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‘Nigeria should provide incentives for property developers’

Mr. Femi Adewole is a Nigerian and acting Managing Director of Kenya-based Shelter Afrique. He joined the pan-African finance institution as Director, Business Development and Operations and previously worked as Chief Executive Officer for First World Communities in Lagos. In this interview with Property & Environment Editor, CHINEDUM UWAEGBULAM, he explains his plans for the institution and how Nigeria could turn around the housing industry.

Recently, you were confirmed the Managing Director of Kenya-based pan-African finance institution – Shelter Afrique, the second Nigeria to achieve such feat. What are your plans for the organisation, especially now the agency is facing a crisis of confidence, with the loss of over $2.16 million?
I am currently leading the organisation in an acting capacity. The primary goal of the Board and the Management team in the immediate future is to achieve a turn around and strengthening of Shelter Afrique to make it a much more effective financing and advisory partner for our public and private sector partners including 44 African Governments. We aim to achieve this goal by doing three things over the next three years:

We will work with shareholders to inject an additional N50bn equity capital into the Institution. This in addition to debt capital will ensure that Shelter Afrique has the resources to finance new affordable housing and urban infrastructure projects in member countries.

Since you referred to the delated loss on our accounts for last year, I should clarify that this is part of cleaning up the company’s books and increased provisioning for existing bad loans.

The Company continues to enjoy the confidence of its shareholders, and indeed in 2017 alone, shareholders, including the African Development Bank, injected about N16bn additional equity capital in the Company.

We will be restructuring the organisation, amongst other things to strengthen our local presence and visibility in member countries. We want to ensure that we have teams on the ground who understand the local market and are empowered to make decisions without necessarily reverting to Nairobi.

We will be rolling out a new set of very exciting financing products and services. With a rising need for affordable housing across the Continent, Shelter Afrique will be positioned to support our private and public-sector customers with advisory services and financing to deliver large-scale housing and urban infrastructure projects. The new strategy recently approved by the Board will enable us to provide a wide range of services and financing solutions including rental housing, co-operative housing, slum upgrading, site and services and last-mile infrastructure projects.

I will like to recognise the role played by Nigeria through the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola who in his role as Chairman of the last Annual General Meeting of Shareholders oversaw important reforms to the Company’s statutes.

Nigeria is facing a huge housing glut in choice areas within Lagos and Abuja, and vacancy rate has increased to about 70 per cent. What should be done to ensure sustainable recovery from the present economic recession in the real estate sector in Nigeria?
It is reasonable to expect that all sectors of the economy, especially the real estate sector will be affected by the recent challenges to the Nigerian economy. We support the efforts being made by government to return the economy to sustainable growth.

For the real estate economy, particularly the housing sector, there are some important lessons to be learnt. It is unacceptable that we have these kinds of vacancy rates in a market where an overwhelming proportion of the population, especially those with low income, have no access to decent, affordable homes. The key issues we perhaps need to consider include:

Firstly, the use of the planning system and land use allocation to improve housing supply and demand. Currently, the market is oversupplying homes in the market segments with the lowest need whereas market segments with the most needs are increasingly undersupplied. There are interesting examples across Africa where this being successfully done and we can learn from them. Ethiopia and Morrocco have admirable social-housing programmes we can emulate.

The second area of opportunity worth looking at to rebalance the demand and supply of housing is to create improved incentives for developers of housing that are affordable to people on low income.

Finally, I believe that building professionals and their institutes have a significant role to play. Put bluntly the practice of design and construction of housing in most sub-Saharan countries are archaic and inefficient. It needs to change.

Shelter Afrique between 2005 and 2010 committed over N22.51billion on housing initiatives in Nigeria, and new initiatives are ongoing, how much interventions are we expecting in the housing sector, in the coming years in Nigeria?

Shelter Afrique is committed to strengthening our partnership with the private and public sector in Nigeria. While in the medium to long term we expect to see increased financing commitment to projects in Nigeria, on the supply side, one area where we expect to see some interesting and game-changing intervention is working with the Federal and State Governments. We are very keen on working with their housing corporations, various cooperatives and experienced private developers to conceptualise and arrange to finance for large-scale housing projects. It’s time to build big and build fast. This is an area where Shelter Afrique has experience spanning over 35 years, and we believe we can share this with our partners in Nigeria.

The other key area where we expect to intervene shortly is the capital market. Shelter Afrique is has been a leading issuer of bonds on the Nairobi Stock Exchange and the West African Francophone Markets for about 10years. We will draw on that experience to raise local currency capital to support an expanded programme in Nigeria.

Your organisation recently launched 5000 to 5000 Housing Competition to stimulate and reward innovative thinking in Sub-Sahara Africa. What is the aim of the competition? How can this help to attain livable and sustainable low-income housing developments?
We have been very excited about the 5,000 for 5,000 housing competition. We received about 200 entries from a diverse range of people from various parts of the world. The objective of the competition is to stimulate innovative thinking and approaches to designing and building housing which is affordable to people on low income. We were keen on integrated solutions that combined design, construction and financing innovations. The competition is now closed, and we expect to formally announce and introduce the winners within the first quarter of this year.
We hope that we can promote the actual realization of the winning entry on a large scale and in so doing encourage early adoption of the innovation as a possible template for a decent housing which is affordable for people on low income. We will require the involvement of our member countries to achieve this, and so far, we have received positive feedback.

Shelter Afrique is into direct equity participations in financial institutions catalyse the development of the mortgage market across Africa through the provision of long-term funding. What impact has such joint venture investments made in Nigeria to enable the provision of affordable housing on a mass scale?
Yes, Shelter Afrique has an equity stake in a number primary and secondary mortgage institutions across Africa. We do not currently have this kind of relationship in Nigeria but remain open to the right opportunities. However, we currently have exposure of about N7billion in long/medium term Lines of Credit to various Financial Institutions in Nigeria. The objective of these lines is to provide capital for on-lending as mortgages to homebuyers.

Currently, the recession is ravaging Nigeria’s economy and triggered high cost of building materials. Do your organisation support developers and financial institutions involved in the construction sector in the procurement cycle of building materials and equipment? How?
We are currently able to offer a Trade Finance Facility to qualifying developers and financial institutions. This provides capital for the bulk importation of building materials. However, our longer-term objective is to work with partners to facilitate local production of building materials.

Shelter Afrique has approved financing worth over USD1billion for new housing projects across Africa in the next five years. What is coming to Nigeria under this scheme, and who are the target group and beneficiaries?
It is difficult to speculate about the level of financing for new projects in Nigeria. However, Nigeria is a major market for Shelter Afrique, and I believe that subject to usual concentration risk issues, a significant amount of any capital we have will be deployed in Nigeria. The key thing is having good quality projects, which meet our risk criteria.

About the target group and beneficiaries, we are quite clear and focused. In line with the aspiration of our shareholders, we will be focusing almost exclusively on housing which is affordable to people on low-medium income. That will mean homes that are affordable for teachers, junior police and members of the armed forces, young families, and civil servants.

Shelter Afrique is one of the promoters of Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) Plc, and its activities mark a wholesale shift in mortgage funding from depository savings, towards long-term sources of funds derivable from the capital market. Is Shelter Afrique satisfied with the milestone achieved so far, the organisation? What is your expectation from NMRC?
We believe without an iota of doubt that the NMRC has a significant role to play in the development of the housing finance market in Nigeria. We are also immensely proud of the achievement of the team at NMRC to date. It has issued bonds on the market and is leading discussions on the changes that need to happen in the sector. It is a long road, and the Company requires every support it can get to deliver on its Mandate. It can be assured of support from Shelter Afrique.

Why Nigerians prefer foreign building materials

Indications abound why the drive to source building materials locally by Nigerians cannot be possible. Nigerians are known to have penchant for foreign goods and so anything labelled Nigeria, no matter the quality, is regarded as inferior. The worst aspect of that is that even if a Nigerian starts anything good, government will do everything possible, whether within or outside the law, to frustrate the person. This is what experts see as reason for the backwardness of the economy as well as the sole dependence on oil.

For obvious reasons, government has veered off the local content policy. However, to confuse those who may not understand, they keep voicing the policy and using it as a ploy to get those they target. There are some building materials you simply can’t put any price on due to the sheer number of varieties, qualities, and categories. Therefore, this list includes the major building materials of broad category.

Statistics obtained from the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) showed that between 2010 and 2015, Nigeria spent N13.6 trillion on the importation of raw materials, especially building materials, that could have been sourced locally if some more rigorous work had been put into the country’s import substitution strategy. According to some experts, this is correct, yet government officials and those who read such things in the universities that are appointed leaders on account of their speciality abandoned them for easy and finished products. Statistics also show that Nigeria in 2016, spent about another N5.89 trillion on the importation of similar raw materials, thus bringing the total sum spent on the importation of primary raw materials into the country within the seven-year period to N19.5 trillion. The imports in 2016 included some finished products. This means that on the average, the country splashed N2.79 trillion every year in the past seven years to import building materials and other raw and finished materials.

However, the most expected of the problems that needs attention is the fact that so much has been spent on research yet nothing tangible has been achieved as more Nigerians are entering the import circle without looking inwards to see what could be done homewards. Some experts argue that if half of the resources put into importation is directed towards construction of factories and companies that can do what is done abroad, Nigeria’s problem of importing building materials would have been a thing of the past.

Despite being a large country, one wonders whether any successive governments have considered how big the building and construction materials business in Africa really is? For one to venture into such things means looking for solutions on how to procure them locally. At this point, discerning minds begin to ask whether government is not aware that high building and construction activities are often signs of growing economies. This is because when the economy looks good, the demand for residential, commercial and all kinds of real estate usually goes through the roof.
The Federal Government levies Customs duties on most imports but these duties were substantially reduced in 1986 and in 1995. The import duty varies from 5 per cent to 60 per cent, averaging 12 per cent. All imports are also subject to a 7 per cent port surcharge and a 5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT). The paperwork necessary for exporting and importing is lengthy.The taxation system has been widely avoided and valuations are arbitrary. The implication is that since authorities prefer making some stipends from charging imported materials, they prefer Nigerians to do more importation than exportation. This, some experts adduce as reasons Customs officials chase goods into the construction sites because they are imported. They prefer to be zealous in things that would bring them aggrandisement instead of growing the economy.

From government archive, prohibited exports include raw hides and skins, timber and building materials, raw palm kernels, and unprocessed rubber (to protect building and processing industries) yet the will to convert them into finished products here in Nigeria for use is lacking. They rather prefer to have them finished abroad and brought to the country as foreign goods for Nigerians to patronise them. Again, most goods produced in Nigeria may be freely exported, although prohibited imports include live chicks, flour, vegetable oils, gypsum, mosquito repellent coils, plastic domestic articles, used tires and weapons.

The NBRRI was part of the West Africa Building and Road Research Institute jointly established in 1952 by building professionals in Ghana and Nigeria. When Nigeria attained independence in 1960, the Nigerian members pulled out while their Ghanaian counterparts formed the Building and Road Research Institute linked with the Ghana Academy of Arts and Science. In 1978 the NBRRI became a department in the Ministry of Works and Housing.
In the most recent past, the Executive Director, Royal Pacific Group, promoters of Fraser Suites, Abuja, Mr. M G Nasreddin, stressed the need for government to increase investment in property industry or better still support private investment with enabling environment. He believes that such opportunity will also encourage local and international private investments, thus creating wealth down the value chain, boosting the economy and complementing the effort of government in the provision of quality and affordable housing for Nigerians and employment.

This, if seriously analysed, could be the route to finding solution to manufacturing of building materials here in Nigeria as the private investors to be attracted will not wholly depend on imports for their jobs. Manga time, they will use their technical know-hows to bring about the manufacture of some of the materials they use. With this, little by little, they will creep into the Nigerian space.

Over the years, the NBRRI has conducted researches into materials for constructing roads and houses. Under President Shehu Shagari, the institute acquired a site and built its headquarters on the Ota-Idiroko Federal Highway.

The need to be close to the seat of power necessitated relocation to Abuja, and the establishment of zonal offices in each geo-political zone. The sprawling complex in Ota was then designated National Laboratory and Production Complex. The institute has also done much work on the use of cement for road construction in Nigeria. This is essential as it is known that the world reserves of heavy crude (which yields the bitumen base for asphalt) is dwindling. Limestone is abundant in Nigeria and cement manufacturers are promoting the use of cement for road construction.

Right choice of tiles gets your home glowing

Technology is good as it helps to bridge a long process of doing things within a twinkle of an eye. Technology also brings about beauty and aesthetics in both human life and materials. In fact, technology has touched every fabric of our human life such that no single thing is devoid of its innovation.

But sometimes, technologies turn out to be a good servant and bad master and vice versa as the case may be. Light, brick block, television, phone, asbestos roofing materials, asphalt tarring of road, painting of houses and maintaining gardens around the home, in addition to transportation medium, computers as well as solar roofing sheets and tiles, including floor and wall tiles, are all part of technology.

As a good servant, these technologies help in either beautifying our lifestyles, making our jobs easy and increasing our propensity in job creation. But on the other hand, it can be a bad master in the sense that a single vehicular accident can kill as many people as possible, so also electricity and slippery floor tiles.

Pope JohnPaul II, was once reported to have slipped off a tiled floor and sustained injuries. The Catholic Pontif was also reported to have suffered many other domestic accidents as a result of slippery tiles. But aside these disadvantages, tiles, whether on the floor or wall, help to change the aesthetics of your property or home. Flooring materials, therefore, play an important role in shaping the final aesthetic value of your rooms. The floor usually dominates a neutral palette and attracts instant attention. Thus, you can dramatically change the appearance of your entire room by redoing the flooring. So, if you’re planning to remodel your rooms by replacing the flooring, you would naturally like to avoid any undesirable consequences or flaws in the process.

Ceramic floor tiles are one of the most used flooring materials after hardwood. If you’re planning to shop for tiles, there are a few things you must avoid. In order to avoid the bad master aspect of tiles in your homes, there are certain precautions you must take to enjoy only the positive side of tiles.

Taking floor measurements without expert guide

Don’t measure your floor lengths on your own, instead have a professional tile installer do it for you. Although this procedure seems quick and simple, nevertheless, it is not a piece of cake for an average person. Since a non-technical person is unfamiliar with technical terms like “off angles”, “floor inclination” and “edges”, you should hire a licensed tile setter to accomplish the task. He can give you an estimated number and size of tiles you will need in your room.

Using the services of a fake tiler

Enthusiastic weekend do-gooders look for amateur improvement projects so that they can save a couple of money. Replacing your old flooring with ceramic floor tiles requires a great deal of patience, time and efforts. You need to search for a skilled, seasoned and reputed contractor who can handle this job well.
Use of fake or inferior materials

Before you start with the remodelling procedure, it is essential that you plan a budget. However, make sure you choose a good contractor. Don’t just hire anybody who offers you discounted rates. There is no substitute to the skills, experience and knowledge of the experts, therefore, hire the best contractors in town. Likewise, don’t buy materials from road side retailers just because they are offering affordable rates. Take some time and differentiate between expensive and cost-effective as well as good-quality and poor quality services.

Living above your standards
Tiled floors look pleasing to the eye and add a great value to your home but the key rule in choosing a floor type is to get a suitable material that can easily fit in with your lifestyle. Don’t buy fancy flooring for entertainment purposes. If your floors receive plenty of traffic on a regular basis, you shouldn’t add glassy or slippery floor tiles to your rooms, especially when you have kids and pets at home. Having a tiled floor makes you vulnerable to slips and minor accidents. Therefore, consider the daily requirements of your family members when choosing flooring for their rooms.

Inability to pick grout colours matching the wall

Purchasing grout and installing it is relatively easier than replacing it from time to time. Since shadow and light can play tricks on the eye, it is important that you consider the final appearances of your tiled floors. Visualise what they will look like after installation. This way, you can add the right shade to lighten them up or tone them down, according to surrounding elements.

Not exploring market for better options

Ceramic floor tiles come in different sizes, shapes, textures, patterns and types. The market is jam-packed with different types of materials that add a classy look to your rooms. If you want attractive flooring for your rooms, it is important that you conduct thorough research on the market. Compare and contrast the materials designed by different manufacturers, test their durability, analyse their costs and see if they fit into your project. Always buy flooring materials from reliable and reputed dealers only. Moreover, don’t just hire any person you come across in the very first attempt. Interview different tile setters, discuss your project with them, negotiate prices and come up with the best deal.

Failure to understand tiles manual

All reputed tile installers offer price quotes and a detailed description of their services in writing. Make sure that you discuss important details like price rates, project duration, types of materials required, number of workers you are planning to have in your home, workmanship guarantee and insurance policies with your tile setter. Get a written copy of the work contract and read it carefully before you make the payment.

Another look at mortgage sector slow growth

As time ticks towards the end of 2017, individuals and institutions are taking stocks and reflecting on issues, especially those that border on the various sectors of the economy including households, and how they have impacted on lives in the past 12 months.

The mortgage system is a critical component of the financial system which, arguably, forms the nucleus of any economy. This perhaps explains the concerns about its operations and the interventionist measures so far introduced by supervising authorities with the aim of making it grow and develop.

A major feature of the mortgage system in Nigeria is its slow growth. The frequently cited reason for this is low capital base. The primary mortgage institutions (PMIs) recapitalization and consolidation of the past nine years (2008) was aimed to address this problem.

From the statutory N100 million capital base, the PMIs were asked to recapitalize to the tune of N2.5 billion and N5 billion for regional and national operators respectively. This exercise which swept aside many of the operators following mergers, acquisitions and outright transmutation to other financial portfolios, was hailed by many as a sure path to growth.

But with the reduction in the number of operators from over 100 to below 40 at the moment, the narrative has hardly changed. Not even the revised operational guidelines by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which stripped them of other business concerns and compelled them to face their core business of providing mortgages and housing finance for home ownership and other forms of property acquisition, has helped matters.

There is, therefore, a missing link which necessitates the need to take another look at the slow growth which this sector has suffered over the years. “The problems of mortgage banks revolve around their small capital base and so there isn’t much they can do. For all the money I have, unless I raise additional capital, I don’t think I can do 1,000 mortgages”, says Ayodele Olowookere, the CEO, Omoluabi Mortgage Bank Plc.

But there is more to the slow growth. “I think mortgage banks need to do self-enlightenment and education to grow the industry”, Olowookere notes, explaining that, over time, there has been wrong perception of the mortgage industry which, he thinks, is understandable because a lot of mortgage banks have also done what is not right like collecting money from people and not giving back.

A lot of people say they will never go near mortgage banks because of some unethical conducts like this. Though Rose Okwechime, CEO, Abbey Mortgage Bank Plc, would attribute some people’s apathy to mortgage banks to the “newness” of the mortgage system, Olowookere insists it is as a result of lack of self-education by the operators.

Undoubtedly, the mortgage banks have their challenges. Part of these challenges comes from allied operators in the financial system. For instance, the deposit banks are seen to be usurping their functions. These deposit banks own everything in the property industry from funding development to providing mortgages.

A mortgage bank like Union Homes was a very strong player in the market and was also focused, but there was a bit of a gap. The 2008 restructuring programme in the sector and the need for all the banks to strip themselves of their non-core businesses, led to specialized mortgage banks standing up, but they lack all it takes to do so.

Elsewhere, the mortgage sector is a huge contributor to economic growth. Here it remains a sad story that the sector’s contribution to GDP is less than 1 percent. At a time like this when the government needs all it can get to grow the economy, the mortgage sector is a strong possibility.

If there is a particular way, therefore, government can call all the mortgage banks together, it will be quite beneficial for the economy. “This is one sector that can grow the economy more than any other sector because if people take mortgages to build houses, the multiplier effect is unimaginable. A lot of jobs will be created for professionals, skilled and unskilled labour, artisans, manufacturers, etc”, Olowookere says.

According to him, government needs to sit down with the mortgage banks and discuss because they are the ones that meet property off-takers and so they understand the market more than the government.

Mortgage operators also understand the market more than the federal mortgage bank of Nigeria (FMBN) and that is why the FMBN says anybody who wants to take a mortgage should go through a primary mortgage bank.

Government needs to know that if the mortgage industry is well run and there is a good policy thrust to support its operations, it will diversify the economy with job creation. The focus on other non0oil sectors, especially agriculture is good because Nigerians need to feed themselves, but everybody also needs shelter and this can only be possible if the mortgage sector is made functional.

The operators have been pointing out, since 2005, that there’s need to change the Land Use Act of 1978 to no avail. This is the time for government to give that accelerated action.

There is also need to quicken processes leading to title transfer and building approval. Cost and time of perfecting titles need to change. The FMBN needs to be restructured to meet the demands of today. The national housing fund (NHF) also needs to be restructured for same purpose. There should be special focus on the sector and how they are funded.

UK housebuilders to prefabricate hundreds of homes in factories

One company says it can build house in 20 days in factory, then erect it on site in hours

One of Britain’s major housebuilders is to prefabricate up to a quarter of its homes in a factory, in the latest attempt by the construction industry to tackle the housing shortage.

Berkeley Homes, which builds 4,000 homes a year, is planning to create a facility in Kent next year where builders will work to produce up to 1,000 houses and apartments annually which will then be craned on to sites.

Another company, nHouse, is setting up a factory in Peterborough with the capacity to build 400 homes a year, complete with light fittings, bathrooms, bookshelves and kitchens. Production is expected to start in January.

Fears of a shortage of skilled construction workers caused by an ageing workforce and an exodus due to Brexit are part of the reason for the revival of prefabrication, which last provided a significant number of homes after the second world war.

The government has set a target of building 300,000 homes a year by the middle of the next decade. Despite recent increases in activity, the last annual figure was 190,000.

A Berkeley spokesman said: “We have acquired a 10-acre brownfield site from the Homes and Communities Agency to build a factory for modular homes in Ebbsfleet, Kent. This will have the potential to deliver up to 1,000 homes a year.

“Construction of the factory could begin next year. While the speed of production and the impact on skills and labour are important factors, our real driver is the quality we can achieve with modular housing.”

The nHouse has been designed by the architect Richard Hywel Evans and is made in four modules from engineered pine panels which are transported on the backs of lorries and are then clipped together on site and connected to pre-existing services. Its built-in features include solar panels, a robot vacuum cleaner and even a drone landing pad – looking forward to a time of aerial deliveries.

A three-bed house is on sale to developers or individual householders from £170,000 to £185,000, which is about the same price as a standard house built using wet trades.

Nick Fulford, the director of nHouse, argues that with 100 workers operating on an indoor production line rather than on muddy building sites in the elements, the homes will suffer from fewer snagging problems.

Real Estate: Bright Future 

The real estate and construction sector of the economy has all it takes to contribute more to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in this fiscal year. But this is only if certain conditions are met. Experts are convinced that with the right indices in place to spur the contributions from the private sector, despite the Federal Government’s paltry N555.88 billion 2018 budget for Power, Works and Housing ministry, good times may be here for the industry, MUYIWA LUCAS reports. 

By virtue of her sheer population of 170 million, Nigeria presents very viable market opportunities for goods and services, making it an investor’s haven. Such opportunities also present themselves in the real estate and construction sector of the economy.

The sector, believed to hold huge potential in job creation and contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was undermined in the last two fiscal years (2016 and 2017) by some economic factors, such as the uncertainty suffered by the currency; falling production and double digit inflation that saw the country fall into negative growth. These doused heavily investors’confidence in the real estate sector, nay, the economy.

But with the country out of recession, the negative economic indices may be giving way to a brighter prospects. Experts are convinced that as the economy improves in 2018, the picture for real estate, both for occupational and capital markets, will start to improve as well.

One of such experts who holds this opinion is Mr. Thomas Mundy, Head of Advisory for Sub-Saharan Africa, Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated (JLL), an American professional services and investment management company expert in real estate.

Mundy, at the West Africa Property Investment (WAPI) summit held in Lagos, last November, disclosed that though there would be the usual lag between economic and market recovery, but for real estate, which has suffered from a sharp supply demand imbalance, widening vacancy rates and falling rents, 2018 will be a year of consolidation and recovery for the sector.

His views are underpinned by more quantifiable progress in some areas across the economy. “First, importantly for real estate investors, the market is starting to gain more confidence in the economy backed by an improving external environment.The government policy-making is gaining some credibility through plans to support diversification and fiscal consolidation with the backing of external bodies. Also, we are starting to see evidence that the decline in rental rates in Lagos is reaching the bottom of the cycle,” he explained.

Mundy revealed that these factors have been further complemented by the legislative framework being put in place for real estate pricing to mitigate the impact of a volatile economy, including an improvement in the structural undersupply of investment in real estate stock, which he noted will provide increasing opportunities, for both local and international investors in the economy this year.

Government initiatives

Although the Federal Government set up several agencies to tackle the housing needs of Nigerians, especially the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), it is disappointing that over the last two years, the FHA has not added a block to the housing stock. Highlighting the docility of these agencies, Costec Consultants Managing Partner, Mr. John Agele Alufohai, revealed that Nigeria’s mortgage system, cannot support a housing policy that will deliver affordable houses to Nigerians because of high mortgage rates, which are usually given at short tenures; a difficult business environment, high inflation, and unstable policies.

However, the initiatives of the other agencies like the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) may pay off this year. The NMRC has entered into several partnerships with housing focused bodies and organisations. For instance, last November, the Company signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Lagos state government and a consortium of developers to buildand deliver 20,000 housing units in Lagos. The MoU, signed by the parties, is in line with the Lagos Affordable Public Housing (L.A.P.H.) initiative of the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration, geared towards building 20,000 housing units through a joint venture initiative (JVI). It is hoped that the dividends from this partnership will trigger the real estate market into higher gear this year.

On the part of the Federal Government, its efforts might also begin to have effect in the housing market. Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, last year, disclosed that the government was working on avoiding mistakes of previous housing projects that saw the houses abandoned. He explained that some houses constructed by some past administrations were not occupied because they did not take into cognisance the issues of culture of the people, climate and location of projects.

“At this moment we are constructing houses in 33 states, when we finish then we would subject that design to affordability test. When we find its works then we will subject it to acceptability test,” he said. This, on completion, these stock will also ginger the sector.

Hot properties

According to the Head, Property Management, SFS Capital Limited, Victoria Island, Lagos, Mr. Bolarinwa Odeyingbo, this year would be better for the sector, especially as the recession is easing out gradually. He explained that some properties would set the tone for the market this year. This will be mainly in retail sector that is, malls, including the mass medium income category on the Mainland part of Lagos State, which drove the market. He observed that areas, such as Yaba and its environs, Surulere, Maryland, Magodo Phase 2 (Shangisha/Ketu Ikosi axis), Gbagada, and some other central areas on the Lagos mainland, will experience a boost. In Abuja, Phase 3, comprising Galadimawa, Kabusa, Lokogoma down to Apo resettlement will experienced a boost. For instance, he explained that the success of the $68 million Novare Gateway Mall in Abuja last year presents an indication of what is to expect this year.

Private sector initiatives

Private sector investment will also influence the industry this year. Some of these projects are expected to get to an advanced stage, bringing in more money into the business, and they include:

Imperial International Business City

The Imperial International Business City (IIBC), is a $300 million, 200-hectare housing project, promoted by the Elegushi Royal Family (ERF) of Lagos and ChannelDrill Resources Limited, a real estate development firm. The development, which started last August, will further stimulate the property market this year with its huge investment opportunities. The IIBC, is being built on the Lagos lagoon, and will run from Freedom road to Kunsenla Road, to Oba Saheed Ademola Elegushi Road, through Lekki Phase 1. The IIBC is being designed as a smart business city.

RMB Waterport

Developed by RMB Westport, The Wings development of close to 27,000m² GLA is situated in one of the most exclusive addresses right in the heart of the CBD on Victoria Island and is anchored by Oando Plc.

The development comprises two towers allowing for about 27,000m² of lettable area. The building is a game changer in the way developers are fusing sophistication, design, and functionality in office development with high quality finishes, 360-degree views and energy efficient features.

Royal Gardens Mall

Developed by RMB Westport, the Royal Gardens Mall will offer just a little below 30,000m² of quality retail space. The mall is strategically located next to the entrance for the Royal Gardens Estate where approximately 126, 000 vehicles ply daily. The mall will also be competing with Novare Lekki Mall owned by Novare Equity Partners.

Eko Atlantic

Eko Atlantic is a brand-new city that is being developed on reclaimed land adjacent to Victoria Island. The city has created 10 million m² of prime real-estate on which office andresidential developments are breaking ground. The Business District alone will have 650,000m² of GLA to offer the market.

On completion, Eko Atlantic will be home to 500,000 residents with an expected commuter volume of 300,000 people. Eko Pearl Towers is the first completed residential building of a five-tower proposed development in the cities Marina district. The development comes in addition to the completion of the major road infrastructure.

Lekki City, Lagos

Rendeavour’s Lekki project development site is located on 1,000 ha within the Lekki Free Trade Zone, the largest free trade zone in West Africa. The site is adjacent to the approved location for the proposed Lekki International Airport and in close proximity to the deep sea port and a number of planned industrial developments. The project is at planning stage, and is a joint venture with the Lagos State Government.

Landmark Village

Landmark Village is a mixed-use development by Landmark Africa, a real estate and property development company in Nigeria. The 38,000m² development in Victoria Island will embody the “live, work, play” concept that is central to Landmark Africa’s developments. It is aimed to mirror nodes like Melrose Arch, Rosebank and Illovo in Johannesburg and developments like Canary Wharf in London. The development will have two office towers offering grade A accommodation, residential apartments, retail outlets, a 250 room four star hotel and a convention centre. The development will offer other amenities like leisure and recreational facilities.

By and large, this year looks very promising for the real estate industry.

Repeal FMBN Act now, stakeholders urge govt

 For not performing the roles for which it was established, stakeholders in the built environment have called on the Federal Government to repeal the Act of Parliament that gave impetus to Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN).

The FMBN Act was established to aid in bridging the housing deficits in the country through mortgage financing, which the stakeholders believe is far from being the roles. They, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government to repeal the Act to give room for its comprehensive re-establishment and board strengthening.

The stakeholders also sought for the establishment of Institute of Mortgage Brokers and Lenders of Nigeria (IMBLN) for the regulation of the sector’s activities to instill efficiency and professionalism. The call was made at House of Representatives Committee on Housing public hearing on a bill for an act to establish the IMBLN and a bill for an act to repeal the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Act, Cap F16, 2004 to make comprehensive provisions for the re-establishment of the FMBN and its board of directors.

The establishment of regulatory institute in the mortgage industry, the stakeholders stressed, will help to instill professionalism, eliminate fraud, remove speculators, provide regulatory framework, entrench sanity and decency, and provide training programmes for practitioners in the sector, among others.

The stakeholders emphasised that the repeal of existing FMBN Act and the re-enactment of an Act re-establishing and strengthening the management and board of the bank will embolden the bank to carry out its functions unimpeded. They specifically called for the recapitalisation of the FMBN from the current N5 billion to at least N1 billion and the inclusion of the critical stakeholders who are contributing to the National Housing Fund (NHF)as members of the board.

Speaking on the role of mortgage, the Managing Director of FMBN, Ahmed Musa Dangiwa, said the establishment of IMBLN will provide standards and make estate business a career. He, however, said that aside FMBN’s support to the repeal of the present Act establishing it, the share capital of the bank should be increased to N500 billion to improve its liquidity.

According to him, the bank should be wholly owned by the Federal Government, adding that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) should not be shareholders of the bank as they cannot be playing the role of regulator and owner at the same time. 

“To be able to play its role of providing affordable housing finance at single digit interest to Nigerians, particularly the low and the middle income earners in Nigeria, FMBN should remain as a government corporation and should continue to manage the NHF,” he said.

Also, the Managing Director of Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Mohammed Al-Amin, while supporting the establishment of a regulatory institute for the mortgage sector, said the bill re-establishing FMBN should enhance its liquidity, remove unnecessary interventions from the Ministry of Finance, eliminate incident of having another agency carrying out the function of FMBN or assigned to manage the NHF because it will create administrative bottlenecks.

Other stakeholders who also made presentations in support of establishing a regulatory institute in the mortgage sector and strengthening FMBN include the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria, Council of Registered Builders, Nigeria Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Federal Government Staff Housing Board, Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria, among others.

Urban Regeneration: Town planners charged with formulation of devt agenda

To enhance quality of practice for effective national development and physical planning and ensure sustainable environment, town planners have been urged to discharge their duties to the public in accordance with the ethics of their profession.

The charge was given at the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners’ 48th Annual Conference/General Meeting held last week in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, with Physical Planning for Environment, Equity, Security and Economic Enhancement, as the theme.  The conference was meant to look into security and the challenges of environment facing Nigerians especially in the Niger-Delta region. The AGM which witnessed attendance by the Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, who was represented by his deputy, Rear Admiral Gboribi John Jonah (Rtd) declared the conference open.

The president of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planning, NITP, Luka Achi while speaking, said cities in Africa, including Nigeria, are faced with challenges of rapid urbanization such as increasing poverty, lack of access to basic services, inadequate infrastructure and deteriorating environment.

He added that Nigerian cities are facing this form of urban growth without robust institutional framework to manage it, coupled with inability of cities and their public institutions to provide adequate employment, urban services, land infrastructure, non-inclusiveness and divides in human settlement.

The NITP boss noted that “Institutional framework for physical planning at all levels of governance is inadequate and unstructured. Many states of the federation are yet to domesticate the Nigerian urban and regional law of 1992 as amended  and develop instruments such as masterplan and accompanying lower order development plans for their towns and cities in which adequate attention is not accorded sustainable physical development planning and urban generation by governments in their annual budgets.”

Achi called on governments and professionals in the built industry to be actively involved in the formulation of development agenda towards addressing the challenges of rapid urbanisation, increasing poverty and environmental deterioration in human settlement.

According to him, they should undertake this in conjunction with all stakeholders in which true democratic culture, value and implementation mechanism are adequately entrenched in Nigeria’s physical planning and urban development policies while resources should be made available and prudently utilised to raise the quality of life of the people.

Also speaking at the event, the 1st National president, Lekwa Ezutah, recommended that government should identify with the planners in creating better physical environment in their communities. He pointed out that  town planners are ready to use their position and instrument to facilitate and co-ordinate community access to government for community development and planning.

Real Estate Developer Woodbridge Group Files for Bankruptcy Amid SEC’s Fraud Probe

Woodbridge Group of Companies LLC, a high-end real estate developer, filed for bankruptcy amid the departure of its chief executive and an investigation into potential securities fraud linked to $1 billion in investments.
The Chapter 11 filing on Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware, cited “unforeseen costs associated with ongoing litigation and regulatory compliance.” The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has been probing whether Woodbridge defrauded investors who invested more than $1 billion. The agency also sought more information on about 236 limited liability companies Woodbridge formed, according to an October SEC court filing.

Woodbridge said in a statement it’s cooperating with the investigation. Chief Executive Officer Robert Shapiro resigned, but will take on a consulting role as the Sherman Oaks, California-based company seeks to restructure $750 million in debt, according to the statement. He’ll get a monthly fee of $175,000, which will be paid to WFS Holding Co., an entity he controls, according to court papers.

Affiliate Control

“Woodbridge has represented to investors that bona-fide third parties are borrowing money and repaying interest at a high rate, of which the investors in Woodbridge funds get a portion thereof,” the regulator said in an Oct. 31 filing. “However, evidence obtained in our investigation reveals that many, if not all, of these LLCs may be Woodbridge affiliates with Shapiro as their manager.”

Ryan O’Quinn, a lawyer with DLA Piper representing Shapiro, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment about the SEC’s investigation.

The Woodbridge Group Enterprise operates through a group of affiliated companies that are all directly or indirectly owned by RS Protection Trust, according to court papers. Robert Shapiro or members of his family are trustees, the papers show.

“Although RS Protection Trust retains its economic interests in the debtors, it has relinquished its control rights over them to independent third parties,” the company wrote in court papers filed Monday.

Hankey Capital LLC has agree to provide up to $100 million in debtor-in-possession financing to fund the business as it reorganizes, secured by liens on 28 properties, according to court papers. Larry Perkins of SierraConstellation Partners has been appointed chief restructuring officer.

The company’s units specialize in multi-million-dollar properties, with recent listings including an $11.7 million, 8-bath home in Aspen, Colorado. They also market mortgage notes to individual investors, commercial loans and alternative investments.

Miami real estate tech firm to build global HQ in downtown Orlando, create 100 jobs

A Miami-based emerging real estate fintech company announced today, Dec. 7, that Orlando will become the company’s future global headquarters location.

The World Property Exchange Group Inc., which deploys technology solutions for the global real estate investment market, has offices in New York City, Miami and Irvine, Calif. It will have its downtown Orlando headquarters location open in early 2018 at the Regions Bank tower in Suite 800, where it has a short-term lease, according to the Orlando Economic Partnership.

The company will hire more than 100 people in the next three years for high-wage jobs consisting mainly of computer coders, network engineers, data scientists, cyber security experts, economists, mathematicians and corporate executives, as it builds and deploys the world’s first all-digital, patent-pending, Security Exchange Commission-regulated Real Estate Stock Exchange by the end of 2019.

“Given Central Florida’s indigenous University of Central Florida tech, real estate, cyber security and banking software talent, coupled with the state of Florida’s zero corporate tax rates, lower cost of doing business and great quality of life, Orlando was the obvious choice to plant our company flag as the best place in the U.S. to build, grow and operate our global real estate investment platform,” CEO Michael Gerrity said in a prepared statement.

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