Mortgage Rates Slump for the Third-Straight Week as Big Questions Dog the Housing Market

Rates for home loans fell along with the broader bond market even as the transformation of the real-estate industry quickened pace.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.10% in the May 9 week, Freddie Mac said Thursday. That was down 4 basis points during the week.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.57%, down from 3.60%. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.63%, down 5 basis points.

The 30-year-fixed follows the benchmark 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, +0.15%   Thanks to concerns about the economy and choppy markets, investors have been piling into bonds this year. Bond yields fall as prices rise. The popular mortgage product has managed a weekly gain only six times so far this year, and just last week Freddie’s chief economist slashed his 2019 forecast for rates.

Meanwhile, as the spring season hits its peak, buyer demand has been “going gangbusters” for Rich Harty, a real estate agent in Chicagoland.

Mortgage rates have been “cooperative,” and a boon for the buyers Harty works with.

“I had a record year in 2018, and 2019 is shaping up to be even better,” Harty told MarketWatch. But real estate is hyperlocal, it seems: some communities adjacent to where he works aren’t doing as well, in large part because of surging property taxes.

(MarketWatch previously profiled Harty, who is also licensed in Wisconsin and frequently sells homes there to priced-out Chicagoans. Now, however, he’s too busy in the metro area to work across state lines.)

In fact, with business so brisk, most of what keeps Harty up at night are the big-picture questions. He’s keeping a close eye on the class-action lawsuit filed against big real-estate companies and the National Association of Realtors, as well as a wave of seismic shifts in the industry that threaten to make real-estate agents redundant.

“Where am I going to be in five, 10 years?” Harty said. “Is this the last hurrah before it all starts to shake out?”

A Light At The End Of The Tunnel For Affordable Housing In Kenya

here are approximately 2.5 million slum dwellers in about 200 settlements in Nairobi representing 60 percent of Nairobi population and occupying just 6 percent of the land. Kibera, the biggest slum in Africa and one of the biggest in the world houses about 250,000 people.

Basically, the numbers of slum dwellers in Kibera paint a grim picture of the general availability of low cost houses in Kenya. The number of low-income units is dwindling with the market shifting to focus on the middle class. Efforts to address the crisis has not yielded tangible fruits yet the number of slum residents continue to rise.

Statistics from the World Bank depict a depressing scenario of the situation with six out of 10 households living in slums. There is a deficit of over two million houses countrywide as annual production remains at a paltry 50,000 units, way below the targeted provision of 250,000 units.

The rental cost for the middle and upper class market continues to rise and it is becoming the new normal. The high costs have majorly been attributed to exorbitant prices of land, high cost of construction and high population growth as a result of rural-urban migration.

In a bid to meet the rising demand for affordable housing, Pan African housing development financier, Shelter Afrique has invested USD 2 Mn in the Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company.

While confirming the firm’s contribution, Andrew Chimphondah, Shelter Afrique CEO stated that there are many Kenyans who would want to own houses but the challenge remains access to affordable finance.

“We are encouraged by the formation of the Mortgage Refinance Company which provides long term lending to commercial banks, micro-finance banks and Saccos to allow them to extend mortgage loans to eligible mwananchi over a longer period and at a lower cost. That is important because that enhances affordability and boosts uptake of housing. I am happy to announce that Shelter Afrique has invested USD 2 Mn in the Company to stimulate the demand for affordable housing,” Mr Chimphondah said.

Notably, he pointed out a lack of affordability as the reason why there were only 24,000 active mortgages in Kenya despite the country having a housing shortage of over 2 million units.

“If 100 Kenyans apply for mortgages only five will qualify because of lack of affordability; 10 might be due to high credit risk, but the majority will be disqualified on the basis that they wouldn’t be able to the mortgage repayment terms”.

Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company operates as a private sector-driven company implementing the government’s affordable housing plan.

By Lorine Towett

To make Nigeria’s foreign policy significant

As we noted yesterday on this page, the expediency of restructuring Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives today cannot be over-emphasised. But some questions are still germane, in this regard. What is Nigeria’s foreign policy thrust today? What is our national interest? What purpose does our foreign policy serve? The colonial masters who cobbled the diverse people of the West Coast of Africa into today’s Nigeria ostensibly had a motive. According to James Robertson, the last colonial Governor General of Colonial Nigeria who wrote “Sovereign Nigeria” in the African Affairs of 1961, the motive for creating Nigeria was to build a country that would play a significant role in global affairs.

Given the reality that the country is the most populated black nation in the world, it was evidently seen as being tied to the fate of the black race. The inheritors of the scepter of power, going by the rhetoric of the period were deemed moderates but acted in ways that put the country at the vanguard of the defenders of the black race and its interest. It severed diplomatic relations with France over the latter’s testing of the Atomic bomb in the Sahara Desert and also followed a non-aligned position in the charged global environment of ideological contestation between the then Soviet Union and the United States.

Besides, there was indeed an abiding consciousness of an independent country. The clearly articulated anti-colonial goal of freeing the continent from colonial rule demonstrated in the aforementioned struggle against Apartheid South Africa, Portuguese colonial rule in Angola and Mozambique as well as Ian Smith’s gamble in Zimbabwe underscored the country as a veritable black power in the making. In spite of the obvious failing in the international relations of Nigeria, Africans elsewhere easily concede the leadership of the continent to it.

Today, those heroic deeds of the past have faded away and are of no significance due to mis-governance of the country by a warped, self-serving and unpatriotic governing class. Truly, it is difficult to comprehend the country’s foreign policy. It is as though the country had no one and its foreign minister mainly exists to fulfil the virtue of filling up an available cabinet position.

However, we do know that in the prevailing political milieu of cluelessness the extant 1999 Constitution as amended ought to be relevant. Section 19 of the 1999 Constitution fully engrossed the country’s foreign policy objectives thus: “promotion and protection of national interest; promotion of African integration and support of African unity; promotion of international cooperation for consolidation of universal peace and mutual respect among all nations and elimination in all its manifestation; respect for international law and treaty obligations as well as the seeking of settlement of international disputes by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and adjudication and promotion of a just world economic order.”

Despite these fine lines of the basic law, the present administration barely knows what to do with the country’s foreign policy. Diplomatic postings are driven by political considerations rather than the interest of the country. Such warped inclination could explain the posting of an octogenarian to represent the country’s interest in Washington, the confluence of global diplomatic activities. Besides, the anticipated pruning of diplomatic missions betrays lack of understanding of the country’s national interest and the purpose, which diplomatic missions should serve.

National interest is a product of domestic conversation influenced by the external environment. It has to do with those things that are beneficial to the country’s wellbeing, namely, socio-economic and political values. As Paul Seabury once noted, national interest refers to some ideal set of purposes which nation seeks to achieve in the conduct of its foreign relations. Of course these are projected in the international system to be bought by other international actors. This is why Adam Watson defines diplomacy as “a means or process, which helps states to realize their set goals.”

While it is possible to talk about the past, today there is no clearly defined national interest and this is due to harrowing and debilitating contradictions of the Nigerian state, which finds vivid expression in ethnocentric policy output of the present administration.

The prevailing divisive policies of the present wielders of power have rendered inconsequential the provisions of the constitution al a foreign policy goals. Overtime, we have argued for restructuring of the polity to achieve national cohesion. It is important for the country’s capacity to be able to communicate effectively at home and abroad. Without it, the search for a national interest over which our foreign policy would be woven around will remain a fantasy.

It is to be noted that in the past, the protection of our national interest was always the permanent focus of Nigeria’s foreign policy while strategies for its attainment varied according the regime in power. It is not sufficient to have ends in foreign relations but the means to achieve them are equally important.

It is pertinent to note that today Nigeria is not a good brand. Therefore, the country needs to rethink its foreign policy, deploy professional diplomats and experts to achieve its national interest in the international arena. That interest must be re-articulated through a fresh national conversation. Through prioritisation, the means to realise our foreign policy goals would avail much. In the main, the hope of a continental leadership must not be buried on the altar of ineptitude. This is what the authorities in Abuja should bear in mind at this and all time.

Source: The Guardian

How Berlin’s Housing Crisis Leaves Women Vulnerable to Sexual Predators


Berlin, like other major German cities, is in the midst of a housing crisis, with people struggling to find accommodation. Sexual predators are taking advantage of this situation, reports Sarah Wilson.

When expat Laura Rosell, 34, turned up for a flat viewing in Berlin in late 2016, everything seemed normal at first.

The flat was being rented out by a middle-aged man, and, although it was very small, “it was cheap, he seemed pleasant enough, and I was desperate – as is everyone – so I was considering it,” she tells The Local.

It didn’t take long, however, for Rosell to realize that something wasn’t right. While chatting about the washing machine, “he explained that he’d prefer if we put our clothes together into some sort of mixed laundry load,” Rosell says.

It’s a request she found a little strange but not a red flag, until he added ‘..and I prefer to do that alone’.

 

At this point, says Rosell, a dread came over her as she realized “this guy had some kind of women’s clothing fetish”.

“I should also mention that the apartment layout was so narrow that I realized I’d feel unsafe about having no ‘escape’ space around him if he stood in the middle of any of those places,” she adds.

After hastily turning down his offer for the flat, “the man invited me [online] to spend more time with him,” she says. “I’m pretty sure I didn’t reply, and I certainly didn’t say yes.”

Unfortunately, her experience is no anomaly among women in Berlin today.

For several years now, Berlin – alongside other major German cities – has been facing a growing housing crisis.

An explosion in population (growing by about 50,000 a year over the past five years) has led to major housing shortages, decreased availability of social housing and rental prices up across the capital by 46% since 2009.

Mention flat-hunting to anyone who’s tried it in Berlin and in return you’ll hear countless tales of viewings with hundreds of hopefuls lining the stairs, elaborate scams and endless WG “castings” that rarely end in success.

 

It’s a situation that leaves many frustrated. But for women in particular, the consequences can be even more sinister – and sometimes downright dangerous.

‘Sexual harassment’

However progressive some may deem Germany to be, the country still has undeniable problems with sexual harassment and assault.

Half of the women in Germany have experienced sexual harassment. Today, in the capital’s tough rental market, predators have found new ways to exploit women – taking advantage of the fact that many are new to the city and desperate for a place to live.

It’s a situation that Rosell, a freelancer originally from the US, knows all too well.

Not long after her unsettling experience in 2016, she received another offer from a man who claimed that “he wanted a roommate who would also be his (intimate) partner and become a disciple of his spiritual wellness system as well as help him with administrative things in his business”.

Across Germany, the custom of living in WGs (shared accomodation) ordinarily leaves the selection of new tenants up to the existing or main tenant(s), an arrangement that can create a power imbalance.

 

Indeed, Karen*, an expat also from the US said that during her search for an apartment, she saw a lot of ads online from middle-aged men looking for young female roommates.

“Several of them contacted me through WG-Gesucht, but I never met them,” she says.

“A part of me felt guilty for not giving them a chance, but something about the situation always felt wrong. Why would a man 20 years older than me want to be my roommate?”

 

Official and unofficial channels

Currently, “official” flat-finding channels like WG-Gesucht and Immobilienscout have options available for reporting scam ads, but little information on what to do in cases of inappropriate behaviour.

Representatives from WG Gesucht told The Local that they are quick to “delete accounts with offensive ads and messages, admonish the users and block the accounts”.

“In case of a continued inappropriate use of our service, we also reserve the right to take legal action against those users,” the company added.

They also claim that ads of an inappropriate nature are “very rare”.

By and large, however, the ad sites like WG Gesucht pertain to legal sublets, where the local authorities will be aware who is living in the flat. Higher authorities like the Hausverwaltung (house administration) or the landlord/lady can be approached with any problems.

The issue for many foreigners, however, is that renting through these official channels often requires a mountain of paperwork that most don’t have – or even know about – immediately upon arrival.

Consequently, many are forced to look through “unofficial” channels like Facebook and Craigslist, where advertised sublets are frequently illegal – lending more power to the sublessor and leaving the lessee more open to exploitation.

Who is responsible for removing dubious offers?

The Berliner Mieterverein – the Berlin Tenant’s Association – suggested to The Local that in the case of dubious offers “the platform operator should be notified immediately so that the sender of the ad is blocked”.

When 26-year-old Rita Macedo tried to report inappropriate behaviour to WG Gesucht, however, she noted that there was no function for doing so.

A man she spoke to on the platform escalated their conversation to “him saying that if I were to live with him, he would like to take semi or total naked pictures of me in ‘our’ house”.

She adds: “He proceeded to send me pictures of half naked girls he supposedly photographed and even though I said I was not interested in that he just kept on pushing”.

Yet without a report function on the website, Macedo was horrified to see that “months after I noticed that the guy was still posting offers, same name, same address, same pictures.”

Though the Berliner Mieterverein admits that the Berlin housing market is “very tense” and finding a place to live can become a “real problem”, they suggest that “women should not engage in dubious deals” and should “stay away from [unreliable] housing offers” from the outset.

In some cases, however, the approach comes from landlords or lessors themselves.

 

Photo-enabled harassment

Rosell believes that the custom of exchanging photographs and/or social media profiles with lessors, a practice also common on German resumes,  allows predatory men to target women specifically on house-hunting platforms.

“The whole personal appearance-based component to house-hunting here makes it a little unsettling right off the bat, in a way that it shouldn’t need to be”, she tells The Local.

As an illustration of how this access can be exploited, Rosell explains how she received a “semi-notorious” email during her flat-hunt from a man who “offers to be your slave in a very detailed email”.

It struck her after talking with other women, that she isn’t the only woman who has received it and that he must have been picking and choosing who he was sending it to.

Harassment from a roommate

It’s not just during the search that women find themselves in danger either.

About a month after moving into a WG, Karen’s flatmate started to behave inappropriately towards her, “stand[ing] too close to me in the kitchen”, touching her as he passed by and staring at her body.

At one point, says Karen, he told her ‘I won’t have any contact with a woman unless sex is an option’ before looking her up and down and adding ‘that includes you. You’re a very beautiful woman’.

His behaviour made Karen feel extremely frightened and uncomfortable, but she felt trapped in the flat:

“I lived like this for a few more months because I was terrified of going back to the apartment search,” she says.

Eventually, Karen managed to move out, though not without difficulty. “I lied and told him I was moving in with my boyfriend, and he seemed to take this as rejection,” she says.

In the end, she was forced to get legal counsel to disentangle herself from him, and was still forced to pay an extra month of rent.

Later, she went to the police, fearing another woman might go through what she had. After 10 months, she was forwarded an apology letter from the perpetrator. She said the police told her the only reason her case went that far is because the man had touched her. “If he hadn’t…nothing would have been done,” she says.

Meanwhile, Rosell believes that these problems of harassment and exploitation won’t be resolved until the housing market itself is fixed: “The housing market wouldn’t be so rife with predators if that market itself didn’t lend itself so easily to economic exploitation,” she says.

‘If the police can’t protect you, who can?’

In spite of strict subletting laws in Berlin, enforcement is rare and illegal sublets still rife.

The police and the law, too, are lagging behind rapid changes to the housing market and the problems it’s engendering, leaving women unsure of who to turn to when they find themselves in these situations, or indeed whether it’s worth reporting at all.

“This city’s police might need to consider updating the way they handle cases [of predatory/inappropriate tenants],” Rosell says.

“We’re powerless; ‘your Hausverwaltung holds the power’ sounds a bit ridiculous,” she adds.

“I mean, if the police can’t protect you or de-escalate a situation like that, who can? And how?”

By Sarah Wilson

The Ontario Government’s Shameful Snub of Affordable Housing

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s new housing policy offers us a lot of things, but what it fails to mention might hurt vulnerable Canadians the most.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Toronto Mayor John Tory recently announced a $1.3 billion federal investment in the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, the city’s largest affordable housing provider. According to the federal government, the $1.3 billion will go toward renovating some 58,000 housing units across 1,500 buildings. It is the largest federal transfer of housing funds to a municipality in the country’s history.

The investment follows on the heels of Trudeau’s announcement of the federal government’s first-ever National Housing Strategy in 2017. Trudeau pledged to spend $40 billion to address the problems of inadequate housing and chronic homelessness in Canada over a 10-year period.

For his part, Ontario Premier Doug Ford recently pledged $1 billion to repair Ontario’s affordable housing stock and streamline the application process as part of the provincial government’s Community Housing Renewal Strategy. Exactly how much Toronto Community Housing will receive is unclear.

Ontario’s recent budget is silent on the issue as well. It doesn’t mention Toronto Community Housing once. Instead, the budget seems focused on boosting the overall housing supply while cutting access to social programs like affordable housing, income support and homelessness prevention by $550 million.

n per year. Funding for the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Housing and Affairs has been cut by 25 per cent overall.

When Trudeau first announced the National Housing Strategy, he famously declared that “housing rights are human rights.” The federal government’s investment in Toronto Community Housing is an important step toward fulfilling this promise. Now it’s the province’s turn to step up as well.

More than just a landlord

Affordable housing providers in Canada are facing an identity crisis.

Some critics have argued that Toronto Community Housing should behave like any other landlord. They argue its main job should be to collect rents, enforce leases and promptly evict tenants who fail to comply with the rules, regardless of their personal circumstances.

Toronto Community Housing has faced accusations of wasteful spending in the past. Residents and taxpayers should demand a crackdown, the critics say. A Toronto Sun columnist suggested that it should behave like a private landlord: “Clearly, private landlords are in business to make money. (Toronto Community Housing) officials really couldn’t care less.”

Ford would seem to agree. One of the hallmarks of Ontario’s new housing policy is a change to the application rules. Toronto Community Housing would be empowered to turn away prospective tenants who were previously evicted for criminal activity. Apparently Tory has campaigned for the rule change as well.

Toronto Community Housing is home to 110,000 people, including 30,000 youth and children and 20,000 seniors. The vast majority of residents live below the poverty line. Nearly 60 per cent of them are women, and one third of them self-identify as either having a disability or living with mental health challenges. For many people, eviction from Toronto Community Housing would mean they have nowhere else to live. Homelessness, poverty rates, and mental health are closely interrelated in Canada.

Properly understood in this light, Toronto Community Housing is more than just a private landlord. And the federal government’s investment is more than just a commitment to repairing bricks and mortar. Affordable housing is one of the planks of a more fair and just society. Ontario’s new housing policy fails to recognize this.

Affordable housing matters

Since the federal and provincial governments downloaded responsibility for affordable housing to municipalities in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Toronto Community Housing has lacked stable, long-term sources of funding and support from every level of government.

As a result, Toronto Community Housing faces a capital repairs shortfall of $2.6 billion over the next 10 years since it inherited a large stock of buildings without the resources to maintain them. The city’s affordable housing stock is literally crumbling.

The waiting list for a rent-subsidized unit in Toronto Community Housing is currently tens of thousands of families long. Most applicants can expect to wait seven years or more for a bachelor unit and longer than 10 years for a larger unit. The waiting list includes people experiencing homelessness, survivors of intimate partner violence and human trafficking and terminally ill people with fewer than two years to live.

A combination of factors has meant that Toronto Community Housing has failed to provide shelter for many people who need it most. Research shows that racialized women, Indigenous peoples, immigrant populations, and persons with disabilities, among others, are most likely to face housing discrimination in Canada. Homelessness is a barrier to the social advancement of historically marginalized groups in our society, particularly those who fall at the intersection of multiple systems of oppression and can face the greatest challenges in obtaining safe and adequate housing.

Police services are not equipped to contend with the complex issues facing people who experience poverty and homelessness. The criminal justice system is increasingly exclusionary of people with mental health challenges, among others, who comprise a large part of Toronto Community Housing’s population. Shifts in public policy surrounding poverty, homelessness and mental health have resulted in the criminalization of homelessness in Canada.

Faced with this reality, the federal government’s recognition that “housing rights are human rights” is a commitment to addressing the city’s increasingly competitive and inaccessible housing market. It’s a commitment to improving the safety, housing conditions and quality of life for thousands of city residents. It’s a commitment to empowering some of the most vulnerable members of our society by increasing their access to vital social services like job placement assistance and local community-building initiatives. Affordable housing providers can help to provide these services.

The provincial government’s new housing policy, on the other hand, fails to reflect the same values as the federal government’s plan.

Ontario should have allocated more for affordable housing in its budget, not less. To match the federal government’s investment, the province should have earmarked funds for Toronto Community Housing specifically. Mental health supports and other social programs aimed at homelessness prevention should have been made a top priority throughout. And the province should have recognized that housing rights are human rights, not privileges. This means they should extend to everyone. Prospective tenants who were previously evicted for criminal activity should not be denied access to affordable housing in the future.

Building for the future

Affordable housing providers should be funded and supported toward the goal of breaking the cycle of poverty in Canada. The federal government’s investment in Toronto Community Housing is a good start, but more funding and support from every level of government is needed to fulfil Trudeau’s promise that “housing rights are human rights” across the country.

At the same time, affordable housing providers should be held more accountable in meeting their human rights mandate. The National Housing Strategy is not a blank cheque. The promise of the policy requires that we spend residents and taxpayers’ money in socially responsible ways.

Canadians should invest in affordable housing. It’s a commitment to lifting the most vulnerable members of our society from the ground up — and lifting our entire country up in the process.

By Daniel Del Gobbo

Report: How Threatened Is Affordable Housing in Your Neighorbood?

The Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development released its annual report on Thursday, summarizing various risks to affordable housing in the city’s 59 neighborhoods.

ANHD, an advocacy group dedicated to building community power to protect equitable neighborhoods, produces a chart to display and analyze the variety of risks to affordable housing.

The report analyzes indicators like overcrowding, evictions, foreclosure notices, among others, and found that “a shocking number of New Yorkers are rent-burdened, severe overcrowding is a persistent problem and some neighborhoods are suffering from high concentrations of housing code violations, rising building prices and home foreclosures.”

The analysis revealed that Brownsville has the city’s highest rate of home foreclosures, followed by Jamaica/Hollis and East New York. 

East Brooklyn is most at risk for losing affordable housing, including Brownsville, East New York and East Flatbush, the report found. Based on the existing housing stock, Brownsville and East New York saw the most 1-to-4-unit properties flipped in Brooklyn, with 15.5 percent each.

Brownsville residents were also characterized as severely rent-burdened: 59 percent of households are spending more than 30 percent of their income for housing.

East New Yorkers experienced 783 evictions in 2018, the most of any Brooklyn neighborhood, followed by East Flatbush with 628.

Bushwick was found to be the neighborhood most impacted by serious housing code violations, racking up 299 cases in 2018, followed by Sunset Park with 191.

Severe overcrowding continues to be a persistent problem; in Brooklyn, Borough Park had the city’s second highest rate at 10.7 percent, followed by Sunset Park with 9.6 percent.

Nigeria’s Iron, Steel Sector Challenge And Quest For Industrialisation

The Nigerian iron and steel industry established as a basis for industrialization has remained unproductive even as the year 2020 targeted for the country to become one of the world’s top 20 economies is barely six months away.

In its drive towards becoming one of the most industrialised economies in the world by harnessing the human and natural resources that abound in its geographical space, the Nigerian government at various times over the years, initiated several economic reform policies and targets, none of which can be said to have been successful as their objectives were largely unmet.

A vibrant iron and steel sector is necessary for the infrastructural and technological development of any nation. Nigeria is blessed with all the raw materials required for steel development including iron ore, coal, natural gas and limestone.

Under the third national development plan (1975 – 1980) specifically between 1976 and 1978, Nigeria commenced the construction of two integrated iron and steel plants located at Ajaokuta (Ajaokuta steel company-ASC) and Aladja (Delta steel company-DSC) and three rolling mills at Oshogbo, Jos and Katsina.

The 1.3 mtpa ASC is based on blast furnace/basic oxygen furnace (BF/BOF) technology with rolling product capacity of 5.2 mtpa. DSC has a 1.0 mtpa steel melting plant for the production of 0.96 mtpa of billets and 0.32 mtpa of rolled products, while supplying 210,000 tonnes of billets each to Oshogbo, Jos and Kastina rolling mills.

These projects were expected to kick start a vibrant iron and steel sector in Nigeria. However, due to several factors including political, technical, logistical and managerial challenges, all these publicly-owned iron and steel companies folded up in Nigeria.

The privately-owned iron and steel companies, which are mostly rolling mills that were dependent on the integrated mills for billets are now threatened due to lack of raw materials. The publicly-owned iron and steel companies (ASC, DSC and the three inland rolling mills) were privatised in 2000- 2005, yet most of them are still moribund. According to a recent stud ,

Nigeria is endowed with all the major raw materials needed for the production of iron and steel including 3 billion tonnes of iron ore, 3 billion tonnes of coal, and limestone in excess of 700 million tonnes and 187 billion SCF of natural gas.

The annual estimated per capita consumption of iron and steel in Nigeria increased from 5 kg in 1968 to 130 kg in 2012. Planning for the Nigerian steel sector started in 1958, but over 50 years after, the country was yet to establish a stable iron and steel sector despite huge investments of over $ 9 billion.

Despite the huge investments, the Ajaokuta Steel Company (ASC) failed to take off, while Delta Steel Company (DSC) and the three government-owned inland/satellite rolling mills in Oshogbo, Jos and Kastina are moribund, working under low capacity utilisation.

The reasons for the poor performance of the Nigerian steel sector include inadequate funding, poor planning and implementation and political influences  Until recently, the nation’s steel requirement was substantially met since independence by imports from western nations particularly US, Great Britain, Germany, Japan and recently, by relatively cheap and sub-standard steel from some Asian nations. The country is now spending a large portion of her foreign exchange for the importation of steel products, while still investing heavily in the domestic production of steel.

This is double jeopardy. The privatisation that was carried out in 2004 – 2005 did not revive the sector, but rather transformed the companies to private monopolies. Because the two integrated iron and steel companies in Nigeria (ASC and DSC) are unable to produce billets for the 20 steel rolling mills in the country, the sector is dependent on imported billets. But due to the high cost of billet importation, many steel companies are unable to function.

The few steel companies that are operational though at low capacities have had to depend on recycling of scrap iron and steel obtained mostly from municipal solid wastes. Policies and legal framework are very important to guide development activities of any nation.

Nigeria has released several fiscal and economic development policies. Vision 20: 2020 economic blueprint as approved by the federal executive council (FEC)  clearly recommended that the nation shall produce 12.2 million tonnes of steel per annum by the year 2020 out of which Ajaokuta steel plant is to produce 5.2 million tonnes/ annum, DSC to produce two million tonnes per annum and the remaining by private entrepreneurs if Nigeria is to join the league of 20 industrialised nation by 2020.

Fortunately enough, most of the policies and programmes rolled out by government since the outset of this sustained democratic experience in Nigeria in 1999 such as the vision 2010, the 7-Point Agenda among others, which are now in the trash can of history having largely failed to achieve their objectives, and even the still valid Vision 2020:20 and the diversification agenda of the present administration, have similar goals-to reform the economy by revamping the non-oil productive sectors such as agriculture and solid minerals with a view to boosting local production, manufacturing and infrastructure development and ultimately transforming the country to an industrial cum economic giant among the committee of nations.

 

Nigeria has had two different administrations since the adoption of Vision 20:2020, each having its own economic growth plan. Under President Jonathan the Transformation Agenda was the focus. With President Buhari, it is the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

However, it is noteworthy that the three plans have been predominantly based on the bedrock of driving economic expansion and an inclusive growth i.e. growth that advances equitable opportunities for every section of the society.

Going by all economic indicators now, it appears Nigeria is not prepared to take a place among the top 20 economies in 2020, which is six months away, as envisaged by Vision 2020, especially as the iron and steel sector which ought to be the chief driver of the revolution is still in limbo even as billions of naira have been sunk into developing it.

Sadly enough, the Ajaokuta Steel Company which was established at the close of the 1970s as the nation’s backbone of industrialisation and the Itakpe iron ore project meant to supply the raw materials, all in Kogi State, have remained uncompleted, about 40 years down the line, despite the huge chunks of taxpayers money expended on them over the years.

The Ajaokuta integrated steel complex was conceived and steadily developed with the vision of erecting a Metallurgical Processing Plant cum Engineering Complex with other auxiliaries and facilities.

The complex was meant to generate important upstream and downstream industrial and economic activities that are critical to the diversification of the economy away from oil which has been the sole source of wealth over the years.

Ajaokuta Steel Plant has therefore aptly tagged the bedrock of Nigeria’s Industrialisation. While the project was expected to directly employ about 10,000 staff at the first phase of commissioning, the upstream and downstream industries that were to evolve all over the nation thereafter were to engage not less than 500,000 employees.

The plant by 1994 was reckoned to be at 98 percent completion in terms of equipment erected. Some completed units of the plant reportedly operated at different times but had to short down due to non-availability of the fund. And an audit carried out at the instance of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development about a year ago to ascertain the state of Ajaokuta before investing in it towards completion, revealed that the internal infrastructure required to operate the complex was about 98 percent completed.

Receiving the report, the ministry assured that with the concerted effort of Mr President towards funding the project to its logical conclusion, the jinx which has kept Ajaokuta in the pipeline for 40 years would be broken. But while responding to questions from the press at the close of 2018 as to why Ajaokuta has not taken off in spite of recent government interventions, the minister noted that the company cannot commence operation yet even if it was 100 per cent built because of the the complex infrastructures, some internal, others external that have to be in place for its operation to successfully commence and be sustained. He said,

“The steel company is not yet functioning because its infrastructural requirements such as specific rail system, dredging of Lokoja and Warri ports among others which are at various stages of completion. “Ajaokuta is 98 per cent completed.

Everything is in place and we have our workers there that are maintaining the place. The remaining two percent has to do with external infrastructure. We need waterways. We need viable ports and so on.

The government is putting all these things in place now. “Even if it was completed 100 percent it would not be able to operate. If we are to bring in all the raw materials required from Itakpe, as the iron concentrate required, you need 750 trucks traveling each day to feed Ajaokuta. Imagine 750 trucks on Ajaokuta-Itakpe road daily.

The road will be bad in one week. “The policy of the government is that it will not release Ajaokuta steel just like that; what we are planning to do is to regulate and create enabling environment for the company to strive,’ he stated further. In all of these, where is the hope of making Nigeria count among the 20 industrialized economies in the world as expected? Where is the hope of accomplishing the Vision 2020:20 objectives in the coming year 2020? Did Nigeria not start this journey to industrialization with its contemporary Third World countries then like China, India and others who are now heavyweights among the industrialized nations? What actually has been going wrong?

These are some of the questions that readily come to mind in view of the quagmire that has engulfed the Nigerian metallurgical industry over the years. To become one of the top 20 economies in 2020, Nigeria has to outperform other countries above it on the gross domestic product (GDP) ranking in 2018 and 2019.

It must step up its efforts to improve economic growth. Although the present administration has been more focused on the ERGP, if it coordinates this strategy with robust annual expenditures and favourable monetary policies, that will improve the performance of the economy. , it is hoped that the country will look back at 2010 and point to significant progress.

Source: By  ABAH ADAH

Looming disaster at Ekpan-Warri expressway

IN this part of our world, we do not make things happen, rather, we react to happenings. The word ‘proactive’ seems to be foreign to us; that is why buildings that have been marked for demolition are collapsing at regular intervals in Lagos.

Now that so many human lives have been wasted, due to the inaction of the people in authority, we are calling for investigation into what is clearly known to all. Money will be budgeted for a probe panel that would be set up and when all the hullabaloo has died down, we will be back to our usual ways and continue with our attitude of ‘I don’t care’.

That is why a small patch on the road will develop into a pothole and later a crater, and nothing will be done about it until tragedy occurs. And we have road managers, both at the federal and state levels, with budgets prepared annually for the fixing of these roads.

That is our way. We are addicted to taking long, tortuous and wasteful routes when the solution is simple preventive measures. Tankers The Oshodi-Apapa expressway has become a debacle that has defied all solutions as simple as it appears to be.

The country is losing billions of naira on a daily basis as a result of the daily logjams on this road. Why it has defied solution is still a wonder to all right thinking persons. When you say, ‘No Parking here’, that is when Nigerians will start parking in that space, beginning from the VIPs, followed by the ubiquitous trailer and tanker drivers, with the full support of their unions.

For every action taken to checkmate their excesses, they threaten to go on strike and so government is blackmailed into submission. What type of people do we have in government who do not seem to care about the disasters happening around us and some others waiting to happen.

The situation at the Tin Can Island Ports off the Apapa expressway started gradually with one trailer and then another and now the whole place has been overtaken by trailers and tankers to the Mile Two end and beyond.

It is only in Nigeria that you will be held up for five hours in a kilometre-long journey and you get to the spot and can’t find any visible cause for the traffic jam except for the wickedness of man and the spinelessness of those in authority to effect order in society.

Everywhere you go to, all over the country, the lawlessness being exhibited cannot be quantified and when there are attempts to enforce the law those responsible for the infractions easily become rebellious and do things that will sabotage the general good. That is the situation presently at the Effurun-Ekpan-NPA expressway, Warri.

The danger here has been brewing for some time and unless urgent and bold steps are taken to avert the danger, it will soon get to a catastrophic level. The expressway leads to the Warri Port and also close to the refinery.

The unfolding problem began with a few tankers, now they have covered the whole stretch. From the Army Barracks to the Chevron Point, over a thousand tankers are parked on both sides of the road, reducing the space for smooth flow of traffic.

This is a road that leads directly to Warri main town and a major route for governors, assembly members, ministers, commissioners and various heads of agencies. Incidentally, when President Muhammadu Buhari came to campaign in the area during the last election, the whole tankers vanished from the road.

But now they are back and in full force. The situation has been like this for over a year. Businesses along this road are gradually being affected, the condition of the road is already depreciating and no one seems concerned about it.

But unknown to many, we are sitting precariously on a time bomb because, God forbid, if any accident should happen now on that stretch of the road, the tragedy will be unimaginable. Imagine over two hundred fuel tankers parked bumper-to-bumper and there is a fire incident, what will the scene be like? They even discharge some of their products on the road there and we are beginning to witness occasional spills which make the road slippery and driving extremely dangerous.

Yet this is what people go through everyday in Warri, with no one in authority deeming it necessary to put a stop to it. The Warri situation is even more precarious than what obtains at the Tin Can area in Lagos because, here in Warri, there are residential houses and offices along the expressway.

With the slightest spark of fire, all will be consumed in the resulting inferno. Warri/Effurun Peace Marathon: Gyan cries for more action The traffic hazards that these trailers constitute is another cause for concern. These tanker drivers have become lords unto themselves and do not care for other road users. Incidentally, no government official is doing anything about it. But there is a group of touts or union members who go about collecting money from these drivers and allowing them to park on the road.

The question here is: under whose authority are they collecting this money? Who accounts for it? And what do they do with it? From what is happening so far, it is clear that the money is not going into government coffers. I understand that there is a trailer park around the Nigercat area, but when you go there you won’t find any trailer or tanker parked there; they prefer to park on the expressway, disturbing traffic. It is a disaster waiting to happen; the authorities must take urgent action before such a disaster happens.

It could extend to the refinery and their facilities. The people in the oil sector pride themselves on observing safety standards; all of their businesses are congregated along this stretch. So, it is a wonder that none has taken any step to ward off this potential danger; they are all looking at the situation with indifference.

We must take action now to avoid the looming catastrophe along the Effurun-Ekpan expressway.

Source:By Sunny Ikhioya

Miami’s Housing Affordability Crisis is Dire. A New Report Reveals Possible Solutions.

A new study shows that Miami’s affordable housing crisis is so dire, the city needs at least 50,000 units just to meet the existing need.

But the Connect Capital Miami Report, which was released Monday, also reveals a combination of tools and resources that could help alleviate the dearth of housing for cost-burdened residents.

According to the report, 71 percent of households in the City of Miami are renters, and 61 percent of those are cost-burdened, meaning they are paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent.

The recommendations of the report would result in the creation or preservation of 12,000 affordable housing units by the year 2024, according to Annie Lord, executive director of Miami Homes For All, a non-profit advocacy group that combats homelessness.

“This plan wouldn’t solve the entire problem, but it would take a sizable bite out of it,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of support from city administrators, so it’s about harnessing their excitement and interest into solutions.”

The report identifies six potential development pathways for generating affordable housing units. Among them are the Rental Assistance Demonstration Project, a federal program that allows local governments to redevelop obsolete public housing by replacing every existing unit and increasing the number of affordable units while also adding market-rate units.

Another pathway for development is the preservation of naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH) — older, distressed rental properties that are privately owned and not subsidized. These are the properties that are sold and demolished when a neighborhood goes through gentrification. For example, the percentage of NOAH units in Wynwood plummeted from 96 percent to 58 percent between the years 2000-2015, according to a recent study by the Urban Institute.

The report lays out specific development criteria for new affordable housing buildings, such as resiliency and environmental sustainability, and on-site supportive services such as child care and behavioral health care.

“We’re in talks with [Housing and Urban Development secretary] Ben Carson about the possibility of HUD matching every dollar the city spends on affordable housing with a federal dollar,” said Mayor Francis Suarez, who attended Monday’s press conference. “So if we devote $100 million to affordable housing, it would turn into $200 million.”

The most substantial portion of the report details specific ways to make the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing financially feasible.

Among them:

▪ Identifying adjacent parcels of publicly owned, vacant and underutilized land using the Land Access for Neighborhood Development tool developed by the University of Miami’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement, which shows there are 500 million square feet of such land available around Miami-Dade County. The report recommends assembling available parcels for affordable developments through intergovernmental agreements, land swaps or a public land bank.

▪ Adjusting the Miami 21 zoning codes to allow developers to build higher-density buildings in height-restricted areas in exchange for affordable housing units or payments into a trust fund.

 

▪ Reducing property taxes on new affordable housing projects to incentivize developers and lenders and help preserve existing housing.

▪ A vacancy fee or tax on the estimated 31,779 vacant homes in Miami-Dade, owned by foreign or out-of-town buyers, that would generate an annual revenue of $98 million.

▪ Supplementing the existing $100 million portion of the Miami Forever Bond allotted for affordable housing with other funding streams, such a locally based Community Development Financial Institution that would finance long-term (30 years) affordable housing projects.

▪ Incorporating a real-time, publicly accessible system that would allow the city to track unit production of approved affordable housing developments, monitor compliance and modify housing policies as market demands shift. Washington, D.C., has had success with its “Affordable Housing Tracker” service.

The Connect Capital report is the result of nearly a year’s worth of outreach meetings with community leaders, government officials, financiers and residents of low-income neighborhoods such as Overtown, Liberty City and Little Havana.

The effort was a collaboration between the City of Miami Department of Housing and Community Development, Miami Homes For All, South Florida Community Land Trust, Related Urban Group, Florida International University and other housing and community groups.

The study came three days after the Florida Senate approved the HB 7103 bill, which allows cities to require developers to set aside a percentage of units in new developments for low-income residents but requires any associated costs to be offset by incentives such as waived fees.

A brand new affordable housing complex in Liberty City celebrates change and hope with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The Villages Miami offers residents a gated community with 150-units, a resource center, playground and a swimming pool.

Lord said that several of the solutions proposed in the new report would be hampered if the bill is signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis.

“This bill puts up more barriers and more costs for developing affordable housing,” she said.

The City of Miami is preparing its own Affordable Housing Master Plan, due later this summer, that would lay out a 10-year timeline for addressing Miami’s housing crisis.

The Connect Capital Miami report was co-sponsored by JP Morgan Chase and the Center for Community Investment at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a non-profit group that researches effective land use and offers suggestions for public policy decisions.

Is Co-living an Answer to the Affordable Housing Crisis?

Co-living has become a popular topic in housing development circles as the building industry contemplates new residential delivery models. This March at the international property industry event MIPIM in Cannes, discussions on co-living in France were being held, some in the mainstream program and others privately at various industry lunches and dinners. Most agree it’s a housing concept that is getting increased airtime and gaining traction.

 

I have engaged with a number of commercial developers in discussions around affordable housing, the advent of co-working and the preferences of the millennial generation, which include co-living. Interestingly, most commercial developers recognize the changing interests of millennials, with co-working advancing to become a well-accepted commercial development model.

Co-living, meanwhile, also appears to be making some inroads, particularly in delivering student housing and in highly densified cities. Co-living serves as a modern form of housing, whereby residents share values, interests, aspirations and living spaces.

It establishes a balance in which members feel there is no compromise between space, privacy, location, productivity and fulfilment. Outside these niche residential markets, it appears that co-living new build is still evolving and is not yet an accepted mainstream housing delivery model – but that could be changing.

An obvious solution

In March, we launched a startup incubator in Amsterdam with Techstars, and one of the 10 startups currently under development is founded on the premise of applying digital technology to facilitate co-living.

The startup is called Kndrd, and instead of addressing the new build audience, it focuses on property owners and building portfolio managers who may want to adapt their existing properties to accommodate the growing short-stay housing needs of business travellers.

It’s a fascinating outfit that has developed its own co-living management software, and sees itself as a digital platform that offers “housing as a service”.

Christine McDannell, co-founder and CEO of Kndrd and author of The Coliving Code, is quite bullish on the trend, and writes, “Co-living is absolutely the leading answer to our global urban housing crisis. Not only does it solve the cost and spatial demands associated with housing, but it also addresses the intimate aspects of human connection that have been lost. Loneliness rates have doubled in the past 10 years, and rent costs have gone up much more than that.

It’s very rare that a single solution can solve a complex multi-pronged issue like housing, but co-living truly does. We’ve built the technology platform to unite people globally by linking them to homes with complete efficiency in this otherwise fragmented industry […] It’s time that housing became as automated, flexible and on-demand as Uber – what I like to call ‘housing as a service’.”

As summarized in the graphic above, Kndrd recently produced a report about the current state of the co-living industry, based on a 62-question customer survey and with more than 10 countries represented. The top findings are that the average minimum stay is 58 days; co-living facilities have functioning websites but are not fully satisfied with them; while on average, these facilities have been in business for 1.8 years. A surprise takeaway from the surveyed group identified an unmet need for tech solutions such as shared digital platforms and the need for better facility promotion.

The role of tech

According to McDannell’s book, The Coliving Code: “There are so many benefits to shared living space that it’s amazing that it hasn’t been done at scale before. Of course, technology has helped us in this respect. Advances in the way we communicate and how we organize our lives have helped the co-living initiative take hold. There are so many ways you can take advantage of the current and future tech to make life easier. Co-living is an important one of these that deserves to be explored in more detail.”

Stepping back from the digital age, I recall that New York City, during its period of rapid population growth and vertical urbanization, utilized an affordable housing model called “single-room occupancy” (SRO). The SRO residential model was built around shared living for cooking, bathing and other common areas, with smaller private sleeping quarters for its residents. SROs could be rented for short-term stays, and many evolved into a long-term housing alternative. If this can work in NYC, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, it might be worth considering.

Other global cities, like London, are also looking at different housing models that will appeal to millennials as they enter the housing market. Whatever happens, the question of how we address the working and living needs of all citizens in a city’s future deserves increased consideration and digital enablement.

By Peter Oosterveer

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