity because of weak employment growth since 1990. In this group, the new-construction share of sales averages about 5%, while HPA has averaged a modest 20%.
The third group comprises metros in which new-construction activity has kept pace with rapid employment growth. These metros — mostly in Texas and the Carolinas — have remained largely affordable. With a new-construction share of sales of 20%, HPA has been much lower than the first group, 35%, which places them within reach of wage growth.
So the real question is how is it that these fast-growing but more affordable metros haven’t “been hit by a perfect storm” alluded to by the chairman? A useful framework is to start with are the five L’s of home building: labor, lending, laws, lots, and lumber.
Especially for lumber, Powell’s logic appears flawed. Raw material prices, as well as lending practices, don’t vary much across the country. While in the short run higher tariffs can certainly cut into margins, lumber prices, after spiking from 2017 to mid-2018, have now fallen back into the same range they had for from 2013 to 2016. This cannot be said for home prices, which are now 10% higher than in 2017, which should help cushion higher input costs.
Lower immigration may perhaps play a marginal role, but has been declining since the Great Recession. Rather, workers, especially skilled ones, may be voting with their feet.
A married carpenter making the average wage of $40,000 and with a household income of $60,000 can afford an entry-level home in Raleigh. A carpenter in Los Angeles making $60,000 and with a household income of $90,000 cannot.
Additionally, high levels of new construction help ensure a stable local housing market, which better retains construction workers. Raleigh and others hardly experienced the last boom-bust price cycle. The Pacific and Mountain states metros, on the other hand, had massive ups and down, which whipsawed their construction sectors, and are again on track to unsustainably inflated home prices.
If the issue does not lie in lumber, labor, nor lending, then lots and laws must account for the largest part of regional differences in new-construction activity. This is because zoning laws are set at the local or state level and these laws drive up construction and land costs. To his credit, Powell mentioned the availability of lots as another challenge for builders in his testimony, but he did not qualify it as a local issue.
The solution is simple: Relax local land-use restrictions and regulations to ensure higher levels of construction in areas where builders are held back. While some will argue that land-constrained cities on the coasts can’t sprawl as Southern metros do, other options such as building higher or denser are available.
For example, Oregon recently passed a law allowing duplexes, and even three- and four-unit dwellings, by right in most single-family neighborhoods.
Importantly, once a metro is building more, the private sector will provide homes across all price points. The data show that Metros in the Southern growth belt have new-construction sales at the entry level of about three times the national average, which has kept homes more attainable for first-time buyers.
Undoing decades of misguided land-use regulations won’t happen overnight, but more enlightened land-use laws would go a long way in overcoming today’s housing shortage and to reconcile economic growth with affordable housing.
…6-10 children diagnosed with Kidney, leukaemia, bone marrow cancer in a month
4-year old Joseph was diagnosed with kidney cancer (neuroblastoma) 10 months ago at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).
He was vomiting everything that he ate and his parents could not figure out what was wrong with him. When he was taken to hospital, the doctors prescribed drugs for him, but the vomiting continued. However, when a scan was carried out on him on October 2018, an unusual test results emerged.
“His test results came out after three days and he was diagnosed with kidney cancer (neuroblastoma). The doctor prescribed surgery for him to remove the affected kidney, which he had successfully in February,” Joseph’s mother, who spoke with BDSUNDAY on condition of anonymity, said.
According to her, “After the surgery, the chemotherapy treatment began, which was very overwhelming and excruciating. At a point, I could not bear the pains my child was going through during the treatment such that, I voluntarily stopped the treatment and I left with my child because to me, these people (the hospital) were going to ‘kill my child’”.
But her decision did not go down with Joseph father, who insisted that the boy was better off at hospital than at home.
“When we got back to LUTH in January this year, having left there in October 2018, the doctors said my son’s illness was still at stage one and he started the chemotherapy treatment all over again,” she said.
According to her, the chemotherapy drugs, which Joseph takes cost as much as N200, 000, but the cost is not the greatest problem as there are many fake drugs in Nigerian market, which kills cancer patients more than the sickness.
“I give God the glory because many other children who started the chemotherapy treatment with my son have died as a result of the fake drugs while some others died because their families could not afford the cost of taking chemotherapy treatment.
“We are fortunate to have Joseph, who is a happy and strong boy. He never allows the effects of his treatments to weigh him down. He has been through five courses of Chemotherapy, several transfusions, infusions, ward admissions and treatments. We are preparing to take the next step of Radiotherapy treatment,” the woman said.
For Doyin, who was an active and outgoing child, it is another pathetic story. Doyin recently fell down at school and was diagnosed of Osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer, found often in children and teens. This cancer was discovered in Doyin’s right femur, or thigh bone.
“The ailment turned her life and that of my family upside down,” said the bereaved mother, who lost her five-year old daughter to cancer.
“It happened in 2016, we were told that she was going to take the treatment for three years after which she would recover. We finished the treatment in November 2018, but unfortunately, the sickness returned this year, and it was very difficult for me to see my baby go through the pains. After the entire struggle, we lost her in February 2019,” she said.
Findings have shown that children who live with cancer in Nigeria have been on the rise and their cases mostly end sadly. This underscores the urgent need for strategies to address the problem of childhood cancer in Nigeria.
The above mentioned experiences show how many Nigerian families battle for their children to survive cancer ailments. This is due to low rate of cancer cure. The worrying reality, however, is that only few of the childhood cancer cases receive complete therapy as patients die in the course of therapy either from advanced disease, complications of chemotherapy or late presentation.
Reports have shown that children, who consume a lot of canned food and drinks containing chemicals have higher exposure to cancer ailment. Also, parental lifestyle, work environment, air pollution, and children, with still-developing bodies are also vulnerable to cancer risk.
In addition to that, exposure to airborne carcinogens such as inhaled asbestos, certain dioxins, and tobacco smoke also trigger cancer in children.
A report by Lancet Oncology, Sub-Saharan Africa has the greatest DALY record of more childhood cancer than any other sub-region, and the global finding shows that childhood cancer is the sixth leading cause of total cancer burden globally and the ninth leading cause of childhood disease burden globally with 82·2 percent of global childhood cancer DALYs occurred in low-middle income countries which had more than 80 percent of all cases, and most of these cases ended in deaths and the five-year survival rate was around 35 percent.
BDSUNDAY gathered that different tertiary intuitions in Nigeria, including Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and National Hospital Abuja, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto (UDUTH), records at least 6-10 new cases of childhood cancer that are diagnosed every month. This means that there are about 120 new cases in a year. It was also gathered that the 0–4-year age group make the highest contribution and most children die in the course of treatment.
“It’s actually becoming rampant. In our centre in Sokoto, what we presently record is 6-10 cases per month. So per year, it would be 60-100 at a rough estimate,” said Aliyu Usman Malami, of the Department of Radiotherapy and Oncology, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto, Nigeria.
According to Malami, “In 2017, there was a paper that said that about 358 cases of childhood cancers were recorded. With the stories we have heard since then and what we are seeing currently, there is more of rhabdomyosarcoma, followed by lymphomas in children, Burkitt lymphoma is the commonest.
“There is also nephroblastoma, neuroblastoma and leukaemia. These are the commonest types we see in our area. Another common type is retinoblastoma (cancer of the eye),” he added.
“The fact is that the actual cause of cancer is unknown. There have been no known causes of the disease. However, it could be attributed to so many things,” said a matron at the paediatrician cancer ward at the LUTH who pleaded anonymity.
According to her, “Caring for children with cancers pose a huge challenge on families and the healthcare system. Childhood cancer is fast becoming a significant paediatric problem in Nigeria.
“A child coping with cancer needs physical, mental and emotional support. Simply putting them on treatment is not enough. Cancer treatment is often very long-drawn and painful with children suffering from a number of side-effects.”
The matron said that with chemotherapy and radiotherapy for the cancer of the kidney, about N1-2 million could be spent within the period of treatment and that it takes about nine (9) months, adding however, that it could extend to over a year due to some other unforeseen circumstances.
A Research Briefing by the Housing Europe Observatory
Housing Europe Observatory, the Research Branch of Housing Europe inaugurates a series of research briefings under the title ‘Housing in the post-2020 EU’ focusing on the ways public, cooperative and social housing providers address the key societal challenges of our times.
For young people, just as for the population as a whole, the cost and quality of housing is key to living standards and well-being, an element of social inclusion. Affordable housing is important for population mobility, especially for young people, who need to change jobs often and migrate to search for best employment or education opportunity.’
At the same time, a generational gap is starting to emerge with an increasing share of young people either facing huge challenges in securing adequate housing or living in their parents’ home.
Are social and affordable housing providers fit for purpose when it comes to housing a diverse young population? What kind of innovation is required for the sector?
We have put together the main housing challenges for young people across Europe, we have identified concrete case studies that can inspire work on the ground and we have compiled a set of recommendations for policy and action.
As at the end of May 2019, Funmilayo Afolabi and her husband had been unable to pool funds to rent a new apartment in Ajegunle, Lagos’ bustling urban slum. After their former residence, a dilapidated bungalow, was sold for N13 million in November 2018, their new landlord gave them until May to move out, with a stern warning that he would detach the roof if they failed to honour the date.
At the expiration of the deadline, Afolabi had only N40,000 when housing agents were demanding N200,000 to cover rent, agreement and commission. At the same time, the eldest of her six children, a student in Osun State Polytechnic, was making request for money. She started considering Okokomaiko, a Lagos suburb, where a self-contained apartment could go for N90,000. In fear and disorientation, she began to pack her belongings in handy fashion and kept them with friends.
However, like light at the end of a tunnel, a N100,000 loan came from a microfinance bank. She was lucky enough to find another apartment on the same street she had lived since 2002. To refund the loan, her obligation is N19,500 monthly for the next few months.
The acquisition of Afolabi’s former residence for full reconstruction by a new landlord is a prototype of the growing pattern of urban renewal spreading in low-cost areas of Lagos, such as Ajegunle. Such redevelopment in urban slums does not merely involve demolition and construction of better structures which tend to be costlier. Displacement is a key feature that silently relocates many into more underdeveloped and underserviced communities in Lagos, BusinessDay’s investigation found.
Tenants who fall victim of this are often faced with the harsh effect of short notice. They are faced with the problem of distance between the potential new apartment and their workplaces. Parents worry about the new school to re-enrol their children and bother most about affordability. Should their effort to obtain another apartment in Lagos fail, some victims of displacement are sent back as far as their hometowns to start a new life.
Some landlords who choose to sell their property also go to their hometowns, but with a higher assurance of financial security to begin a new life.
Afusat Ajao, one of the 11 devisees of a bungalow on Ojo Road in Ajegunle, has plans to begin a new life at Igbonna in Kwara. A devisee is a person to whom something, especially real estate, is left by the terms of a will. The 56-year-old grandmother got a sizeable cut from the sale of her father’s one plot for N25 million.
“I am going back to my hometown where I was born. I’m not interested in building or renting here. Most people have moved back home after realising that the stress of living in Lagos is too much,” Ajao explained to BusinessDay.
“From the little sum that was given to me, I’m building on my husband’s land in the village. I plan to run a small bar there,” she said.
BusinessDay learnt many victims of Ajegunle’s renewal have had to relocate to farther distances such as Oko-Afo and Okokomaiko on Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Ikotun and Igando, among others. Many of these people had moved long before they were caught up in the demolition of their former residences.
Urban renewals are increasingly threatening social cohesion and inclusiveness of people, leading to forced evictions and in some cases brutal social changes. Few urban renewals that have taken place in Nigeria led to further impoverishment of urban poor or slum dwellers who were evicted from the area without any form of compensation or alternative accommodation.
Affected tenants are left with no choice than to vacate the sold properties. This translates into hardships as people have to move away from family, community and environment. Redevelopment of old buildings also brings about fewer low-cost accommodations for people.
“This affirms that urban planning in Nigeria is poor,” said Najeem Adeyemi, real estate valuer at Lagos-based Ewenla and Mustapha Limited. “A government that is responsive enough ought to plan ahead to avert this unfortunate situation.”
Housing in Lagos State is inadequate both in quantity and quality, even as construction is yet to keep pace with rapidly expanding urban populations, leading to severe overcrowding and congestion.
A World Bank-assisted urban renewal project identified 42 blighted areas in Lagos metropolis alone. The State Urban Renewal Board has identified more of this in recent years. A large chunk of urban residents are crowded into these areas and other enclaves of low-income groups.
The problems within such settlements have continued to bother planners and government authorities alike, and the main approach used by Lagos State in most cases is eviction of residents, slum clearance and relocation.
A few instances of urban renewal experience in Nigeria need to be mentioned. The Ndoki and Aggrey Water Front exercise in Rivers State, the Maroko and Aja renewal schemes, among others, showed that rather than resolving the housing problems of squatter dwellers, it compounded them into worse conditions. It further aggravated congestion and pressures on infrastructure due to migration of displaced squatters.
Rasheed Osinowo, assistant general secretary, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Lagos chapter, blamed government at all levels for not prioritising on the people.
“It boils down to the fact that government should re-engineer their priority on the people. For example, there are various housing schemes they are proposing, and some completed,” Osinowo said. “But on the average it is unaffordable for low-income earners, even though keep saying they are affordable.”
Nigeria may therefore need to take cue from the urban renewal experience in advanced nations. In the United States, housing conditions improved for those housing conditions were best in sacrifice for those in least.
In South Africa, the urban renewal programme in metropolitan area of Alexandria was targeted to reduce unemployment by at least 20 percent through stimulating income-generating opportunities for the economically active population of the city.
Experts urged the government to come up with policy to create opportunities for displaced persons, saying the protection of people’s lives and property should be the primary responsibility of every government.
“Our national institutions need to be strengthened to deliver greater access for displaced populations and affected communities,” Livingstone Oghenekaro, a Lagos-based realtor, said.
Nairobi — Nairobi is the most expensive city to build in Africa, after South Africa’s Johannesburg and 86th globally, according to a report by design and consultancy firm Arcadis.
The study also finds that Nairobi’s construction costs topped other global cities including Beijing, Shangai, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai.
Access to finance, high costs of land and construction were also noted to be the leading challenges facing investors and developers in the country.
“Other challenges noted in the study include over-supply in certain real estate investment brackets such as commercial, office and retail property,” said the report.
The report comes at the back of government’s intention of making construction inexpensive, in a bid to deliver affordable houses to Kenyans, under the housing goal of the Big four agenda.
President Uhuru Kenyatta in May said the government has embraced new building technologies and is actively involving the private sector as a key partner in the delivery of the housing promise.
He said traditional approaches to the housing challenges have failed to keep up with the rising demands for decent shelter as the population expands.
“So we are keenly focused on the manner in which we improve the provision of this service,” the President said.
“Our ambition to provide our citizens with affordable housing is entrenched in our Constitution 2010 which ascribes the right to accessible and adequate housing and reasonable standards of sanitation. It is also aligned to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which we have endorsed,” he added.
The report ranked cities were based on factors that include costs of living, labour and materials.
Unless you’re living in a household raking in nearly $133,000 a year, it’s probably hard to feel comfortable with the cost of living in the District, according to a report released this week.
The analysis, by financial advice firm SmartAsset, compared the median household income to median rent in the nation’s 25 largest cities in search of those that allow residents to live in this sweet spot: Paying 28 percent or less of their annual income to rent.
In the District — the third most expensive city in the country, according to the analysis, behind New York and San Francisco — that means earning $132,857, and paying $3,100 a month in rent for a two-bedroom apartment.
But most households in the District don’t earn anywhere close to that amount.
The city’s median household income, according to the study, hovers around $82,000 — more than $50,000 less than the amount that would make living in the District “comfortable.”
“It’s a good idea now and then to think about, ‘Where is my money going? Is it going where I want it to go? Is living in D.C. the most important thing for me? Am I okay putting more toward rent to make sure I can stay in this area?’ ” said AJ Smith, SmartAsset’s vice president of financial education.
Housing is considered affordable if a resident is able to pay no more than 30 percent of his or her income toward housing costs, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
With that ratio in mind, analysts at SmartAsset lowered the threshold by two percentage points to allow for comfort, wiggle room renters could use to save for things like retirement or buying their own home.
People who are paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing are considered “cost-burdened” by the federal government. Those spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing are considered “severely cost-burdened.”
In 20 of the 25 cities reviewed by SmartAsset, median incomes were not high enough for the average citizen to avoid being cost-burdened by the rent prices in their cities.
Of the 10 largest cities in the country, eight boast rents so high that residents need a six-figure household income to be within the “comfortable” range.
San Francisco, the city with the highest cost of living in the nation, also clocked the highest median household income: $110,816. But that still puts the average resident more than $80,000 behind what they would need to earn to “comfortably” afford a two-bedroom home.
“I think seeing these numbers forces people to have an uncomfortable conversation with themselves about what am I willing to give up to live here? What is important to me?” Smith said. “People make adjustments accordingly — you can think about renting a one-bedroom or a studio, or having roommates. There are steps people can take to decrease the costs a little bit, but it all goes back to what you’re comfortable with.”
The SmartAsset analysis pulled housing data from real estate company Zillow, rather than relying on federal data.
Housing advocates have blamed the District’s rising rents and a flush of high-priced developments for widespread gentrification and displacement throughout the city.
Machine learning study finds housing have improved in sub-Saharan Africa but adequate water and sanitation remains biggest challenge.
The study, thought to be the first to use machine-learning to measure housing conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, has found housing quality transformed but the persistence of slum conditions compromise health.
Medical entomologist, science prodigy, and Associate Professor of Public Health at Wits University, Fredros Okumu, was 18 years old when he was recruited as live mosquito bait as part of a Ph.D. research experiment. Inside that tent waiting for the insanity-invoking buzz near his ears, Okumu’s fate was sealed: he’d work tirelessly during his academic career to find a solution to one of humankind’s most vexing public health problems in Africa—the deaths caused by malaria.
His initial focus was inside the home: he simulated the attractive qualities of human beings to mosquitoes (such as blood, scent and other particular biological markers) in a “decoy site,” which contained pathogenic fungi to kill the flying critters. This complemented other interventions like nets and insecticides. In 2009, his team developed location models to determine where best to place mosquito decoy devices using digital geographical information systems and participatory community mapping.
Okumu’s specialisations are applied parasitology and the combined disciplines of geo-information science, earth observation and environmental modelling. He has recently looked at the quality of rural and urban housing in sub-Saharan Africa as an opportunity to accelerate the efforts against combatting malaria and other significant public health concerns in the region.
Okumu co-authored a ground-breaking paper entitled Mapping changes in housing in sub-Saharan Africa from 2000-2015 in the international science journal Nature, which is the first accurate approximation of urban and rural housing quality in the region.
Jigsaw housing analysis
The study is innovative in a number of ways, notably because it built a machine-learning model to fill in data gaps, much like a jigsaw puzzle. To Okumu’s knowledge, this study is the first to apply a geostatistical modelling approach to measure housing conditions in sub-Saharan Africa. The data also reveal the differences in each country’s adoption of safe housing.
Said Okumu, “The quality of housing determines the risk of diseases such as malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhoeal disease. We knew anecdotally that African housing is changing, but until now this trend had not been captured on a wide scale.”
The study was led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Imperial College London, and the Malaria Atlas Project at the University of Oxford. The study quantified changes in housing in the region using national survey (data was gleaned from 661 945 households in 31 countries) within a geostatistical framework.
A marked transformation in the quality of housing was observed, which bodes well for the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11—the achievement of sustainable cities and communities. Adequate housing, said lead author of the study Dr. Lucy Tusting, is a human right and will become more urgent as Africa’s population will double by 2050. By then, UNICEF predicts, one in four people on Earth will be African with the population likely to rise from 1.2-billion to 2.5-billion.
Prioritising roofs and taps
Housing was considered improved using the United Nations standards: safe water and sanitation, an adequate living area, and durable construction (no gaps in walls, eaves or doors). But, while the study shows that improved housing has doubled between the years 2000 and 2015 (from 11 percent to 23 percent), 53-million urban Africans continue to live in slum conditions. Adequate water and sanitation are by far the greatest challenges in the region.
The findings highlighted poor sanitation as commonplace, which is one of the chief reasons that hold back progress to improve living conditions. Alongside SDG 11 is the need to prioritise SDG 6—clean water and sanitation. “The two are intrinsically linked,” said Okumu.
The most improved housing was seen in Botswana, Gabon and Zimbabwe. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, and South Sudan had the worst housing conditions.
Notably, Africans are self-financing home improvements. “In general, the housing improvements are driven by people’s own household incomes, which means that the poorest households are left behind,” said Okumu.
Because changes are linked to economic factors, the poorest communities need support for housing improvements. “Legal structures combined with subsidies on construction materials and training for local construction workers are potential options,” he added.
Constructing healthier cities
For the goal of universal access to safe, adequate and affordable housing to be achieved, reliable baseline data, such as what the study provides, is critical. Measurements (prior to the release of the study) of housing conditions in Africa were limited to specific years and urban areas only.
“If we were to trace the trends beyond 2015, it is unlikely that the 2030 target will be achieved. However, these findings still provide a great demonstration that a deliberate effort could accelerate these trends,” said Okumu.
The poorest households thus need government support, particularly around improved drinking water and sanitation.
Okumu said, “In addition, it is vital that building regulations and housing programmes are cognisant of the design features that can safeguard health. For example, screening and improving houses has been shown to be an effective means of reducing the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, while reducing standing water in urban environments can reduce the presence of mosquitoes that transmit dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever and the Zika virus. It is vital that health specialists work closely with urban planners, engineers and governments to help ‘build out’ these diseases across Africa.”
Okumu’s and Tusting’s next step is to understand the implications of the changes in housing for health in sub-Saharan Africa. Their baseline data can be used by researchers working to establish housing trends and their study can provide the technical documentation needed for policy makers to improve housing.
In addition, Okumu and the authors’ seminal research is also important to prepare adequately for climate change in Africa. The UN posits that sub-Saharan Africa (which has already experienced more frequent climate change extremes) will have longer and more frequent heat waves. Climate change is already considered a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing problems.
Housing and climate change
The UN-Habitat notes that cities in particular are facing unprecedented demographic, environmental, economic, spatial and social challenges and that urbanisation has put these into relief. Six out of 10 people will live in cities by 2030, with 90 percent of this growth occurring in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Despite the Earth heating up, cities are ill-prepared to cope. Reasons for this include a lack of city policies and the existence of regulations on urban planning and the environment which haven’t been adjusted to manage climate change.
Okumu and Tusting have suggested that a multi-sectoral approach is needed to improve health and wellbeing across the continent and to build resilience against threats such as climate change. “Government agencies in housing, financing, environment, education and health can join hands in tackling this challenge,” said Okumu.
England needs more homes – especially social homes.
We know we need significant government investment in affordable homes to achieve this. If this were ever in doubt, the re-emergence of government funding and the resulting 13% rise in housing association starts thoroughly confirms it.
There is never just one answer to a question, though, especially in housing. That’s partly why housing associations are such a brilliant invention. As varied and nuanced as the problems they exist to solve, they find new answers: less obvious, more innovative, more challenging answers.
And that’s just what we found in our unflinching examination of the challenges involved in building more homes. The Supply Conversation, which publishes its interim report today, asked more than 300 housing association leaders one question: how can we work together to build more homes?
Of course, many people told us that we need more money to build social homes – £12.8bn to meet housing need, plus action on land and more resources for planning.
But we also identified some challenges that looked past the external policy environment and economic uncertainty and tackled barriers within the sector itself – things that housing associations can own and, crucially, do something about.
The first of these challenges was skills. Housing associations have a development skills shortage. To be fair, so does the whole country. There aren’t enough development professionals coming up through the system, partly because there isn’t an obvious training route or qualification. Demand for development staff is growing, with local authorities also now recruiting, and this limited pool of talent is making it harder to expand teams and retain good people.
“If we want to build high-quality, safe and sustainable homes on the scale that’s needed, we must bring in bright new thinking, as well as retain past knowledge”
Why is this a problem? Because of the time and resource it takes up, but also because it affects the sector’s agility and skills base.
If a major new housebuilding programme kicks off, we need to be ready to jump into action. If we want to build high-quality, safe and sustainable homes on the scale that’s needed, we must bring in bright new thinking, as well as retain past knowledge. Right now, we’re not always doing this. We need to work out how to change that.
The next challenge was partnerships. Partnerships are universally seen as a really good thing, whether with other housing associations, local authorities, devolved bodies, or the private sector. They give organisations access to skills they may not have, money they can’t free up or clout they don’t have alone, and they’re a great way for local organisations to unite – around a vision for a community.
But they aren’t easy. Partners need to click, have shared goals and be willing to trust one another – and crucially, they need to be prepared to act for the collective good. This is at the heart of the housing association mission, but competition for land or Section 106 can work against it.
Partnerships also require you to adapt to someone else’s processes and commit to relationships for the long term, and weather possible future change. With all this practical ground to cover, the motivation and the initial relationship has to be strong.
So how can we make space for more connections like this to spark? How can we celebrate and promote the benefits of partnership working? And how can we make those tricky initial conversations and thorny process questions easier?
“Partners need to click, have shared goals and be willing to trust one another – and crucially, they need to be prepared to act for the collective good”
And then, finally, there’s the balance between risk and ambition. Every housing association we spoke to was ambitious to do more to end the housing crisis. Even if their mission and local need drive them to prioritise community investment, extra support or regeneration, everyone agrees that more homes are needed and they would help deliver them if they could.
But how, in these uncertain times, do you weigh ambition against prudence, or find the resources to do it all?
The answer is: by doing things differently. Housing associations have a creative, entrepreneurial streak born out of social roots, their campaigning heritage and their independence.
They have shown, not least through the federation’s own groundbreaking innovation scheme, how good they can be at collaborating and innovating for change. They already do this every time they find a new cross-subsidy model, form a new partnership or build social homes with nothing except the funds they themselves have raised.
We’ve got to build this ambitious, collaborative culture around supply.
We can overcome these challenges together. The National Housing Federation is now working with members to develop a plan to do this.
We want to hear from housing associations around the country: how can we work together to build more homes? How can we solve the skills shortage? How can we build excellent partnerships? And what can we do get the balance between risk and ambition right?
THE rot in federal universities is taking a toll on the hostels in the national ivory towers. Besides being overcrowded, many of the hostels lack basic amenities.
The PUNCH’s investigations in some federal universities across the country revealed that many of the hostels were filthy as the taps in the toilets and bathrooms were dry.
It was gathered that despite the poor conditions of the hostels, students still thronged them because of the rising rent in most university towns in Nigeria.
Findings indicated that the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which was founded in 1975, had 22 hostels. While some of the hostels take only male undergraduates, others accommodate only female students.
For the NDDC hostels, female students occupied the top floor, while their male counterparts took over the ground floor.
The university’s spokesman, Dr William Wodi, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the newest of the hostels was the medical hostel built in 2018. According to him, the institution has a total student population of 35,000
When one of The PUNCH’s correspondents visited some of the hostels, he observed that a room, meant for four students, based on the university’s rules, had more than 12 occupants.
It was gathered that the situation was worsened by the fear of insecurity and high rent in the university’s neighbourhood, which had forced many students to move to the campus.
Findings revealed that a self-contained apartment in Choba community, where the university is located, goes for between N100, 000 and N120,000 per year, while a bed space in the university is N22,500.
This, it was learnt, had made many students, who could not secure bed spaces in the hostels, to squat with their friends, who had hostel accommodation.
Cult wars in Rivers force students relocate to varsity hostels
A student at the Mandela Hostel said some of his colleagues living outside the university had secretly moved in to squat with friends living on the campus without the knowledge of the university authorities.
The student, who simply gave his name as Mark, attributed the development to the security situation outside the campus, adding that most students loathed staying off-campus in order to avoid being hit by bullets during the routine deadly cult wars.
It was observed that the environment was dirty as students used the hostel galleries as refuse dumps, which helped to fuel the foul odour in the entire place.
Fear of building collapse in UNIPORT
One of the private security men in the school, Tony Samuel, expressed the fear that the situation could cause building collapse if nothing urgent was done.
On the situation at the NDDC hostels, UNIPORT spokesman, Dr William Wodi, admitted that the buildings had a structural defect, adding that NDDC, the agency responsible for the construction of the facility, had promised to address the problem.
He agreed that some of the students, staying off-campus, had come into the campus to squat with the original owners of the rooms because of insecurity outside the university environment.
Wodi added that the development had led to overpopulation in the hostels, which had continued to pile pressure on the facilities.
16 students cram into UNICAL hostel room
Also, at the University of Calabar, The PUNCH correspondent noticed the hostels, called Hall 4 and Hall 5, were in dire need of not only a coat of paint, but total clean-up due to the dirty state of the facilities.
Without water in the hostels when one of our correspondents visited the institution last week, the public conveniences were so dirty that the white marble in the bathrooms had turned green.
The correspondent observed that students had to fetch water whenever they attempted to use the dirty toilet.
Findings revealed that some students would not bother to fetch water to clean the conveniences because of the stress involved.
In addition to these problems, the rooms are overcrowded. It was learnt that a room, which is supposed to accommodate four students, had as many as eight or even 16 students due to lack of accommodation in the school.
Investigations revealed that each student paid N16, 000 for a bed space in a room per session.
A 300 level student, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said, “The challenges we are facing in Hall 5 are many. Some structures are damaged. There are spaces through which someone could come in and leave without the security personnel noticing. We don’t have water. Some students don’t flush when they use the toilet. They leave it for the rest to suffer.
“We still have the issue of the fee for hostel accommodation. Two years ago, we paid N8,000, but now, it has doubled to around N16,000.”
The President of the Students’ Union Government in the university, Raymond Moses, said, “I won’t be telling you that I am very comfortable with the state of things neither will I be saying that the management is not doing anything about them. There has been an increase in hostel accommodation fee because they want to effect changes.”
The university’s spokesman, Mr Effiong Eyo, said he would forward the questions sent by The PUNCH to the Dean of Students Affairs.
Eyo, later in his response, said, “As promised, I got to see the Dean of Students Affairs, Prof Enang Udah, over the issues raised by you.”
He stated that the dean said the administration of the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Zana Akpagu, had started confronting the challenges.
“The maintenance, according to the dean, is in progress. He added that it had been completed in Halls 6, 8 and 9. Work on Halls 4 and 5 will commence soon,” Eyo stated.
UNN male hostels dilapidated
At the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, hostels, especially those for males, are dilapidated.
One of our correspondents, who visited the Enugu Campus of the UNN last Monday, described Kenneth Dike and Mbonu Ojike hostels for the male students as filthy and uninhabitable.
It was observed that virtually all the windows were broken while most of them were covered with curtains.
The hostels, which are located at the end of the administrative and lecture blocks, are surrounded by bushes while the forecourt of the two hostels is water lodged.
It was observed that the paint on the buildings had faded, the walls cracked and the windows as well as sliding doors were half eaten by termites.
A few students, who spoke to The PUNCH, decried the varsity’s insufficient hostel accommodation.
A student, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a one-bedroom flat outside the campus cost at least N250, 000, which had forced many students to seek accommodation on campus, making the hostels overpopulated.
A law student, Eke Ifeanyichukwu, said that the two hostels, which had had about 2,000 bed spaces, “now house about 5,000 students.”
At the Nsukka campus, a student, who didn’t want his name mentioned, described the toilets and bathrooms at the male hostels as disease-infested.
“Between eight and 20 students stay in one room because they cannot afford accommodation off-campus because of the Shylock Nsukka landlords. At the Nsukka campus, students go to the bushes to defecate because they can use the toilets where they can contract diseases,” one of the students said.
Also, a Medical Radiography student, Chinasa, who said female hostels were nice, complained about lack of water.
She stated, “In the university, we buy water. A gallon of 20 litres (of water) is N70. There is never a day you will not buy water. We accommodate our colleagues because accommodation is quite expensive in Enugu.”
However, the Student Union President, Tochukwu Onah, declined comment on the state of the hostels.
Also, the university’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Okwun Omeaku, said he could not talk as he was attending an important event in the school.
“I am in an inaugural lecture; please let’s talk later,” Omeaku stated.
As of the time of filing this report, Omeaku had yet to call back or responded to inquiries sent to him.
Danfodiyo varsity hostel common rooms converted to rooms
In many rooms at the Jibril Aminu Hostel at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, the common rooms, meant for relaxation, have been converted to dwelling rooms due to a shortage of bed spaces.
It was gathered that each room in the hostel, originally meant for eight occupants at the rate of N7,090.00 per bed space, usually accommodated between 10 and 12 students.
A 300 Level law student, Gobir Habeeb, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “Bathrooms and toilets in the UDUS Hostel are not adequate. Apart from the odour that usually comes from there, the doors and windows are also damaged, leaving students to have their bath without doors to cover their privacy.”
Theft because of errand boys’ access
Also, some students lamented that errand boys and girls as well as hawkers had unfettered access to the hostels. This, they said, encouraged criminality and theft of students’ property.
But the UDUS Students’ Union President, Faruk Barade, described the situation of the hostels as “conducive” for the students.
Barade denied any knowledge of overcrowded rooms in the hostel, stating that the union would make the common rooms conducive for students.
Efforts to get the reaction of the university as of the time of sending this report did not succeed.
Several calls put across to the Dean, Students’ Affairs, Prof Aminu Mode, were not returned neither did he respond to enquiries sent to him via text messages.
Dirty halls, bed bugs welcome you to OAU hostels
In the three residential halls visited at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, it was observed that the surroundings of the halls were dirty.
At the Adekunle Fajuyi Hall, refuse littered the front of the male hostel. Occupants of the two-storey building dumped refuse right in front of some rooms on the ground floor.
A resident of the hall, who preferred not to be named, said refuse collectors occasionally packed the filth.
According to him, students on the ground floor of the building have been the victims of the stench from the refuse dumped in front of the hall.
At the Awolowo Hall, toilets were in a bad state. It was observed that some bathroom doors were badly damaged while others had none.
Occupants of Awo Hall complained of bed bugs which they claimed had become a permanent feature in their rooms. Two of the beds were seen outside the hall.
It was gathered that both fresh and returning students paid N3, 900 per bed space every session at the OAU.
The Public Relations Officer of the university, Mr Abiodun Olanrewaju, told The PUNCH that all the halls in the institution were usually renovated before the commencement of every season, adding that the poor state of facilities noticed in some of the halls could not be blamed on the management.
Attacked UI hostel, others bushy
In the Obafemi Awolowo Hall of the University of Ibadan, which was built in 1986, it was observed that there was poor ventilation and that the environment was bushy.
Armed robbers had, three weeks ago, attacked the female hostel and carted away students’ belongings.
The PUNCH’s investigations showed that following the outcry that followed the attack, renovation work had commenced on it.
We queue to use toilets – ABU student
At the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, a 200 Level Political Science student, Usman Abubakar, said a room designed for four people was accommodating seven.
According to him, toilets on the campus are grossly inadequate.
“We have to queue to use the facilities,” he added.
Also, Mary Samuel, who resides in the Akenzua Hall, said living on the campus was supposed to be a blessing, saying the reverse is the case.
Dearth of bed spaces, bed bugs at UNILAG
In the University of Lagos,Akoka, a female student, at the Fagunwa Hostel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said students were the ones who spoilt the infrastructure put in place by the management.
Another female student told The PUNCH that the rooms were overcrowded because of a shortage of bed spaces.
She stated, “We should have four people in a room, but we have squatters in all the rooms. So, from four in a room, we can have eight students.”
Another student, who wished to be identified as Bayo, said most fans in the rooms at the Biobaku Hostel were not working.
He stated, “We still have the issue of bed bugs in our hostel; remember that was one of the reasons the students union was banned in UNILAG when the students protested against the issue of bed bugs.”
At the Aliyu Makama Bida Hall which was built in 1986, a student said the bad state of the rooms depended on the habitants.
We are worried, says ASUU
Meanwhile, the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, said the group was worried about the state of the hostels in the federal universities.
Ogunyemi stated, “The situation has moved from bad to worse and we are praying it doesn’t get to the worst. You could also see some forms of intervention. The N220bn the government released made some impacts because there are some areas of intervention where you can see pockets of transformation.
“You can imagine if the government kept the main agreement between 2013 and 2019. The government was expected to have released the N1.3trn, but the government has only released N220bn.
“We are worried. We want the Nigerian public to be worried. Until we are ready to do a designed-team intervention, until we are ready to massively inject funds and until we come to a concerted agreement that our universities deserve an urgent intervention, we cannot turn things round in our universities.”
Hostel management should be outsourced – Utomi
However, a professor of Political Economy and Management, Pat Utomi, identified funding for the universities and prioritising between academic and non-academic goals as two major causes of the state of the federal universities.
He described hostels as classic opportunities for public-private partnership, saying, “But the enabling laws have not been there. Besides, hostel management is not the core function of the university and it’s better outsourced.”
Varsities should maintain hostels through rent they collect – FG
But the Federal Ministry of Education said it was intervening in public universities through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, adding that N1.3trn was expended in the last four years.
The Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr Ben Goong, stated this in an interview with The PUNCH.
He said, “There is no university today that you don’t see a profound presence of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund. You will see a lot of building and development of infrastructure.
“The universities collect rent from students every year. So, these hostels are not given free of charge. After four or five years, that same university which collects and pockets the rent, comes back and submits a bill of N200m to the government to rehabilitate hostels.
“No university has the business coming back to the Federal Government to rehabilitate hostels. I agree that issues of electricity, water and the likes are included in the charges. But if the university collects rent, maintenance of the hostels should be their primary responsibility.”
Retirement savings reform isn’t a hot topic for journalists, but it’s one of the few areas where Democrats and Republicans in Congress and President Trump could pull off some bipartisan reform when legislators reassemble in September.
The list of necessary fixes to current law is long and well known: As people live longer, the rules regarding “required minimum distributions” from savings plans need to have their age triggers increased. Overall maximum contribution levels should rise. Defined-contribution plans ought to be available for groups of employers so the costs of establishing and maintaining the accounts are not so high.
The amount of assets that Americans have stashed away for retirement is significant. The Investment Company Institute reported that the total of such assets stood at $28 trillion at the end of the first quarter, with $7.7 trillion in defined-contribution plans and $9.2 trillion in individual retirement accounts. Many Americans have little or no retirement savings, but a lot of Americans are regular contributors to their long-term fiscal health.
Most attention gets paid, understandably, to those who will depend entirely or nearly entirely on Social Security, with much less focus on those with healthier balances in their retirement savings. When Congress gets to retirement reform in the fall — Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) lead the effort — congressmen ought to pause and consider how they can use their reform efforts to also help seniors stay in their homes as incomes decline or stop but mortgage payments stretch out into the future. Older Americans on fixed incomes face a housing crisis, and one part of the solution is retirement reform.
The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard found that nearly three-quarters of senior Americans want to live in their own homes as they age. But because “housing is the single biggest item in most household budgets,” Aging Options reports, “housing-related expenses disproportionately affect a senior’s financial security and their ability to save for the future.” The burden of housing costs got heavier when Congress severely limited the deductibility of home mortgage interest in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
If retirement reform allows seniors to pay off all or part of their home mortgage debt with money saved in their own retirement accounts without triggering taxes on the money used, then Congress will have taken a big step toward solving one part of this problem. Seniors with mortgages would then have the option of offloading their mortgage debt using money saved for their retirement without first having to pay federal and state income taxes on the money used to pay off the home loan. Millions of seniors would find themselves without a mortgage bill to pay and not facing a staggering tax bill as a consequence.
The Urban Institute concluded that the most valuable nonfinancial asset in the United States is a home, and that 69 percent of all families own one. Housing is the key element of financial security in retirement. Allowing Americans to use the money they have saved to pay off the homes they have purchased is the most obvious “fix” in the world, but congressional staff I have asked about this always reply that it increases the risk of seniors having lower incomes from savings while also reducing future tax receipts. The latter objection makes little sense, as the taxable event of a withdrawal to pay off mortgage debt can simply be postponed from the date of the withdrawal to the date of the sale of the home.
What opponents of allowing Americans to use their money to lower or eliminate housing costs won’t see or refuse to admit is that retirement security begins with a place to live. A senior American doesn’t need as much savings if his or her home loans are paid off. This should be a no-brainer for every legislator, but it’s not part of the draft laws circulating though the House or Senate.
Current data is difficult to find, but a 2012 New York Times story found that 1.5 million homeowners over 55 lost their homes between 2007 and 2011, with the largest group being over 75 years of age. Those years followed the panic, of course, but even if seniors with mortgage debt are not losing their homes, they are enjoying life less if they are making a mortgage payment they could avoid if their own retirement assets were available to pay off the mortgage.
The biggest obstacle to this obvious reform is the same one to most reforms: Permanent D.C. didn’t think it up and hasn’t internalized its logic. Maybe Grassley can change that, and in so doing, improve the quality of retirement for millions of Americans.