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Kamala Harris’s Wrongheaded Housing Plan

The presidential candidate proposes $100 billion to help minority homebuyers, but such interventions always make things worse.

With her popularity on the rise following the Democratic presidential debates last month, California Senator Kamala Harris has announced a $100 billion housing plan aimed at closing the gap in household wealth between whites and African-Americans and Latinos.

But her proposal—to provide up to 4 million households with a $25,000 federal grant toward closing costs or down payments on homes—risks doing just the opposite. Previous federal housing programs and the damage wrought by the 2008 financial crisis show why.

Harris is understandably concerned about the black-white gap in household wealth. In 2017, a Federal Reserve report found that average family wealth for white families totaled $933,000; for black families, the average was just $138,200, less than 15 percent of the white figure.

The Latino average was $191,000. Levels of home ownership represent a significant part of these differences. And the case for helping black families in the housing market has some historical justification: blacks faced discrimination in getting mortgages ensured by the Federal Housing Administration, were locked out of certain housing markets, and suffered the loss of homes that they did own to the eminent-domain policies of urban renewal and public housing.

Still, the Harris proposal is the wrong way to go. In building household wealth, it’s important to protect the wealth of current homeowners in a given neighborhood, and to increase the likelihood that new buyers will be able to keep their homes. Among the greatest threats to neighborhoods is mortgage delinquency and foreclosure, which results in vacated or deteriorating homes. That’s exactly what happened in the wake of the financial crisis, when foreclosures hurt blacks and Hispanics disproportionately.

As the National Low-Income Housing Coalition reports, “since 2007, nearly 8 percent of African Americans and Latinos have lost their homes to foreclosure compared to 4.5 percent of non-Hispanic whites at similar income levels. The disparity ratio shows that African Americans are more than 70 percent more likely to have been foreclosed upon than non-Hispanic whites.”

Those foreclosure rates were, in part, the result of home purchases that required low down payments, or even “zero down.” Loose lending practices enabled unqualified buyers to borrow large sums of money without demonstrating that they could pay it back. These “no doc” and “liar loans” encouraged speculative buying and brought people into the property market who probably had no business being there.

The go-go environment of fast money, house flipping, and dodgy mortgage terms left many unqualified buyers unable to keep up with payments when the economy turned south, and they lost their homes. That environment hurt those who scrimped and saved to accumulate housing wealth the old-fashioned way. After all, when your neighbor defaults on his mortgage and his house is repossessed by the bank, nearby home values—the cornerstone of household wealth—decline. Vacant houses are magnets for crime and vagrancy.

The key protection against foreclosure—which Harris wants to remove from the equation—is a down payment, based on thrift and savings, the traits that typically make for successful homeownership. New owners whose down payment came from a government grant have no skin in the game. If payments become burdensome or unforeseen and costly maintenance issues arise, they’re more likely to walk away. It’s all house money, anyway.

We’ve seen this movie before. Historically, default and delinquency rates among borrowers with loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration—which has long required low down payments—are higher than those for so-called conventional borrowers. In fact, “serious delinquency rates” for FHA loans currently run at three times the rate for conventional loans. Such delinquencies are just one step from foreclosure.

History provides other sobering lessons about what happens when down payments are deemphasized. In 1967, in the wake of the urban riots of that era, a group of Boston banks—known as the Boston Banks Urban Renewal Group (BBURG)—collaborated to make $50 million in no-down-payment mortgage loans available to the city’s African-American population.

Select neighborhoods where blacks had previously faced discrimination were targeted—just as Harris has proposed to focus her housing plan on “formerly red-lined” neighborhoods. When mortgage money flooded Boston’s black community in the late sixties, it proved a recipe for rapid foreclosure—and realtor scare tactics that panicked white owners into selling.

This “blockbusting” led to a vicious cycle of white flight and predatory lending to first-time black homebuyers and worked to increase neighborhood segregation. By 1974, half of the BBURG mortgage loans had been foreclosed. The household wealth of black homebuyers did not rise; in fact, it went down. The BBURG fiasco became the subject of congressional hearings.

The right path then—and now—involves wealth accumulation through employment, savings, and financial acumen. One may wish that a jumpstart by federal government could redeem a sad history. But the record of such interventions shows that they have only made things worse. Harris’s plan would do the same.

Source: city-journal

Should We Build Cities From Scratch?

People have been building new cities from scratch for millennia. From the foundation myths surrounding Athens and Rome, to the clearance of virgin forests in western New York state to create the “garden city” of Buffalo, to scores of purpose-built capitals – Brasília, Canberra, Astana, Washington DC – building new cities is just something that humans do.

When countries rise up, when markets emerge, people build new cities. Today, though, we are taking it to unheard-of levels. We have never before built so many new cities in so many places at such great expense as we are right now.

New dots have been popping up on the maps of countries such as China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria and India with unprecedented frequency since the late 1990s, and more than 120 new cities are currently being built in 40 nations around the world.

Avant-garde developments like Shenzhen and Pudong blazed new economic trails until they eventually widened into the boulevards of a new status quo for the emerging markets of the world.

We are standing on the precipice of a new city building boom unlike anything we’ve seen before. These shiny new metropolises hold the dreams and aspirations of people and nations from east Asia to the Middle East to Africa. Will they deliver a bright new urban future or a debt-fuelled bubble of historic proportions?

A one-stop cure-all?

The new city has been sold as a one-stop cure-all for an array of urban and economic issues facing emerging markets around the world: overcrowding, pollution, traffic congestion, housing shortages, lack of green space and economic stagnation, to name a few. By starting from scratch, governments hope to move on from their current clogged and dysfunctional urban centres and develop new economic sectors to help them leapfrog other nations. City building itself can also be a highly profitable endeavour for some.

At first glance, many new cities appear to openly defy economic fundamentals. What are emerging markets – “poor countries” – doing building some of the most technologically advanced, expensive cities on earth? Why is the dusty, remote Kazakh border town of Khorgos turning into what is claimed will become a “new Dubai”? How come oil-dependent Oman is erecting Duqm – a metropolis twice the size of Singapore – in the middle of the desert?

“The major reason for new cities is that there is so much migration,” says John Macomber, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School who has studied new city development in depth. “People are moving to cities all over the world to seek opportunity.”

According to the UN, 68% of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050. This means 2.5 billion more city dwellers, with 90% of the uptake happening in Asia and Africa. Half of the urban area that will be needed hasn’t been built yet. We would need scores more Delhis, Shanghais and Lagoses.

“The sad thing is that we’re going to develop more urban area in the next 100 years than currently exists on Earth,” says the Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Romer of New York University. “If we stick to business as usual most of it is going to be disorderly and less functional than the stuff we already have.”

It doesn’t take a Nobel winner to see that many of the existing cities of Asia and Africa are simply not able to handle this onslaught of urbanisation. Cairo was built to house 1 million people, not the 20 million who live there today. Cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Lagos, Nairobi and Rio de Janeiro are crowded by rings of informal developments. Retrofitting these cities with modern infrastructure and utilities is more complicated and expensive than clearing out a swathe of land and starting all over again.

As Macomber says: “If you build a new city you don’t have to relocate or work around existing roads or rivers or factories or houses. You also don’t have to work around existing political processes, community groups, civic organisations … or even existing regulations and rules.”

As well as being less complicated and cheaper than retrofitting old cities, building new cities is seen by many leaders as more profitable – and sexier. At the height of China’s new city building boom in 2011, land sales accounted for roughly 74% of the revenue stream for the country’s municipal governments and plots of urban construction land were selling at a 40-fold profit. Emerging markets that are actively reconstructing themselves – both physically and in terms of their global image – tend to have economies that are driven by the real estate and construction sectors. For them, building an entirely new city is the pinnacle of projects.

“Neoliberalism and deregulation have created a wild west atmosphere that facilitates the circulation of footloose capital globally,” says Sarah Moser, a geography professor at McGill University and the author of the upcoming Atlas of New Cities. “It is easier now than in previous decades to acquire vast tracts of land and to then use that land for any purpose, including urban and commercial.

“Technology companies, construction companies, and the real estate industry are leveraging the many challenges facing cities in the global south to convince people that new cities are an important solution rather than fixing existing cities, which is not as profitable.”

Development firms such as New York’s Gale International and South Korea’s Posco are peddling copies of Songdo LINK around the world. Architects such as KPF and Arup are drawing up attention-grabbing masterplans lined with skyscrapers, parks and shopping malls reminiscent of New York, London and Dubai. And big tech firms such as Cisco, Alibaba and Tencent are keen to provision these new cities with cutting edge IT networks and public surveillance gizmos.

The money being thrown at new cities is staggering. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Economic City comes at a price tag of $100bn (£78bn), while the country’s Neom megalopolis is slated to cost five times that. Malaysia’s Forest City had its price initially pegged at $100bn, while Ordos Kangbashi cost a hulking $161bn. Adding up the costs of more than 120 new cities around the world means a mountain of investment that can be measured in the trillions of dollars – but the returns are far from given.

“Too often a best-case scenario of potential economic rewards is presented and the project is rushed through when decision makers are on a utopian high,” says Moser. “The reality is that new city projects can only move forward with massive loans, often from foreign banks, with no guarantee that the city will be profitable enough to repay the loans.”

New cities that work

“Cities have to have a purpose,” Macomber says. “It’s a common mistake that has been made for centuries where a ruler will say ‘Let’s build some buildings and palaces and some things will happen’ or ‘Let’s put up a couple big office buildings and now we’re going to have a Dubai on the Indian Ocean’. Not necessarily. The new cities that struggle are the ones that are pushing against what market forces want to do.”

New cities that work have built-in economic drivers that give them their impetus and reason for being. Khorgos on the China-Kazakhstan border was sparked to life by a transportation hub along the New Silk Road; Cyberjaya in Malaysia was built as a concentrated hub of hi-tech firms, startups and educational facilities; South Korea’s Songdo is one of the best examples of an “aerotropolis” – a city built around an airport.

Other new cities could be described as superfluous – custom-built cities for the rich. “Some of these developments are imagined as the gated communities of privilege,” says Romer. “Like Brasília: ‘The place where we will be able to drive really fast in our cars. We’ll just not let any poor people come here.’ Those things are doomed to fail.

“They’re also an inappropriate response to the real need, which is not for the rich to have a place to retreat to but for people who want to get a first position on the kind of urban, modern escalator that can help lift them and their kids to a better life.”

Many new cities that are currently being built in Asia and Africa are clearly being designed for emerging middle classes. If provided with the right opportunities, this well-educated, big spending and highly mobile sector of society can be a boon for just about any country. If those opportunities are not provided they are especially prone to flight – emigrating to better jobs and lifestyles in the US, Canada and western Europe.

The new city building boom is nearly as much about maintaining and attracting high-value talent as it is about creating space for the droves of rural migrants searching for their first handholds in an urban environment.

“Many new cities are scrambling to attract these global elites through creating luxury properties that they can buy, luxury retail and restaurants, and infrastructure for their lavish hobbies: particularly docking facilities for yachts,” says Moser.

“The developer’s goal is to maximise profits and this is done in large part by creating luxury condos and villas. There is not much money to be made in affordable family housing, so developers are not interested.”

Source: theguardian

Without Economic Growth, Democracy is a Myth

Remittance of Nigerians living abroad was $22 billion in 2017. In 2018, the same remittance saw a 14 percent growth to $25 billion. This is 7 times the size of foreign aid ($3.359 billion) to Nigeria.

The $25 billion remittances represent 6.1 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was $2.200 billion.

“PricewaterhouseCoopers, PWC, noted that the amount translates to 83 percent of the federal government’s budget in 2018 and 11 times the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) during the same period.”

With an average remittance fee of 6%, Nigerian generated US$ 1.5 billion in fees for the money

transfer corporations. A fraction of this in the form of investment will boost our economy and lead to better governing. The $1.5 billion is almost 70% of the Foreign Direct Investment. Nigerians in Diaspora can assist in turning the country into a self-sufficient economy without the need and dependency on hand out (foreign aid).

Remittances are an important share of foreign reserves for countries, but their impact on development

and economic growth is minimal if they are only spent on consumption. The remittances have done the right thing by first, giving the person a fish and banishing their hunger; the next step is to teach them to fish.

If every Nigerian in the diaspora with the means to remit average of $300.00 a year contributes/invests twenty dollars (the remittance fee) or just 1% – 2% of the $1.5 billion and pool their own resources, the country could move from charity case to wealth creator. The benefits of this minimum investment would be profound.

Africans must lift themselves up by their bootstraps and move from charity case to wealth creator. But to achieve this shift, Nigerians must think like Investors/Entrepreneurs.

In his 2006 book, The White Man’s Burden, William Easterly estimated that between 1956 and 2006 more than $2.3 trillion in aid flowed to Africa. We cannot and must not be content with being fed fish we must learn or teach ourselves to fish.

“The aid business is the only industry in which if it’s done right the people fire themselves. Who is going to do that?” “They have people who have never been in business, never built a business, never sold a thing in their lives — these are the people who are now supposed to come and help poor farmers write a business plan for growing something and selling it.” – Magatte Wade

If you agree with the above quotes, why then are you trying to duplicate it?

Aid and foreign donations including remittances are top-down approaches. The authorities (the donors) treat recipients as passive beneficiaries of aid rather than as active participants in the process; they tell people what they need rather than think to ask what is needed or required.

We are suggesting an investment platform that is a bottom-up /participatory action in contrast to top-down approaches. Participatory action involves collaboration across all stages of the program, from identifying the issues of concern, designing, and implementing the mutually-agreed upon changes.

With your minimum of $20.00 investment, you become a co-owner in the corporation. You can suggest and contribute ideas and programs needed/required in your state, town, local government or village. Implementation will be based on needs and economic viability. This is not an aid organization this is a business enterprise.

Entrepreneurs are the key to a prosperous nation. Nigerians do not need to wait for the world to come to our rescue. We have the resources, capacity and the capability we need right here at home to develop our nation. After so many decades of dependence on foreign funding, it is time that wealth and not poverty dictates how our country develops. By our own bootstraps, Economic Opportunity & the Dynamics Income Distribution is attainable.

Our mission is to utilize these private contributions (US$20.00 minimum) and develop an Equity Firm into a large scale investment firm that develops and expands economically viable businesses that will provide dividend income, capital appreciation, and interest income to the investors.

With the contribution of 6.1 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the equivalent of”83 percent of the federal government’s budget in 2018”, Nigerians in the diaspora already has the economic strength. All that is missing is the political strength.

Once the Nigerians in the diaspora are able to cast their votes in all elections, they will/can easily secure/obtain the political strength. To have a firm political strength, the economic strength must be strongly rooted hence the proposed minimum investment as the beginning.

Source: thenigerianvoice

Welcome Initiative on Rental Housing

The Budget announcement to unveil reforms to promote rental housing is welcome. Rental housing is of paramount importance in rapidly urbanising India. Millions of migrants will keep moving to towns from the hinterland to seek better opportunities.

So, India needs to build new towns to house these migrant hordes — else, our cities will be swamped into slums — and the new towns stocked with rental housing. Buying and owning a home in the town is not a viable option for poor migrants, especially if they already own a home back in the village.

The need is to boost housing stock to a level where people do not have to spend a large slice of their income on rent. And to have sensible rent laws that foster a market for rented accommodation, rather than hoarding of empty houses by owners fearful of losing possession of their investment to permanent tenants.

 

One way is public housing. As the construction sector is hugely employment intensive, it should have multiplier effects economy-wide, and boost cement, steel, construction and construction equipment manufacture. Public housing shelters 80% of Singapore’s population.

Singapore has also been able to keep a tight lid on prices. But that is not the case in Hong Kong where public housing accounts for about 21% of the total home ownership. Building vertically will bring down the costs in India and accommodate more people.

Also, governments in cities such as Delhi that are capable of housing denser populations must lift restrictive floor area ratios and encourage vertical urbanisation. The rules to alter land-use norms should be eased to make it simpler to convert rural land into urban land and do away with the artificial rationing of land.

Modernising the rental market is a must. Rightly, the government has acknowledged that the current rental laws are archaic as they do not address the relationship between the lessor and the lessee realistically and fairly. Irrational provisions in the rental laws that have led to a wide gap between urban housing demand and supply must be scrapped.

Source: economictimes

Challenges of Bridging Skills Gap in Technical Fields

Achieving sustainable development requires integrative approaches that embed formal and informal education.While Nigeria is making efforts to encourage technical and vocational training, as part of steps to tackle unemployment, there is still a yawning gap at forging an integration that is formidable enough to achieve the required impact.

Over three decades, formulators of Nigeria’s educational policies have been subjected to severe criticisms for deliberately designing educational curricular for white-collar jobs in silos. Indeed, that has led to the gradual demise of technical colleges, and the departure from the ideals that formed the establishment of Polytechnic education, which was meant to bridge mid-manpower needs of the country.

This departure, which led to the rivalry between the university and polytechnic graduates is now a threat to national development, as paper qualification prioritised at the expense of technical education.With most technical and vocational colleges around the country in comatose, Federal Government’s later day posture of encouraging vocational and entrepreneurship education has been largely academic.

Experts are of the view that the neglect of technical and vocational education is already hampering Nigeria’s technological advancement.They argued that neglecting technical and vocational education is perhaps one of the reasons for the importation of technical skills from neighbouring countries.

The shortage of technical expertise, according to them, is part of the challenges preventing the practical application of the Nigerian Content Act 2010, and stressed the need to revamp technical and vocational education in the country.

For instance, the School of Technical Education (STE), formerly Technical Teacher Training Programme (TTTP), was designed by the Federal Ministry of Education to provide the needed manpower in the area of primary, technical and secondary levels of the national education system.

The TTTP started in the Yaba College of Technology, during the 1992/1993 academic session for the award of B.Sc. (Ed.) degree in Technical and Vocational Education in affiliation with the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Similarly, the military administration of the then General Olusegun Obasanjo promulgated Decree 33 of 1979 (amended by Decree 5 of 1993), to give legal backing for the establishment of federal polytechnics for the training of middle-level technological manpower for the nation’s industries.

To make the polytechnics attractive, attempts have been made to rate Higher National Diploma (HND), at par with university degree.Unfortunately, today a dichotomy exists between university degrees and higher national diplomas, and employers of labour, both in the public and private sectors, are in favour of the former.

This development has done a lot to drastically reduce the interest of Nigerian youths in polytechnic education.
Matters are also not helped when youths perceive white-collar jobs as being more prestigious, and therefore more respectable, while technical jobs in the factories are seen as demeaning and for dropouts who could not acquire university education.

Speaking at the presentation of Austrian-German-Swiss Business Outlook (AGSBO) 2019, a delegate in the German Embassy, Dr Marc Lucassen, noted the huge skill gap in the technical fields, adding that the Embassy is willing to partner with government on training.He also said the embassies of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, are very active in the area of skills development across the country, noting that development collaboration is very important.

According to him: “We are willing to partner with Nigeria in solving the problem of skilled labour and one of our major constraints is the availability of skilled labour. One of the things we want to do is to establish a large German vocation centre which will not necessarily be for Germans, but whoever is willing in being part of the vocational training scheme in terms of financing, on job and off job training.

“In Adamawa, I established 10 vocational training centres, with 2,800 apprentices. Therefore, I understand clearly what the issues are, especially the needs and reality and how to bridge the gap. But it is very long way. If you want to train somebody professionally, you need two or four years. You need to train people on the job, they have to learn and understand the craft, and it is expensive.

“It is an issue and it is constraint from the political perspective. What the German companies are doing presently is that they are training in house which is very expensive.”

The immediate past president of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (CIPM), Udom Inoyo argued that a labour surplus economy like Nigeria should not have any reason to import certain skills if we are truly desirous of tackling unemployment.

“For example, if you visit some of the building sites with on-going construction projects, you will realise that a lot of the workers are from neighbouring countries.He stated: “In addition, the shortage of technical expertise is part of the challenges preventing the practical application of Local Content Act 2010 in the country. So we cannot over emphasise the need to revisit and revamp technical and vocational education in Nigeria.

“I always tell young folks that the era of white shirt and tie is gone. People need to get their hands dirty and take pride in any job that they do. The housing sector is still untapped in Nigeria and yet we are not prepared for the opportunities. Buildings don’t have straight lines, tiling is a problem, painters are in a hurry and plumbers are unavailable. What of the power sector with huge skilled and semi-skilled opportunities?”

Recently, Edo State opened a collaborative effort with the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and ITF (Industrial Training Fund) through the NECA-ITF Technical Skills Development Project to develop skills for youths in Edo State as well as job creation and employment through Public Private Partnership.

Governor Godwin Obaseki, who paid a courtesy visit to NECA Secretariat in Lagos, also sought the development of vocational and technical skills of students of the Benin Technical College. ITF- NECA initiative is a Public-Private Sector initiative aimed at developing vocational and technical skills in Nigeria.

The NECA-ITF TSDP initiative is to train students to acquire more skills and manpower development that will equip them for employment after College.Its objectives, he said, are to provide employable skills to trainees to meet the middle-level manpower of industry needs in specific trade areas as well as prepare trainees for life-after-school by empowering them with entrepreneurial skills for job creation.

The TSDP Project was established as part of a policy response to the outcome of a Joint Survey of Contemporary Manpower requirement in the Nigerian economy, which was presented to the Public in March/April 2008.Officer in Charge (Regional Office), of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), Dr Chuma Ezedinma said for the country to confront the current unemployment crisis, emphasis must be placed on education that support the development of technical and entrepreneurial skills and competencies.

Ezedinma in a book titled, ‘Nations Are Built By Skills’, said there is need to re-align the schools curricula to focus on the development needs of the country. He added: “One important area is the re-alignment of the curricula to highlight the importance of skills training and entrepreneurship. In this respect, there is need to involve industries and strengthen public-private partnership in education. Improving employability requires closing the gap between the education and work worlds.”

On the way forward, many experts opined that most the Nigerian technical colleges are not fulfilling their mandates. They argued that the dearth of skilled and technical hands contributed to this collapse. They said there is the need to go back and address the challenges confronting it.

Vice Chancellor, Veritas University, Abuja, Prof Michael Kwanashie noted that the standard of technical schools in the country gradually collapsed over the last three decades. He said the dearth of skilled and technical hands contributed to this collapse.

“There was once a conscious effort by the government to develop technical and vocational skills. So, we used to have technical colleges, teachers’ colleges and others.“But presently, education has become more elitist. Everyone wants a degree. Nobody even wants to go to these technical colleges anymore because the values being espoused by our leaders tend to support this position.

“Most of the technical colleges we have presently have collapsed. They have no equipment and lack the required teachers. It is so bad that today, if you need a very skilled plumber or any other artisan, you have to go to Benin and Togo; you have to leave the country to be able to get them. This is so because the government and the citizens have neglected technical and vocational education.”

Everyone wants to have a Bachelor’s Degree.“It is our value system that is faulty. The mind-set of Nigerians is to look for white-collar jobs and sit in offices. People don’t want to work with their hands. What we can do is to bring back values and development programmes that will encourage vocational education and skills acquisition.

“The government is trying to encourage people through the provision of capital to establish themselves in business. But we still have to go back and address the challenges facing our technical schools,” he submitted.

Source: GuardianNg

Building affordable homes in Peterborough

The claim was made by the Local Government Association in a report titled Understanding the Local Housing Market, which warns that many young people face renting into retirement as high rents hinder their ability to save.

It is a problem, which is why we work closely with housing associations and home builders to achieve a good mix of new housing in the city, including affordable homes to buy and rent.

In the past five years 5,328 new homes have been completed in Peterborough, with 1,074 of these affordable. Housing associations have provided an additional 150 homes for affordable ownership and rent, with a further 252 anticipated in the current financial year.

Only last week, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority approved funding of £1.2 million to acquire a 5.1 acre site in the north of the city for around 60 homes, with 30 per cent of these affordable.

The combined authority has also agreed funding of £735,000 to convert 21 new homes from open market sale to affordable rent at Belle Vue in Stanground. It’s the second site to be developed by Medesham Homes, the joint venture partnership between the council and Cross Keys Homes.

In May, the city council agreed to provide almost £6.2 million to Medesham Homes, funded from Right to Buy receipts, to deliver 35 new affordable homes at Eye Green.

These projects are all really encouraging and are part of a long term plan to deliver homes across the city for everyone, whether it’s for the private sector, social rent, shared ownership or private rental.

The city council has also invested £10 million for the purchase of homes off the open market for use as temporary accommodation for families who are homeless and awaiting permanent re-housing. So far we’ve purchased 51 properties and anticipate being able to buy a further eight.

Our city continues to grow faster than many other parts of the country with significant levels of growth and housing experienced in the past 10 years. There doesn’t seem to be any sign of this slowing down, so it’s important that our efforts to create new housing don’t either.

Last week I attended a reception at Parliament hosted by Brandon Lewis MP, along with the Mayor of Cambridgeshire James Palmer and businessman Rob Facer of Barnack Construction to support the campaign to dual the A47 between Peterborough and Lowestoft.

This road joins the city with the east coast and is of national strategic importance, linking the Midlands with Eastern seaports, and acts as an economic artery that runs through Peterborough.

At the meeting I made sure I represented Peterborough’s interests and explained that dualling the sections on our patch would bring huge benefits, reducing journey times and congestion and supporting our vision to see more local economic growth.

In further good news, the combined authority has agreed to include two Peterborough road schemes on its list of priorities. This list is then shared with the government for a decision on funding.

The two projects are access to the new university site on The Embankment and linking the A47 better with Eastern Industry, taking the pressure off Eye and Parnwell.

The city’s Safer Off the Streets partnership is celebrating this week after winning a regional award at the Britain and Ireland Awards, organised by Premier Christian Radio.

The partnership, which scooped the ‘Best Start-Up’ category, helps on average two rough sleepers to leave the streets a month since it began in October last year and has raised a whopping £8,000 for charity.

I know many of you, myself included, have donated money either online or via the contactless card reader in St Peter’s Arcade, the money goes towards the running of the Garden House in the cathedral grounds.

The Garden House is run by the Light Project Peterborough – which also won an award – and does a fantastic job of creating a welcoming environment for rough sleepers thanks to its kind-hearted volunteers.

Another of the scheme’s partners, Care Zone, which operates out of Kingsgate Community Church, also won an award at the ceremony, which is a great achievement.

I’d like to say a massive well done to all those involved in the Safer Off the Streets partnership and to the Light Project for their efforts.

Source: Peterborough today

California Just Added Baby Teeth to its Housing Laws

In January, not even a week into his new job, Gov. Gavin Newsom made a big, bold threat to cities that have stalled or shirked their responsibility to build enough housing to meet their community’s needs.

Don’t build housing? You won’t get state transportation dollars, the governor warned.

Six months later, Newsom is settling for a more incremental, but still necessary, change. The Legislature is expected to sign off this week on a bill that would allow a judge to impose steep fines — up to $600,000 a month — on cities that willfully flout the state’s “fair share” housing law, which requires that jurisdictions plan and zone for enough market-rate and affordable housing to meet population growth.

Note one big difference: Newsom originally wanted to hold cities responsible for actually producing enough housing to meet state goals. The compromise with the Legislature merely requires them to plan for enough housing.

This isn’t exactly the dramatic action on the state’s debilitating housing shortage that Newsom pitched. His original idea to withhold gas-tax-funded transportation dollars proved to be a nonstarter with legislators, who feared a public backlash, particularly after Californians voted to uphold the gas tax hike to pay for local road repairs and transit investments.

Cities, too, raised concerns about whether they could meet new homebuilding goals.

There are currently few consequences for local governments that fail to comply with the basic requirements of the state’s ‘fair share’ housing law.

The revised proposal offers what Newsom and legislative leaders describe as a carrot and-stick approach. The carrot is the promise of more money for jurisdictions that adopt “pro-housing” policies.

Those cities would have an advantage when applying for state grants, including for cap-and-trade dollars for transit-adjacent affordable housing and for funding for sidewalks, sewer lines and other infrastructure projects to support housing development.

The stick is the threat of steep fines for cities that repeatedly refuse to zone enough land to accommodate sufficient affordable and market-rate housing.

Yet those penalties could only be imposed after a lengthy process. The attorney general would have to file a lawsuit — as Newsom and Attorney General Xavier Becerra did earlier this year against the city of Huntington Beach.

Under the bill, if a judge agreed with the state, the city would have another year to come into compliance.

If the city still refused, it would face rising penalties that could reach $600,000 a month relatively quickly. Eventually, the judge could appoint someone to take over the zoning and land-use for the city.

The stick would fall only on cities that are the most obstinate. It is a necessary step because there are currently few consequences for local governments that fail to comply with the basic requirements of the “fair share” law.

This change, even if it won’t result in a flood of new homes getting built in the next few years, is an important step in a process of overhauling the state’s laws to require local governments to make room for more housing at all income levels. But it’s only one step.

There’s a lot more work needed to further tighten laws and to make sure they are enforced, so that it’s harder for elected officials to bend to NIMBY impulses to block reasonable housing projects.

The lack of housing, especially affordable housing, is driving an epidemic of homelessness. Even people who don’t become homeless often cannot afford to live in coastal urban areas, and have to move to far-flung suburbs and commute hours to where the jobs are, worsening traffic and air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Employers say high housing costs also hurt the state’s economy by making it hard to attract and retain skilled workers — a problem that has led some companies to relocate to states where their middle-class workers can afford to buy homes.

Newsom was right to think big on California’s housing crisis, which he called “an existential threat to our state’s future.”

The compromise bill before the Legislature is a worthwhile reform, but the governor needs to keep pushing for much more change if California going to finally end the housing shortage.

Source: Latimes

Access To Affordable Land a Dream Deferred

WALVIS BAY – Minister of Urban and Rural Development Peya Mushelenga says access to affordable serviced urban land and housing remains a key challenge.

He noted that government takes cognisance of the fact that many Namibians are still without land and decent shelter, hence the working around the clock to address the challenge.

Mushelenga was speaking at the official opening of the three-day high level consultative retreat organised by his ministry for governors, mayors and local authority chairpersons to address the challenges faced by stakeholders in terms of service delivery and the provision of affordable housing and land.

The minister said that access to affordable serviced land and housing is a global problem, especially in developing nations where the majority of the populations are not able to buy serviced urban land or houses due to high market prices.

“The ministry for this reason embarked on addressing these challenges through massive urban land servicing and mass housing development initiatives. However, these programmes call for the involvement of both the public and private sector,” he added.

Mushelenga said the government would continue providing budgetary support to regional councils and local authorities to service land and develop other basic services to keep up with the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) and national development targets.

“ I recognise the important role being played by community-based housing initiatives such as the Namibia Housing Action Group, Shack Dwellers Federation and other similar initiatives in complementing government efforts in financing and facilitating the construction of affordable housing for our low-income earners,” Mushelenga informed delegates.

He said the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development will continue to work with and support these community-based housing groups as they all complement government’s goal in providing affordable dignified housing to all Namibians.

Source: neweralive

How the Next British PM can help Solve the Housing Crisis

The Government’s commission on how to make new houses more beautiful – yes, that one – is set to publish its first report in the next few weeks. It no longer has a permanent Chair and it will be reporting to a different administration and a new prime minister, but its advice will be crucially important.
In order to get new homes built in areas where opposition is most vociferous – which tend to be the places new homes are needed most – the house-building industry needs to change. Monocultural housing estates, once labelled the “turkey twizzlers of architecture” by the philosopher Alain de Botton, are simply not what the public wants.

But there will be opposition. When the commission was first announced, a band of Z-list architects lined up to criticise ministers. Sam Jacob, who runs a small firm, said it was “a front for the continuing attack on progressive ideas about cities.”

He accused the government of “seek[ing] to enforce a singular, a-historical fantasy featuring a few fragments of architectural reference that appeal to blinkered, quasi-fascist old white men.”

The architectural critic Owen Hatherley, meanwhile, suggested that the government’s ideas were in hock to an “alt-right fringe”. The Evening Standard’s Robert Bevan completed the bingo card by comparing the commission to Hitler and the ideas of his architect Albert Speer.

This reaction was bizarre, not least because it completely missed the point of what the commission was set up to address – that architects are irrelevant to the building of almost all new housing in this country. Instead, we have homes that are designed by spreadsheet, with fewer than one in 10 new homes seeing the inside of an architectural studio.

The result is a country whose fields are being littered with identical boxes that are given labels in a feeble attempt to invent a sense of local tradition – The Townhouse, The Harrogate, The Copplestone – and a public which opposes new homes built anywhere near their own.

To build more houses, more beautifully, we have to look at why public policy makes it so easy to build ugly and soulless housing estates. The truth is house building is a highly-regulated industry over which the government has huge levels of control. There are lots of laws standing between providers and purchasers. Any tweak to the rulebook acts as a market signal and developers respond accordingly. So what are we getting wrong?

The short answer, as argued in today’s report published by Policy Exchange, is that the most significant part of this regulation, the planning system, is very weak at requiring new homes and places to look good.

Planning applicants have to produce survey after survey on issues like whether a site is host to Great Crested Newts or to any archaeological ruins, but when it comes to what a development will look and be like, planning policy is either imprecise or has nothing to say.

No one wants council officers to start designing homes, but setting more standards on what can be built in certain places will go some way to enabling the type of building the public might begin to support (or at least not oppose). Otherwise, developers will continue to be handed blank canvases which become, in effect, blank cheques as they build more cost-engineered boxes.

Next to Brexit, rewriting the planning framework might not seem the most urgent of challenges for the next prime minister. Yet the planning system – a vestige of post-War socialism that has little relevance to modern Britain – must be a priority for any incoming administration with any interest in solving the housing crisis.

Only by demanding beautiful building at the start of the planning process can we begin to address the ugliness of new housing estates. That’s the way to win public support and overcome Nimbyism.

Source: blogs

Housing Debacle: How Can Everyone Live Decently?

According to Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa (CAHFA), an affordable house may refer to a reasonably priced, decent home that costs less than 25 per cent of one’s monthly or annual income.

And a low-cost house-a single bedroom unit on less than 28 square metres can easily be described as a cheap and uncomfortable house. CAHFA’s annual book (2018) indicates that majority of Ugandans (about 60 per cent according to Uganda Bureau of Statistics) could be living in low-cost houses.

Muyenga and Namuwongo
I visited two neighbourhoods in Kampala which although they are on two extreme sides of financial stability, when compared side by side, paint a picture of the housing disparity in Uganda. Muyenga and Namuwongo are both located southeast of the central business district, Kampala.

Muyenga is regarded by many as an upscale area where some of the country’s well-to-do population resides while Namuwongo, even if it has some fairly good houses, is riddled with slum areas such as Soweto where most of the population barely makes a dollar a day.

Quality of housing
One of the distinct differences between these two places is the quality of housing. By just looking at Muyenga’s housing units, one can tell that they were designed with affluent customers in mind. In most parts of Namuwongo however, the biggest section of the people residing there cannot afford decent housing.

Their inability to afford decent housing comes with quite a number of challenges. Muhammed Mudasiri, a resident of Namuwongo, Soweto, narrates that one of the challenges he has had to deal with is flooding during the rainy season something he says ends up affecting his home.

“Sometimes rain water ends up in my house, other times a strong storm can end up removing the roof,” he narrates. Besides flooding, Mudasiri also says the area is infested with mosquitoes.
Despite Uganda having a total of six million households according to CAHFA, the housing challenge has continued to haunt Uganda whose housing deficit stands at 1.2 million units.

Policies in place
In trying to address this challenge, Dave Khayangayanga, the acting commissioner for human settlements, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Directorate of Housing, says the government has come up with two policies.

 

Apartments are increasingly becoming the preferred choice for the middle class in Uganda . Photo by Rachel Mabala

These, he says, include the National Housing Policy, 2016 and the national slum upgrade strategy.
“We have a national housing policy that was passed in 2016. Apart from that, we also have the Uganda National Slum upgrade strategy.
Both policies hint at affordable housing as the way to go since most Ugandans can’t afford high-end housing.

The emphasis in both policies includes how to use efficient and affordable housing when constructing houses,” Khayangayanga explains.
He explains that the policies are also aimed at creating an enabling environment for all players in the housing sector like real estate developers and banks among others.
Asked whether the policies put in place have been helpful, Khayangayanga says the policies put in place are aimed at achieving long term goals.

He says for such policies to work, government is looking forward to using a multi-sector approach.
“Our findings have shown that giving a person a house without addressing other issues affecting them like health or even education is useless since they would sell off the house to address these challenges.

Khayangayanga also says that despite government efforts to counter the housing challenge, there have been number of obstacles for instance, the ever-increasing construction costs.
In regard to enabling different players within the sector, he says government has ensured there is political stability and has also put in place an open door policy for real estate developers who would love to consult the Ministry when it comes to property development.

Persistent challenge
The ever-increasing cost of construction is one of the reasons some real estate developers point out when trying to explain why the affordable housing challenge has persisted over the years.
Mr Shem Sabiti Bageine, the managing director, Bageine & Company Limited, a real estate agency and consultancy firm says, increasing construction costs usually dictate whether a real estate developer will get returns or not.
He says that in this case, when construction costs are high, the end result is that the houses on the market are also likely to end up being expensive.

“The cost of housing construction depends on the type materials used. But the approximate cost of building a residential house may range between Shs950,000 per square meter to Shs1,900,000 per square metre,” he says.
Mr Bageine also explains that there are cases were the costs of construction can be low yet not beneficial to the developers. This, he says, usually comes as a result of extremely low-income levels of individuals within a country.
“Third world countries like Uganda usually have very low-income levels. This in most cases affects the real estate industry since buyers are likely to pay less than expected,” he says.

Tenure system
Intricate land tenure system, according to Mr Bageine, can also be a challenge since it creates an unsafe environment for real estate developers. He says some of the things developers look at before setting foot in the country is the legal system of land ownership and the availability of land for various developments.
“Any Real Estate developer would be worried on sensing that the market they are setting foot in or already set foot in has issues regarding its land tenure system that may not be favourable to their investment choices,” he says.

Way forward
Khayangayanga says one of paths the government has chosen is to create an enabling environment for private players like real estate developers. Bageine agrees with him saying that this can easily help when it comes to development of housing structures.
“I think real estate developers are key players when it comes to solving this issue. It therefore important to involve them and create an enabling environment,” he says.
However, one of the other ways this challenge can be countered according to Khayangayanga is improving the income levels of most Ugandans.
This, he says, can only be possible through a multi-sector approach when dealing with an issue like that.

Cost of BuildingAccording to Mr Bageine, the cost of housing construction depends on the type materials used.
But the approximate cost of building a residential house may range between Shs950,000 per square meter to Shs1,900,000 per square meter.

RENT COSTS AND LIVING CONDITIONS
Renting a one bedroom house in Muyenga costs at least Shs1million
A one bedroom house in Kireka-Bweyogerere costs between Shs350 and Shs 600,000.
In Soweto, Namuwongo, one room made out of mud and wattle or wood planks costs between Shs10, 000- Shs15, 000 a month.
These houses (in Soweto) do not come with toilets. For one to use a latrine, they must pay Shs500- Sh1, 000 a day.
Such areas usually also have hygiene challenges.
“Poor rubbish disposal is a challenge that we grapple with especially when the area floods,” says Martin Ojako, a resident in Namuwongo, Soweto.

Source: monitor

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