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Empty Garages: The Answer to California’s Housing Shortage?

“Steps from USC campus, a modern, newly built detached studio apartment. Full kitchen w/ brand-new gas stove, dishwasher. Washer/dryer, full bath, a/c, bedroom nook, ready-to-go entertainment hookups. Scandinavian design appeal. Walking distance to L.A. Metro. $1,400/month.”

A dream Los Angeles rental listing? At 20 percent below market, in a neighborhood where the alternative is a 70-year-old building with a coin-operated laundry?

It’s not reality yet, but it will be soon. Construction will begin this month on 20 to 30 units fitting this description through an innovative development effort that focuses on converting detached two-car garages — of which there are 250,000 in Los Angeles County — into subsidized studio apartments.

According to a recent report by the California Housing Partnership, the state needs 1.4 million more affordable rental homes to meet current needs. The housing crisis in California means that architects and builders have had to get creative, and Steven Dietz said he is up for the challenge.

“I believe that affordable housing is the single biggest problem that California faces, and it’s entirely man-made,” said Mr. Dietz, the chief executive of United Dwelling, a company that won a million-dollar grant last year from Los Angeles County to help bring his vision of garage conversions to life.

Garage conversions, granny flats, backyard cottages, in-law apartments, guesthouses, crash pads: In California as of 2017, they’re all “accessory dwelling units,” or ADUs, and state laws regulating their construction have been relaxed. Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law this month that further encourages their construction.

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Larger, multiroom ADUs built from the ground up are also a part of efforts to contend with the housing crisis, but Mr. Dietz, a longtime venture capitalist who invested in Costco and Starbucks and has taught a class on entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, took inspiration from the new laws to focus on a garage-based solution — with research help from his students at U.S.C.

His idea is simple: United Dwelling enters a partnership with a homeowner, pays for the garage conversion, manages the rental of the apartment to a qualified applicant and splits the rent with the homeowner.

Since most of the detached garages in Los Angeles aren’t used for cars — 91 percent of the 2,100 homeowners surveyed by Mr. Dietz’s students use their garages for something else, mostly storage — this can provide rental income and affordable housing in many neighborhoods. And it does it by using existing structures.

“The No. 1 complaint with the construction of any new affordable housing anywhere is that it changes the fabric of the neighborhood,” said Christian D. Návar, the co-founder of Modative, an architecture firm in Los Angeles County that has been leading the charge in reimagining affordable ADUs. “That isn’t an issue, with this approach.”

Modative has been specializing in small-footprint home design since its founding 13 years ago, but the current ADU push in the firm’s business started a year ago with Mr. Dietz, who asked Modative to design an attractive, appealing studio garage conversion that could be done quickly and efficiently and at large scale. Mr. Návar and his business partner, Derek Leavitt, designed a 310-square-foot studio garage conversion with a set of specifications to fit almost any detached two-car garage.

Other organizations in the city have also been helping to make ADUs accessible to more people.

The Backyard Homes Project, coordinated by LA-Más, a nonprofit design group working in low-income communities, received more than 130 applications in May from homeowners interested in building its one- and two-bedroom ADU designs. (Unlike United Dwelling, which provides the design, financing, construction and management in a one-stop shop, LA-Más coordinates loans and tenants with other partners, including Self-Help Federal Credit Union and LA Family Housing, and connects participants with builders.)

Elaine Phuong, who lives in the West Los Angeles neighborhood, had her home’s Spanish-style stucco garage converted into one of Modative’s prototypes over the summer.

“We had a garage we were just dumping stuff in. We didn’t have a car in it,” said Ms. Phuong, 40, a restaurant owner who lives with her husband and two young children.

Last year, she connected with Modative and agreed to become the first model conversion. “I love minimalist homes that really maximize space. It’s really thoughtful. It doesn’t feel like a garage. It just feels like an apartment, but it’s camouflaged with the Spanish style, with a patio.”

Ms. Phuong said her mother may move into the space, or her cousin. “As much as renting it out is attractive, having family stay with us is probably a priority right now, because we have twin girls who are four years old,” she said. “But there’s a lot of potential to help us regain whatever money we put in it.”

United Dwelling is focusing its initial push in the South Los Angeles area, where there are 9,600 detached garages within three-quarters of a mile of one of the six Metro stops closest to U.S.C., which is a partner in the project. Each Metro stop represents a cluster ripe for conversions.

Leimert Park is a major neighborhood in the cluster, and Mr. Dietz’s near-term goal is to begin construction there on 24 garage conversions in October. Many of the leases have already been signed.

“We have a teacher’s aide who works at a school in Leimert Park but commutes from Lancaster, two hours away,” Mr. Dietz said. “She ends up sleeping in her car three to four days a week. One of the houses we’re working on is a couple with a 2-year-old, who live five doors down from the school.”

The ideal outcome? The teacher gets to live a minute’s walk from her job, the parents receive rental income and occasional babysitting help.

And there’s one less car on the road.

By next January and February, Mr. Dietz said, he foresees 20 to 30 conversions a month in the first six geographic clusters around U.S.C. In subsequent rollouts, United Dwelling is working with public schools to provide housing for their teachers and with area hospitals to provide housing for doctors, nurses and other health workers.

Modative’s chief innovation has been to trim both construction time and cost. It also streamlines the permit and inspection process.

In aesthetic terms, it was important to Mr. Návar that the materials and fixtures be of high quality, modern, and thoughtful, with a pleasing selection of colors.

Through extensive research, he and Mr. Leavitt homed in on the necessary creature comforts: a bedroom nook that’s tucked away, a full gas oven and stove, wiring for a television and entertainment area, a stacked washer-dryer and a dishwasher.

Mr. Návar explained that Modative can save time and money by pre-assembling walls, kitchens and wiring, and then storing the components until a site is ready. Ms. Phuong’s conversion was completed in June. This month, United Dwelling’s Leimert Park conversions will begin in earnest.

The prototype costs about $100,000, but by doing four to five conversions at a time in the same neighborhood, Modative estimates, it will cut the cost of each unit to about $65,000. With an empty garage and a clean foundation, each ADU conversion takes about two weeks.

In its partnership with United Dwelling, Modative is also contributing jobs; the firm has 15 construction workers who have been hired through Chrysalis, a nonprofit program that helps find jobs for people who have faced past roadblocks to employment, including homelessness, substance abuse and incarceration.

Each employee undergoes an in-house training program specifically geared to the ADU projects. To meet its construction goals, United Dwelling said, it needs to hire more workers.

“We have done the big-budget, expansive custom home projects, which are fun in and of themselves, but they won’t solve the housing problem, and they won’t benefit the community,” Mr. Návar said. “Right now, this is the work that excites us the most.”

Mr. Návar said Modative’s focus on ADUs originated with his own challenges in finding a place to live, and with those of his colleagues.

Many of the company’s employees have moved to Portland over the years, in search of housing that was within their means.

Mr. Návar grew up in Sunnyvale, in the epicenter of Silicon Valley, and he said that he and his wife — as business owners, parents of two young children, and with $250,000 in student loans — could not afford a home there.

“It doesn’t really matter what stage of income you’re at in California — you can’t afford a house,” he said. “Whether it’s a low-income rental or a first-time home buyer looking for something attainable, housing has become a universal problem.”

The other strand of Modative’s ADU work is an answer for first-time home buyers: units that are up to two bedrooms with 2.5 baths on a compact footprint. As with the studio garage conversion, customers choose from a set of models with different palettes and options. Think of buying a car; you select a model, and then you have a few choices. Do you want the red one or the black one? Leather interior or fabric? The home choices are limited, and so is the price: $350,000.

California Housing

Modative built the first of its larger ADUs in West Los Angeles late last year, and it has several more home projects, including one in Santa Clara, Calif., that will be completed by the end of the year.

The larger ADU is the kind of structure that empty nesters might build in the backyard, so that their grown children might live in it or so that they can rent it for extra income. The hope is that well-priced ADUs can go far in solving a range of housing problems all over California and in the country.

”While nonprofit housing developers prioritize multifamily developments, we support ADUs as one of many tools that can help address our housing crisis, given the staggering deficit of units across California for people of all incomes,” said Alan Greenlee, executive director of the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing. “Notably, ADUs can help achieve greater density of units in neighborhoods that are primarily zoned for single-family homes.”

To spread the gospel of their garage converted ADUs more easily, Modative has “IKEA-fied” the building plans for the conversion, simplifying instructions to make construction accessible to more homeowners and contractors.

They have just licensed a set of test plans to an outside contractor to see if he can build it on his own from the plans. Mr. Návar and Mr. Leavitt said they were inspired by the simple and elegant visual coding of LEGOs — no written instructions needed.

The lessons learned in their youth don’t stop there. When he was a seventh grader at Sunnyvale Middle School, Mr. Návar took a “wacky” class called Survival of the Fittest that he remembers vividly. In it, he and his classmates were asked to imagine being stranded in the wilderness after a plane crash and to think about the most important basic thing that they couldn’t live without. Water, they all agreed. Definitely water.

“It was shelter,” Mr. Návar said; his teacher made a point of it. “Without it, the sun, the heat, the cold — the exposure would get you first. And I never forgot that.”

Source: nytimes

10 Problems of Housing In Nigeria And Possible Solutions

Shelter is one of the most basic human needs. It is in fact a necessity. Shelter is universally considered as the second most important human need, after food of course. Having a good house to return to after the day’s work brings a certain comfort.

In Nigeria however, there is a housing deficit. This article seeks to highlight problems of housing in Nigeria and possible solutions.

This is what good housing should look like

It is pertinent to mention that the origin of housing problems in Nigeria can be traced as far back as the colonial period.

The British colonial rulers wanted houses that met up to the living conditions of their own country and proceeded to develop special areas, hence the establishment of Government Residential Areas (GRAs) around the country.

The houses in such areas were well planned and furnished with all necessary amenities. This approach only solved housing issues for a select group.

Over the years, the Nigerian government has at various times tried different housing policies and programmes to treat the housing problems in the country. Some of these policies are reflected in:

a. Land Use Act, 1978

b. Mortgage Institutions Act, 1989

c. Federal Housing Authority Act, 1990

d. National Urban Development Policy, 1997

e. Housing and Urban Development Policy, 2002

Some of their interventions include:

a. The Nigerian Army Housing Scheme

b. The Nigerian Police Force Housing Scheme

c. The Nigerian Port Authority Housing Scheme

d. Freehold Housing Scheme and Sites and Services Estates

e. Workers Housing Estates

f. With these interventions, there is still a housing deficit in Nigeria. Here’s why.

10 Problems of Housing in Nigeria:

1. Land Use Act

The Land Use Act of 1978 put all land under the management of the government. The decree was to be advantageous for the country and its citizens with regulations to protect public interest as well as create efficiency of land use all over the country.

Purchasing land in Nigeria today without acquiring Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) from the government puts you at a disadvantage since the land is not really yours.

This prevents access to loans or funding to develop such property. Asides the high cost of land acquisition, the cost of acquiring Certificate of Occupancy and the process involved seems to be very cumbersome and this poses a problem for housing development by individuals or real estate developers.

2. Lack of Infrastructure

Basic facilities such as good road networks, water supply, electricity, drainage systems, rail tracks and tunnels are still lacking in many areas in Nigeria.

These are infrastructure that if improved on and installed where they are lacking will greatly ameliorate the living conditions of the people and bring about better housing situations.

3. Documentation Process

The process of documentation and property registration takes too long. This makes people cut corners and when due process is not followed, it becomes a problem to housing development.

There is also the problem of harassment from community boys during property development; a problem that can be eliminated if the main documentation process is adequately pursued.

4. High Cost of Building Materials

The high cost of building materials and how it affects property development cannot be overstated. Most building materials are imported leading to their high cost.

The more expensive these materials, the harder it is for low income earners to purchase them. This translates to incomplete structures, substandard houses and high cost of rent which are all contributing factors to the housing problems faced in Nigeria.

5. Shortcomings of Mortgage Institutions

There is a limited number of mortgage institutions in Nigeria. The ones that do exist compared to their overseas counterparts are still lagging behind.

 

6. Rural-Urban Migration/Urbanization

This is the movement of people from rural areas to urban centres causing population explosion in such areas. Over the years, there has been rapid urbanization in Nigeria. This has led to people settling in very unsanitary environments as seen in the pictures below.

  These are scenes from present day Lagos, a region in Nigeria that has been a major recipient of rural-urban migrants.

7. Poor Quality Houses

This can be easily traced to high cost of building materials, inadequacy to satisfy the increasing demand for houses, lack of planning, difficulty to secure mortgage loans and a host of other reasons. The result of all these are the poor quality houses obtainable around the country.

8. Dilapidated Condition of Houses

Rent is constantly on the increase in Nigeria. Tenant landlord relationships get sour when this happens as the house owners attribute the increase to high cost of building materials and maintenance of property. Such maintenance hardly ever occurs leading to dilapidated condition of the houses.

9. Inadequate Implementation of Planning policies

Institutions charged with development plans in Nigeria are falling short in many ways. Even where these plans exist as regards housing, they are too focused on urban development while the rural areas are neglected.

Generally, there is a lack in rural and urban development plans as well as a great implementation deficiency which is a major cause of housing problem in Nigeria.

10. Lack of Enlightenment

The root cause of this problem cuts across the professionals in the housing sector, the agencies involved in housing and the common man on the street.

Given the terrible state of housing in Nigeria, there is a dire need for the professionals like architects, civil engineers, land surveyors, mechanical engineers and the lot to orient the masses on issues of housing.

Organisations like the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers (NICE) or better still, the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development should enlighten people on how best to develop their property as ignorance is also a contributing factor to housing problems in Nigeria.

The problem of housing should be of concern to a government that prioritizes the welfare her citizens and as such, seek to solve them.

Solutions To Housing Problems In Nigeria

1. Research institutes should be encouraged to exploit local raw materials and produce alternative building materials from them.

2. Critical review of rural and urban housing policies should be carried out by the appropriate agencies.

3. The national development plan of Nigeria should thoroughly take housing problems in the country into consideration and give provision of habitable accommodation to citizens its rightful place.

4. Development of rural areas to reduce rural-urban migration.

5. The government should partner with cooperative societies and real estate developers to provide housing infrastructure.

6. The federal government should ensure that the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Federal Mortgage Finance Limited (FMF), Urban Development Bank (UDB), and all other relevant agencies perform their roles effectively.

7. The government should also make the process of registration and documentation of property less bureaucratic. Getting approval for building plans and acquiring Certificate of occupancy should be made easier for legit property owners.

8. Provision of social amenities such as electricity, good road networks, proper drainage systems and the likes will go a long way to ease housing development in areas where these are lacking. It will also help decongest populated cities.

According to the Federal Ministry of works and housing, a minimum of an additional one million housing units per annum is required to reduce the national deficit of about 17 million housing units if a housing crisis is to be prevented by year 2020.

There is a housing crisis already and these solutions will not only affect housing delivery positively, but will also yield national benefits.

Source: infoguidenigeria

THE UN AND NIGERIA HOUSING CRISIS (TRIBUNE EDITORIAL)

Leilana Farha, the United Nations’ (UN) Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, has called attention to the housing crisis in Nigeria. According to her, “Nigeria’s housing sector is in a complete crisis. Existing programmes will hardly make even a small dent in addressing the ever-growing housing need.”

Farha, who made this known while addressing journalists in Abuja on Monday, September 22, also noted that there was a lack of official data for the government to develop an effective housing policy. As a result, the government has allowed informal settlements to balloon in many urban centres. In these unplanned settlements, conditions are inhumane.

Indeed, Farha explained that what she saw during a 10-day visit to Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt was “the most severe” she had encountered worldwide. These informal settlements lack access to even the most basic services, like running water. Inhabitants live in constant fear of being evicted because they lack any security of tenure. The crisis in the housing sector is put in bold relief by the fact that 69 per cent of the urban population live in these deplorable informal settlements. It reflects the extreme economic inequality in the country, with an estimated housing shortage of 22 million units.

 

Farha was particularly disturbed that there is no evidence that the situation might change in the short or long run.  This is because Nigeria’s population is set to double by 2050 to around 400 million people, which would make it the world’s third largest nation, behind India and China.

Rather than address the housing deficits, Nigerian governments have continued to demolish shanty towns, claiming that they are home to criminal gangs, breach building regulations, or pose security threats. State government authorities and property developers’ use of force to evict entire communities in major cities like Lagos to make space for luxury housing further complicates the housing situation, as most of these luxury houses are usually unaffordable for the majority of locals.  Consequently, newly built luxury dwellings springing up throughout cities remain vacant and unoccupied.  They do not meet any housing need.

The UN Rapporteur therefore called on the Federal Government to declare a nationwide moratorium on forced evictions “until adequate legal and procedural safeguards are in place to ensure that all evictions are compliant with international human rights law.” The government should establish a national commission to investigate gross human rights violations in forced evictions and provide basic services to all informal settlements. She also urged the Federal Government to impose vacant home taxes and make effort to increase the number of shelters for persons in situations of vulnerability by using the money from the tax to create affordable housing.

The National Assembly should revive work on the bill for rent control which it abandoned. These are essential measures to address homelessness and poverty. Without addressing the grossly inadequate housing conditions in the country with urgency and rigour, Nigeria’s dismal human rights record will remain.

We agree with the UN Special Rapporteur that the housing crisis in Nigeria demands urgent attention. It is the responsibility of the government to guarantee basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. Many Nigerian citizens are deprived of these basic needs and are therefore condemned to lead a life of penury.  The ministries of works and housing exist in most states of the federation, but the housing component is never attended to.  Where state governments have intervened, the approach has been elitist, top-down, without reaching out to those at the bottom of the income ladder.  Inadequate housing continues to feed poverty.

We join Farha to call on the Federal Government to develop a workable housing strategy that targets those at the bottom of the economic ladder to reduce poverty. Policy must move away from mortgage that attends to only a few public servants. Civil servants that are being owed arrears of salaries cannot afford to build houses. Government can work through local organisations such as cooperative societies and community development associations to address the massive housing deficit. We need an economy that can house and feed people, not one that grows while leaving the poor in worsening conditions.

 

The Guardian view on homeless people: let’s give them homes and support

The number of homeless people dying on our streets is soaring. We have the power to stop this.‘Homeless people often die as they live, in anonymity amid general indifference.’
Even the bald numbers are horrifying. This week, the Office for National Statistics recorded that 726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018, a rise of 22% on 2017 and the biggest year-on-year rise since it began collecting data. And they died shockingly early. On the streets, a man can expect to die at about 45 years old, even while the average man will live until 76. For a woman sleeping rough, life expectancy is lower still at 43, while her counterpart in the wider population can expect to live until 81. In one of the richest societies in human history, we still allow people to die decades too soon for want of a secure roof over their heads.

A statistic, a tent on the street, a man holding up a scrap of cardboard: homeless people often die as they live, in anonymity amid general indifference. Even our data on the number of people living without a secure home are worryingly sketchy. The housing charity Shelter estimates that at least 320,000 people in Britain sleep rough or in temporary accommodation but warns that figure is likely to be an underestimate as it misses out sofa-surfers and those bedding down in sheds or cars. In an attempt to reveal the humanity behind those numbers, to interrogate the stories buried amid the statistics, the Guardian has launched a series, The Empty Doorway, recounting some of the lives of those who died homeless. Only a few weeks in, it has already uncovered some shocking themes, which demand to be tackled if we are to bring down the homeless death toll. There was the story of talented rapper Jake Humm, living in supported accommodation provided by a local YMCA. Staff there knew he was a suicide risk yet left him alone for at least two days before he killed himself. He was just 22. The YMCA’s internal review of the case, it told our reporters, concluded “there were no errors or omissions in the service we provided”. While mindful of the constraints on staff, financial and otherwise, the goals for the service need to be improved and self-regulation must be supplemented by an independent watchdog.

There are other broader avenues to be looked down. A number of housing charities have been warning for years that the UK is in breach of its UN human rights commitments to provide people with adequate housing. One obvious solution to this is to allow local councils to borrow to build more social housing. Not so-called “affordable” housing (often a misnomer), but at council rents.

It may also be time to adopt an approach successful in Germany and the US – and house rough sleepers first before addressing their complex needs, whether that be drink, drugs or mental illness. Called Housing First, this approach has wiped out street homelessness in Finland. Again, it requires more homes – and demands that those going through the programme get intensive social care. That requires budgets, and the rebuilding of a tattered welfare state. With homelessness, as with many other things wrong in the UK, much depends on rolling back austerity.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN

The Modular Model: Can Factory-Built Homes Solve the Housing Crisis?

Picture a vast warehouse somewhere in the north of England. Workers in hard hats are poring over intricate plans against a background of humming machinery. Robot arms slice through sheets of metal and wood as they pass by on a conveyor belt, precisely cutting out shapes that look like huge versions of Airfix models. Across the production line, windows are carefully fitted on to a glossy, new frame.

The unit is then packed on to a lorry to be driven hundreds of miles across the country, where its new owner will arrive in a couple of weeks. This isn’t a car we’re talking about, by the way. It could be your next home.

Dave Sheridan is the executive chairman of Ilke Homes, which from its Harrogate factory builds neat, modern family homes that wouldn’t look out of place on any suburban housing estate. It completes eight on an average day. “We want to go where the housing need is greatest,” he says. “Most people want to live in a house with a front door and a back door.”

Modular construction – homes being built in factories, in other words – is being touted by some as a high-tech solution to the UK’s housing crisis. For others, these homes are no different to the low-quality, temporary prefab housing that went up across London in the 1950s to replace homes lost in the Blitz. So can a home built on a production line ever be a desirable place to live?

This might seem like cutting-edge new technology to us, but – somewhat predictably – countries including Germany and Japan have been doing it for decades. The latter’s largest housebuilder, Sekisui House, has produced more than 2.4m modular homes since 1960, and has now signed a deal with the UK government and developer Urban Splash to set up a factory and build 2,000 homes a year here over the next decade. Although it’s a huge corporation, Sekisui brands itself as a friendly homebuilder with a social conscience.

Meeting housing requirements in the UK, according to government estimates, means building 300,000 additional homes a year – a target that was missed by around 82,000 in both 2017 and 2018. Ilke’s homes cost between £65,000 and £79,000 to buy, although you also need to have a plot of land to put it on.

The real selling point is speed. Houses and apartments are built as a series of identical blocks or ‘modules,’ often with bathrooms and kitchens already fitted. Because walls and floors are precisely engineered and there are no real-world variables like bad weather, a home can be made in a couple of weeks. The modules are then transported to the site and craned in on top of each other to make a house, or stacked around a concrete core to create an apartment block. Projects vary, but using modular elements usually cuts construction time by at least half.

These are not piled-up, boxy apartments, but large, light, airy family homes. “They have a love of humanity, they understand how people want to live and what makes homes better and more attractive,” says Urban Splash founder Tom Bloxham. For example, Sekisui plants five indigenous trees around each of its homes – ‘three for birds and two for butterflies’. Its utopian vision of the world extends to humans, too. In Japan, homes are generally considered worthless and demolished after 30 years – so Sekisui buys them back and retrofits them before re-selling them to cash-strapped youngsters at a low cost.

I can’t see how you can create great architecture with modular

Peter Leiper, architect at CZWG

Urban Splash has already been building its own modular homes under its HoUSe brand. They are a modern incarnation of perennially popular Victorian and Georgian properties – high ceilings, three storeys, big windows – but wrapped up in a contemporary exterior. “If all you want is a house that looks like it’s built out of brick, build it out of brick,” says Bloxham. “For us, it’s more about how they perform.”

On the other end of the scale are the vast apartment blocks that have predominated in London so far. Tide Construction and Vision Modular Systems’ 101 George Street in Croydon, which is currently being built, would have been the world’s tallest modular tower at 135 metres and 44 storeys, but a block planned for Singapore will surpass it by five metres. “If you’re going to build a 44-storey building, it has to look great,” says Simon Bayliss, from project architect HTA Design.

101 George Street will be covered in iridescent, dark green triangulated panels (pictured, top) that reflect the area’s art deco architecture, and there are certainly worse-looking towers in London. But some believe modular construction is at odds with attractive design. “I can’t see how you can create great architecture with modular,” says Peter Leiper, architect at CZWG. “You have to create [buildings] that are quite linear, where everything stacks up one above the other.”

 

On completion, 101 George Street will be one of the growing number of build-to-rent blocks in London, owned by a corporate landlord with the 546 flats rented out to young professionals.

Some argue this is the only model – that modular only works with homes that aren’t for sale. This is because, no matter how quickly you build them, houses take time to sell – and housebuilders don’t want to end up with stock they can’t shift. “It’s being hailed as the great saviour of housing in Britain, but speed is the last thing housebuilders want,” says Leiper.

 

One area where this isn’t an issue is affordable housing. Demand is bottomless, and factory-built homes are hard-wearing and cheap to heat. Boklok, the modular company owned by Ikea, has already struck a deal with Worthing Council in West Sussex to build 162 flats, of which a third will be handed over to the council at cost for affordable housing. It also allows homes to be built in places where “conventional construction won’t work”, according to Dr Rehan Khodabuccus, operations director at Zedpods. His firm has installed homes on stilts above car parks, for example.

The sticking point is that it’s not cheaper than building a bricks-and-mortar home, because so much has been invested in developing the technology. “It will get cheaper, in the same way that cars and TVs eventually get cheaper,” says Bloxham.

Modular homes are also eco-friendly, which is significant given that the construction industry accounts for 38 per cent of the world’s energy-related carbon emmissions. Bayliss thinks it’s “the only way” the UK can achieve its target to reach net zero emmissions by 2050, and this could be a selling point for eco-conscious home buyers. But the average person still doesn’t know what a modular home actually is. “It’s not penetrated the mainstream yet,” says Rory O’Hagan, architect at Assael. “But if you’re delivering really great homes, why should the technology be the first consideration for the purchaser?”

The idea that these are small, identikit, prefab homes will be a challenge to surmount, and the people building them know it. “We owe it to the British public to build only high-specification, quality, permanent housing that will create popular, aspirational dwellings,” says Khodabuccus. But given the need for new housing isn’t going away, the production lines look set to keep rolling.

Source: cityam

Homelessness Figures Rise Again: Ideology at Root of Housing Crisis

Ireland has had four housing ministers since March 2011. Only Phil Hogan served more than three years in the position. Simon Coveney was responsible for just 13 months. These musical chairs have not stemmed the rise of homelessness. The latest report from the Department of Housing shows that the number of people without a home continues to rise. Figures show that 10,338 people need emergency accommodation but some NGOs suggest it may be higher. Outside of Dublin, the South-West region, including Cork, recorded this highest number of homeless people at 583.

The Dublin accommodation provider Depaul yesterday reported a 18% drop in the number of people able to leave its services last year and that it helped 881 children last year, an increase of 13% on the previous year.

This relentless growth of homelessness, in one of the world’s richest countries, can no longer be explained by anything other than a lack of will and, as Peter McVerry warned, ideology. It is impossible to accept that had any of those four ministers — and two taoisigh — could not have had a more positive impact if they had the vision, backbone and simple humanity this crisis demands. Rather, we see a resurgence in corporate landlordism and the exploitation that brings.

Homelessness is just a facet of this crisis, one government after government has failed to tackle in any meaningful way.

South Africa: North West Housing Project Halted By Angry Residents

Residents of Cyferskuil, north of Hammanskraal in the North West, have brought a housing project in the village to a standstill. They believe the process used to allocate the 100 homes was unfair and excluded most of the poor in the community.

Soon after construction began – with only the foundations of several homes being laid last week – residents protested, preventing workers from operating at the site.

This followed a meeting between disgruntled residents and Moretele Local Municipality Mayor Andries Monageng where a memorandum listing their concerns was handed over. But the meeting became chaotic when Monageng took the memorandum and left without reading and signing it first, said residents.

“We have decided not to allow the construction of the houses to continue until this matter is resolved. It is turning community members against each other,” said community leader, Jan Motshegwa.

“We welcome the RDP houses but our problem is that there are many poor people who really need and deserve them who were left out. There are residents who can afford to build their own houses who are also receiving RDPs,” he said.

Motshegwa said there were many elderly residents in the village, some of whom cared for orphans and relied on monthly social grants to survive. “They deserve RDP houses,” he said.

Paulina Kgonothi, 61, lives in a two-room shack with his deceased brother’s five children aged five to 18. Kgonothi said she was initially excited about the new housing project as she thought she would finally be receiving a home. She was told that her application was unsuccessful. “I really need a house. This shack has become too small for us. I am raising five children alone with monthly social grants and I can’t afford to build myself a house,” she said.

GroundUp visited the village on Thursday. Construction workers were busy disassembling parts of the foundations for several RDP houses.

Makie Sesana, 43, who is set to benefit from the project, said she was excited about owning a house for the first time. Sesana is unemployed and lives with her two children in a one-room shack. When workers left, they had only dug trenches on the site where her home is to be built.

“See how they left my yard. I don’t know if I should fill these trenches or wait and see if they will return,” she said. “I moved my shack to create space [for them to build]. In the process some of the corrugated sheets were damaged. I was not worried about the damaged sheets because I thought I won’t need them anymore,” she said.

Sesana said construction workers told her that they were leaving the site in Cyferskuil because the community didn’t appreciate government’s efforts.

 

Moretele Local Municipality spokesperson Mothupi Malebye said they tried to explain to the residents that the municipality could only afford to build the 100 houses in Cyferskuil.

“There are many other villages in Moretele that we also need houses. This is why for now only 100 houses were allocated to this village. We were trying to explain this to residents at the meeting, which unfortunately degenerated into violence,” said Malebye.

He said it was unclear when construction would resume.

Dineo Thapelo, spokesperson for North West’s Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs, said the department was investigating the matter. She said that “municipalities through ward councillors are responsible for identifying housing needs which they submit to the department.”

source: allafrica.com

Tale of Abuja’s Many Houses Without Accommodation

There are many housing estates in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), yet many residents lack accommodation. This is because 80 per cent of the houses in these estates are vacant. Not that the residents do not want to rent or occupy them. The housing units rot away in their hundreds while residents, in their thousands, continue to groan under excruciating accommodation issues because they cannot afford the price of the housing units.

When it comes to residential accommodation, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) presents a bundle of contradictions. Tens of sprawling residential housing estates adorns the various emerging districts and landscapes within the city and its environs.

Some of these housing estates, which have been in existence for more than a decade, are being joined by new ones that have been sprouting in different locations year in year out.

However, more than 80 per cent of the houses in these estates are vacant. Some have been vacant since they were completed years ago. And having been exposed to the vagaries of the seasons, a good number of the housing units have witnessed encroachments from the elements.

In some instances, the plaster and paint works on the buildings have been peeling off while weeds have taken over fenced compounds in some of them.

Indeed, the housing units in some of the estates are being put up for sale with no one offering to buy. Usually, the prices are far beyond what the targeted individuals in the middle income stratum can afford. And where the housing estates are targeted for rent, the rate imposed by the owners and their agents are prohibitive.

This has been responsible for varying stages of depreciation in the structures. Sadly, the housing units rot away in their hundreds while residents, in their thousands, continue to groan under excruciating accommodation issues.

The ownership status of these sprawling Abuja estates has become a matter of interest to the various anti-graft agencies. The prolonged vacancy in the facilities is enough to attract attention, given the estimated billions of Naira invested in them.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC),  recently raised the alarm over some of these estates. According to the ICPC, efforts to trace the owners of a good number of the vacant housing units have met a brick wall. The ICPC said the owners abandon the cluster of housing units the moment the agency initiates investigation into their ownership status.

Chairman of the ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Dr. Esa Onoja, at a recent function in Abuja, said the development has become a great source of worry to the Commission. The ICPC drew a link between illicit financial inflows and the housing estates sprouting up in different parts of the capital city.

The ICPC chief said even in cases where Non-Conviction Asset Forfeiture proceedings are initiated with the buildings attached, nobody comes forward to claim ownership. The agency said it has documented a number of such proceedings involving a good number of such estates, in line with Section 17 of the Advanced Free Fraud Act.

The agency stressed that Sections 37 and 38 of the ICPC Act also empowered the Commission to initiate such proceedings in court where there is suspicion that such assets were proceeds of crime. Owners of many of the houses have abandoned them. And the ICPC Act states that “where nobody comes forward to claim ownership after publication of Temporary Forfeiture Orders from the courts, the assets become the property of the Federal Government”.

The Commission, however, could not immediately provide the number of such Abuja assets so abandoned by their owners.

Consequently, the agency is also relying on members of the public for information that could help trace the owners. Holding brief for the ICPC chairman, Dr. Onoja said: “It’s a big problem that required information from members of the public. We feel that citizens should provide information and after providing information, to act as witnesses. The current administration has a very strong and viable whistle blowing policy.”

Stating that over N.5 trillion has been recovered through the Whistle Blower Policy; the ICPC said the agency and other anti-grant bodies still required more information from members of the public to fight the war.

“A lot more information is required. If we can only get just 25 per cent of what has been stolen and if that money is deployed to education, health, security, I think we would be on the road to joining other countries that our citizens will like to fly to and use their resources”, Onoja said. The ICPC chair said the cost of corruption is borne mainly by the masses and the low income segments of the society, as it’s being witnessed in the accommodation hassles Abuja residents are being made to go through.

He enjoined members of the public to stop seeing corruption as a “victimless” crime, saying that everybody is a victim. “Nigerians should stop seeing corruption as a victimless crime. When funds meant for health, education, security, housing and others are diverted and end up in private hands, we all feel the impact,” he said.

In contrast to the numerous houses lying fallow across the city centre and its outskirts, many residents, particularly those in the low and medium income brackets, are left to find accommodation where the rates are affordable.

Getting decent accommodation within the city is beyond their legitimate earnings. That’s the reason virtually 85 per cent of middle and intermediate level civil servants and their counterparts in the private sector have elected to seek accommodation in the various satellite towns. Some of the preferred satellite towns are Kubwa, Gwagwalada, Kwali, Abaji, Lugbe, Nyanya, Kado and others.

The distance between these settlements and the main city where the workers report for work, ranges from 20 to 70 kilometres. They commute the distance daily, either in their private cars or by public transport.

The adjoining Gwarimpa Estate is not for low income earners. Consequently, high demand for accommodation in the satellite towns has forced property owners in those areas to keep increasing rents on a yearly basis.

These Shylock property owners have succeeded in creating another category of residential accommodation seekers. This category is mainly made up of artisans, labourers, job seekers and their ilk.

They populate the various slums located on the outskirts of the city and the satellite towns. In Abuja, there are two categories of slum dwellers; those living in the periphery of the city and others living in the periphery of the satellite towns.

Those dwelling in the periphery of the city are the most endangered. They easily fall victim to the greed of elite, particularly the political class. In many instances, slum dwellers around the city centre have predators in political office holders or the military establishment.

On many occasions, they are forcefully evicted, their dwelling shanties demolished and the land taken over by the rich and powerful. The slum dwellers are forced to seek accommodation elsewhere, usually in more remote locations far away from the avaricious eyes of their “predators”. And in a jiffy, magnificent structures would start sprouting from the forcefully acquired lands, swelling the number of completed but unoccupied clusters of buildings dotting the landscape. Cases of this might-over-right action are commonplace in the capital city, particularly along the ever busy Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Road.

Obviously worried by the accommodation plight of millions of underprivileged Nigerians, the United Nations (UN) recently warned the Nigerian government to put an end to forced eviction of its poor and vulnerable segments of the population.

Speaking through its Special Rapporteur, Ms. Leilani Farha, who had just concluded a 10-day housing assessment visit to Nigeria, the UN deplored the ugly trend where highly placed and influential Nigerians are forcibly ejecting poor citizens from their homes and taking over their lands.

Farha noted that these forceful evictions have given rise to informal settlements (slums) ballooning across the country. She described living condition in these informal settlements as inhumane.

Farha stated in her report: “Successive governments have allowed economic inequality in Nigeria to reach extreme levels, a fact that is clearly evident in the housing sector.

Meanwhile, newly built luxury dwellings are sprouting up throughout cities–made possible often through the forced eviction of poor communities”.

The UN Rapporteur noted, sadly, that “these new dwellings do not fulfill any housing need, since many remained vacant, acting as vessels for money laundering or investment”.

Farha also noted in her report, that seven in 10 Nigerians in towns and cities now live in informal settlements, adding that most of these settlements remain without access to running water and toilets. Above all, she noted that these poor and vulnerable citizens live in perpetual fear of being turned out of their homes by the high and mighty.

Worried by the viciousness of the forced evictions and the steady rise in unoccupied buildings within and around the capital city, some stakeholders have called on the authorities to start taxing owners of the vacant buildings.

The taxes, the stakeholders argued, should be as high as levies paid on luxury items. This, they believe, will force down the prices of the housing units and also bring down rents as the case may be. The measures may also check the insatiable appetite of the rich and powerful to despoil the poor and vulnerable by grabbing and sharing their lands.

Source: thenationonlineng

Rent Increases Are Unsustainable, Says Housing Minister

The average national rent is 1,202 euro per month, 21% higher than the peak in 2007, according to the latest Rent Index from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

The average monthly rent between April and June of this year rose by 79 euro compared to 1,123 euro during the same period last year.

On a quarter-on-quarter basis, rents grew nationally by 3% in the second quarter of 2019.

The average monthly rent in Dublin is 32% higher than the 2007 peak where where the standardised average rent is now 1,713 euro per month, up from 1,599 euro in the same quarter the previous year.

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In our key employment areas, but particularly in Dublin, rents have reached unsustainable levels

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said the ongoing rent increases are not sustainable and that new properties coming to the market are contributing to rent inflation.

He said: “In our key employment areas, but particularly in Dublin, rents have reached unsustainable levels. This is precisely why the Government and Oireachtas moved to strengthen rent controls and renter protections in June of this year.

“We do need new rental properties and I welcome the more than 3,440 new tenancies created since the start of the year. This is an important turnaround on what was happening in 2018 when landlords were exiting the market. While it may be pushing rent inflation upwards, new supply will help those in housing insecurity.”

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy Credit: Niall Carson/PA
Outside of Dublin, the standardised average rent is considerably less, standing at 903 euro.

The report found differences in average rents across the country ranging from 2,328 euro per month in Stillorgan, Co Dublin, to 489 euro in Lifford-Stranorlar, Co Donegal.

Average rent exceeds (or equals) 1,000 euro per month in seven counties – Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Louth, Meath and Wicklow.

Limerick falls just under this 1,000 euro threshold with a standardised average rent of 991 euro.

The report authors said the high rental levels in these areas relative to other counties “reflects the concentration of demand close to the country’s largest employment hubs.”

RTB director Rosalind Carroll said while the pace of rental growth has slowed since the last quarterly report, the continued growth levels over consecutive quarters is “not sustainable”.

“There has been significant legislative change implemented in the last four months and since the 1st July the RTB has increased powers to investigate and sanction non-compliance with Rent Pressure Zone measures, in particular where there is knowing non-compliance. It will take time to see the impact of these changes. Our first investigations under these new powers have now been officially commenced,” said Ms Carroll.

First introduced in December 2016, rent-pressure zones are designated areas where rents cannot be increased by more than 4% per annum. This applies to new and existing tenancies.

SOURCE: ITV.COM

San Francisco’s Approach to the Affordable Housing Crisis

The availability of affordable housing throughout the United States, and the world, is on the decline. This is especially true in cities and towns with a shortage of rental housing and high prices, particularly college towns.

In an effort to preserve affordable housing, on June 3, 2019, San Francisco adopted the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA) conferring upon “Qualified Nonprofits” a first right to purchase real property in San Francisco improved with three or more residential rental units (whether or not the property also includes non-residential uses) and property on which three or more residential units could be or are being built (all such lots or buildings will be referred to hereafter as a “multi-family residential building”).

The first right to purchase consists of both a right of first offer as well as a right of first refusal. A multi-family residential building acquired by a Qualified Nonprofit under COPA must be maintained as rent-restricted affordable housing in perpetuity.

Source: https://www.law.com

 

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