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America’s Housing Market is Competitive, Unequal, and Often Just getting by. Just like us.

The American housing market mirrors our society, the decisions we make, and the problems they leave us with, according to a report out Tuesday.

Inequality is widening as competition remains fierce for scant resources. Finding housing is getting harder for those of lesser means – and people of color – and maybe a tiny bit better for everyone else. And homeownership provides a bit of an economic edge – for those who can grab it.

Those are the takeaways from the annual report known as The State of the Nation’s Housing, produced every year by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

The report lives up to its weighty title, with 44 pages, dozens of charts and tables, and details on everything from the cost of land to the country of origin of recent immigrants. But the report’s most important data points are the ones that remind us, once again, that the way we create housing isn’t working for many Americans.

There aren’t enough homes to go around

Housing is tight. In 2018, the vacancy rate for owner-occupied homes was the lowest since 1995. The vacancy rate for renters matched 2016 for the lowest since 1985. (The combined rate was 4.4%, the lowest since 1994.)


More higher-income people are renting – the Harvard researchers say there were 311,000 more tenant households earning more than $75,000 in 2018 than the year before. That’s great for developers and landlords, but not so hot for households that need lower-cost rents.

As the researchers note, “The focus of new construction on higher-cost units has thus shifted the overall distribution of rents upward.” Over just one year, 2016-2017, the supply of newly-built homes renting for less than $800 fell by 1 million. And those units aren’t being replenished. In the first quarter of 2018, the researchers say, only 9% of apartments completed had asking rents below $1,050.

Of course, there haven’t been enough homes for renters or for owners in most income segments for several years. “The duration of today’s tight conditions is unprecedented,” the researchers said. It’s not just that there’s not building enough to keep up with population and household growth: there’s not even building enough to keep up with homes becoming obsolete. The Joint Center estimates that there was a shortfall of about 260,000 units in 2018, and that construction has barely kept pace with household growth for eight years. That tracks with other estimates of a housing shortfall in the millions.

The rent hasn’t gotten any damn cheaper

With those conditions in mind, it’s no wonder that more American renters are “cost-burdened.” As the chart below shows, one-fifth of households that rent are paying between 30% and 50% of their income on housing costs, while one-quarter are paying more than 50%.

But the burden is falling disproportionately on the poor: nearly three-quarters of renters with incomes of $15,000 or less are spending more than half their income on housing.

There are consequences for high rents

When rent is too high, it keeps younger people from becoming independent. Only 31% of 25-29-year-olds in the highest-cost metro areas formed their own households, compared to 41% in the lowest-cost areas.

It also leaves less money for other essentials. Severely cost-burdened renters were able to spend about one-fourth of the amount of non-burdened renters on health care, according to Joint Center estimates. Unburdened renters spent nearly three times as much on transportation, which also signals access to jobs.

Even worse, after a multi-year decline, homelessness rose in 2018 for the second year in a row. And the number of “unsheltered” homeless was up for the third straight year.

Homeowners have it made?

Homeowners have it a little easier than renters, the Harvard researchers conclude, at least in one sense. The share of owners who are cost-burdened keeps falling, and in 2018 hit its lowest level of the century. Also, the amount of equity Americans hold in their homes just keeps rising, along with home prices, providing nest eggs for children’s higher education, small business formation, retirement, and more.

That’s nice work if you can get it, but not everyone can. More areas of the country are increasingly unaffordable. Higher-cost homes mean bigger down payments must be saved – no easy feat when rents are so expensive – or a greater debt burden for those who choose to make small down payments.

Getting a mortgage and closing on a home remains a slog, although credit conditions have eased slightly from the post-crisis period. Some 68% of renters thought that it would be somewhat or very difficult to obtain a mortgage last year, the researchers report.

Among those who closed on a home in 2016, “significant numbers of respondents reported issues with the closing process. Fully 15% said that they faced an “unpleasant surprise” such as having the closing rescheduled, needing more cash than expected, having mortgage terms change, or being asked to sign blank documents.”

That’s an observation that’s uncomfortably reminiscent of the naughtiness that helped precipitate the housing crisis in the first place. One group of Americans probably doesn’t need that reminder. After taking a small step forward in 2017, the black homeownership rate fell again in 2018, and now stands at the lowest since 1995. Every other ethnic group gained in the past year.

Source: marketwatch

Land Reform in South Africa can be Smart Public Policy

Mahmood Mamdani’s recent article about land reform in South Africa correctly states the importance of righting historical wrongs and creating a vibrant economy that works for its population.

In contrast to what some writers have argued, including US President Donald Trump, the government of South Africa has not been seizing land from white farmers, nor is there a programme of genocide against the white farming community. But the article by Mamdani glosses over an important and complex issue, one that we have studied for the past 25 years.

Since the advent of colonisation, black South Africans have been subjected to discriminatory laws that dispossessed them of their property – without compensation – solely because of the colour of their skin. The intent was clear: landownership by the black population did not serve the economic interests of the ruling powers.

The 1913 Native Lands Act was the codification of land theft that started in 1657 when the first “free burgher”, Jan Hendrik Boom, began farming a plot of land previously used for grazing by the indigenous KhoiKhoi population.

The act further established a policy of forced removals that prevented the emergence of a class of black landowners who had been able to successfully compete with those who were white.

The policy worked, and the economic successes of emergent black smallholders were stifled. The later racism that typified apartheid’s consolidation of these laws, with the introduction of the Group Areas Act of 1950, further entrenched the gross inequalities in wealth triggered by the expropriation of land and resettlement of black South Africans.

By the 1980s, between seven to eight-million black people were displaced as a result. It is hard to overstate the social and economic damage and deep psychological scars left in the wake of this destruction.

The South Africa that was inherited by the democratically elected government of Nelson Mandela in 1994 had become a nation of deep economic inequality borne from decades of systemic discrimination.

A nationally representative survey in 1993/1994 showed that some 40% of South Africa’s black populations were desperately poor by any measure. The equivalent figure for the white population, which on average enjoyed a standard of living equivalent to a developed European country, hovered near zero. As with Mandela, black South Africans faced a long walk to economic freedom.

Nelson Mandela’s successor Thabo Mbeki hearkened back to Rosa Parks’ brave refusal to go to the back of the bus in 1955 Montgomery Alabama when he worried that the South African economy operated like a double-decker bus with no stairwell between the lower and upper levels.

Those born on the bottom level had no avenue of mobility to the top. Our own research conducted in the first decade of South African’s political transition confirmed this to be true. We found that families who had fallen too far into poverty had no chance of getting out even in the post-apartheid South African economy. Repeated shocks drove them back into poverty even as they were just getting ahead.

The South African government began to cautiously pursue policies designed to rectify the taking of land in the past by creating mechanisms to peacefully transfer land to poor and disposed families to give them a viable new start. The Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994 was the first piece of legislation passed by the new democratically elected government.

Land reform and redistribution, once upon a time the poster-child rural intervention in developing countries, is a complex business. Land rights are complex, especially in a country in which traditional rights under communal tenure intersect with those of private property. But international evidence shows that redistribution can be a powerful force for change when done right.

Over the last decade, we have studied one such program in South Africa that had starkly positive effects. The Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development Programme involved the voluntary sale of land from wealthy white landowners to poor black farmers who required more land to farm. Government co-investment grants allowed rural farmers to buy land and create a viable foundation for their own economic advancement.

In a study we learned that this programme raised the living standards of poor families by almost 50% during just a few years. Impacts of this magnitude took place because the transfer positioned families where they could learn, co-invest and do better with the resources and opportunities they had. Land redistribution can work for individuals and a nation.

Not surprisingly, this kind of programme has much more bang for the buck than money invested in programs that transfer only cash. Per-government dollar spent, land reform generated six times more long-term poverty reduction than welfare programmes. While it is not an adequate instrument to address all facets of South Africa’s poverty and inequality, this shows that land reform can be smart public policy.

While the best way to implement redistribution of wealth and assets is a difficult and politically charged question, our past research shows that moving the land reform agenda forward can generate a triple win: rectifying historical wrongs, cost-effectively reducing poverty and spawning broadly based economic growth.

However, Mamdani does not go far enough in his proposed triple reform. Much more will be needed, including a redistribution of commercial farmland and broad-based access to urban land for housing.

Source: dailymaverick

Real Estate Projects Changing Nigeria’s Landscape

When it comes to real estate projects in Nigeria, pundits within the property space are optimistic that 2019 will experience a major boost in africa’s largest populous nation.

Nigeria’s economic growth slowed in the first quarter after the oil sector, the country’s biggest foreign-exchange earner, contracted.

Gross domestic product in Africa’s largest oil producer expanded by 2.01% in the three months through March from a year earlier, the Abuja-based National Bureau of Statistics said in a report published on its website last month.

The position of most experts is that with a visibly improved economy, the Nigerian property market will be on the path of witnessing a rebound from the uncertainties that plagued the sector in 2018.

Here are some of the real estate projects changing Nigeria’s landscape.

Eko Atlantic City

Pitched as Africa’s answer to Dubai, Eko Atlantic is a multibillion dollar residential and business development that is located as an appendage to Victoria Island, and along the renowned Bar Beach shoreline in Lagos.

When completed, it is projected to accommodate nothing less than 250,000 residents. It stands on 10 million square miles of land and is expected to have a daily flow of 150,000 commuters.

Some of the major players in this massive construction project are the Lagos State, South Energyx Nigeria Limited, city planners, developers, 17 expatriates firms and over 500 Nigerians firms.

The Eko Atlantic City Project was conceived as a planned city, which is being constructed on reclaimed land from the Atlantic Ocean.

One of the biggest problems the ongoing construction has helped resolved is the ocean surge and flooding at the Ahmadu Bello axis of the island in Lagos, which had the potential to wipe out hundreds of homes and businesses within the location.

The vast number of commercial and residential properties in Eko Atlantic City will help in easing the problem of overloaded infrastructure that the island is known for.

Oworonshoki Lagoon Reclamation Project

The Oworonshoki Lagoon Reclamation Project is designed to transform this decaying part of Lagos into a focal point of major tourism, transportation and entertainment hubs within Lagos State.

It’s one of the popular real estate projects in Lagos and it is not a housing scheme. Rather, it constitutes part of the bigger picture to position Lagos as one of Africa’s entertainment hubs.

To ensure the success of this project, 30 hectares of land space has been reclaimed out of the 50 planned for the scheme.

Upon completion, the Oworonshoki Lagoon Reclamation Project is expected to bring an end to the perennial flooding in the area. It would also accommodate hotels, event centres, cinemas, clubs, bars, a bus/ferry terminal, parking space with capacity for about 1,000 vehicles and other top-notch attractions.

Mass Housing Project by the Federal Government

To tackle the housing deficit in Nigeria, the Federal Government of Nigeria has wrapped up plans to increase housing supply by initiating mass real estate projects across 33 states of the country.

The project, under its National Housing Programme (NHP), is expected to engage over 650 contractors to deliver 2,736 units while employing 54,680 people in the process.

Collaboration Between Lagos State and NMRC

The Lagos State government Lagos State has partnered with the Nigerian Mortgage Refinancing Company (NMRC) and private developers to deliver 20,000 housing units.

Lagos State Partners Echostone Development

The Lagos State government entered into a strategic alliance with Echostone Development, a building construction firm, to deliver 2,000 housing units in three locations across the state.

According to the agreement, Echostone is expected to deploy a new technology that will facilitate the construction of the houses while the state government will provide equity in terms of land and others.

The 2,000 housing units will consist of 2-bedroom terrace bungalows in 3 locations; starting with 250 units at Idale in Badagry. The construction train would then move to Ayobo in Alimosho and eventually cruise into Imota in Ikorodu for the development of the housing units.

The bigger picture here for the Lagos State Government is to deliver 20,000 housing units within a 4-year period through the Lagos affordable Public Housing Initiative (LAPH).

Royal Residence Estate

This real estate development project is powered by Obika Realtors in Eluju town within the Ibeju Lekki axis of Lagos. Some of the facilities already set up in the estate are the inner roads into the well mapped out plots, perimeter fencing of the 10-acre land, central gates and grading of the main link road to the estate from the Lekki-Epe expressway.

The first phase of the development covers 54 plots and over 80 percent of them have already been subscribed to.

The company is currently on the verge of embarking on the second phase of the scheme.


The country has an estimated $360 billion required to solve the national housing deficit. In Lagos State alone, the housing deficit is put in excess of 3 million units and will require approximately N8 trillion to resolve at $10,000 per unit.

Source: africapropertynews

Why you Need to Add Real Estate to Your Investment Portfolio

We all, to some extent, recognize the potential financial benefits we could get from real estate investing. It goes without saying that there are many benefits of investing in real estate that outweigh the costs, and you as an investor stand to enjoy a steady flow of income to secure financial freedom for the long haul.

Real estate has proven to be one of two major investment spikes to wealth growth, the other being financial market. The key to investment success is spreading your investment over a range of assets and this is what smart investors do. Creating a balanced portfolio means you are spreading your money across various asset classes: stocks, bonds, and real estate.

This year holds prospects for investors given the fact that the property market registered a positive growth of 0.93 percent in the first quarter of the current year, after 12-quarter contraction and the momentum is expected to be sustained as the broader economy continues to pick up.

Here are some benefits associated with real estate investing when you add the asset class to your portfolio.

Portfolio Diversification

Have you spoken to a financial planner about investing? If yes, then you must have been told about the importance of diversification.

When you diversify your portfolio, you are spreading out the risk. Real estate serves as safe tangible assets to minimize risk in your portfolio. This holds true because real estate reacts differently to economic conditions compared with equities and bonds.

Risk never disappears in the capital market and there are numerous factors beyond your control that can negatively impact on your investment but real estate gives you more control of your investment because your property is a tangible asset.

Value Appreciation

The secret to success in real estate is investing at the right time in the right location. If you’re aiming for both short and long-term gains in your investment portfolio, then real estate should be thrown in. One major benefit of real estate investing is the appreciation of capital assets (land) overtime. In other words, your property’s value will worth way more than 30 years now.

Steady Income

This is no brainer. Smart investors diversify to real estate for the steady flow of cash they earn in the form of rental income. Depending on the location, you could be earning significant income to cover your expenses, with extra income in your pocket. Urban centers tend to reap higher income because demand is high in those areas.

If chosen wisely, you can secure a steady income flow for a long time, and even save for retirement. And you do not have to stop investing in one property a time; you can increase the pace and invest in multiple properties, to increase your positive cash flows.

Long-term financial security

One of the big rewards of diversifying your portfolio to real estate is financial security in the long haul. Owning a property gives investors a sense of security because of the property’s appreciation in value overtime. This means your property’s value will most likely increase because land and building are appreciating asset.

With this, you have peace of mind that you have enough money saved to meet emergencies and future financial goals.

Hedge against inflation

An inflation hedge means you are investing in an asset expected to maintain or increase its value over a specified period of time. This is why inflation is considered a hedge against inflation since property value tends to increase in times of inflation.

Real estate investors embrace inflation because as the cost of living increases, so also their cash flows. It is an appreciative long-term investment with inflation-adjusted rental income.

By investing across different asset classes over long periods of time, you increase the likelihood of achieving your long-term investment targets. While having other asset classes in your portfolio is a smart move, but real estate has proven again and again that it is superior to other investment classes, and it is advisable you include it in your portfolio.

Source: BusinessdayNg

A re-mapping of Nigeria through rail

On 17th May, 2019, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation, on behalf of the Federal Government, issued an award for a $3.9billion contract to link Abuja (Idu) with the Itakpe-Warri rail line.  The facility would terminate at the Warri Sea Port. The contract scope includes the construction of a new deep sea port in Warri, and is scheduled to be completed in 2024. You will forgive Nigerians if they are unable to appreciate the revolutionary significance of this step: they have heard innumerable pronouncements by politicians in government that ended up as a pipe dream.

If you recall that similar public cynicism greeted and trailed the first ground-breaking step in rail transport infrastructure by Mr. Amaechi a few years ago, specifically with respect to the award of the double track, standard gauge Lagos-Ibadan sector of the Lagos-Kano rail initiative, you will understand perhaps, why this audacious Abuja-Itapke-Warri standard gauge contract award is drawing everything but public celebrations.

When he announced the award in 2016, as he did in this recent pronouncement, there were actually public jeer and cynical dismissal of the administration’s ploy to ‘spend its way out of recession.’

Three years on, we’re now in the completion stages of the 156.5km contract. This would be the first administration in Nigeria that began a rail project from conception to the finish line. What am I driving at? I’m not a politician, neither a media publicist. I have been closely associated with the current work to overhaul and transform the railway infrastructure in Nigeria.

I am a banker and have been involved with the China Railways Construction Company International (CRCC), one of the companies involved in the overall processes for the delivery of this key infrastructure. In the past three years I have been involved in several travels both to China and elsewhere in respect of the concerted push by all the parties to deliver on this fundamental infrastructure requirement.

I have also toured sites and have been part of the evaluation and bid preparation visits, contract negotiations and several technical and financial features of the project design. As it relates to the development of the railway sector, something that struck me in all these is Mr. Amaechi’s remarkable performance in the negotiations. He pushed the Chinese to accept critical add-ons to the main project at little or no escalation of cost outlay.

For instance, the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri railway Standard Gauge project, which was commenced over 30 years ago and only completed by this administration in 2018, evidently bolstered the Minister to offer the Chinese further contract to extend the rail lines at both ends, stretching its northern end to Abuja and its southern end terminating at the Warri port. He pushed for an add-on facility that amounted to building a new deep sea port in Warri.

Mindful that the standard gauge Lagos-Ibadan-Kano stretch of the railway infrastructure is almost through and dusted, it would be understandable why Mr. Amaechi was leaving nothing to chance to put the twin infrastructure base of the Abuja-Itakpe-Warri and a deep sea port as the next necessary thing. To ensure that the expanding railway infrastructure base for which this administration wants to deploy in re-mapping Nigeria’s economic landscape is on track Mr. Amaechi actually tied this with a concept for a feeder university education and research facility serving the technical and manpower needs of the sector. So named the Transport University, the faculties will be dedicated to railway engineering and research and there is ongoing consultations between Amaechi’s team and the Chinese officials which expectedly would culminate in the signing of an MOU between both countries.

Railway technology is considered unique and special requiring more than general engineering acumen to deliver operational consistency and expertise, something the Chinese have become very adept at and for which Nigeria stands to benefit from on account of this partnership. The partnership which places the obligation on the Chinese government to award scholarships to 100 Nigerians to study Railway Engineering to post graduate level in China in the interim will be part of the preparatory ground for the overhaul of the railway sector in Nigeria. Whilst the foregoing vision is steadily unfolding, the Minister was busy vigorously expanding on it.

His team has been quietly working with the Chinese company manufacturing locomotives to set up an assembly plant in Nigeria not only for the needs of the rapidly deepening railway transport ecosystem in Nigeria but as an African market hub to serve the rest of the sub Saharan territory. The driving vision, which one cannot but commend, is to have Nigeria develop the capacity to be able to construct its own rail line in no distance future.

Essentially, the re-mapping of Nigeria through rail is an ambitious work to re-cast the country in the matrix of an economic power connecting commercial hubs, agrarian territories, manufacturing zones as well as innovation hubs in Nigeria seamlessly through rail. It is a vision that already sees Nigeria flourishing with multiple deep sea ports across the massive stretch of shorelines running from the Bight of Benin to Lagos and connected seamlessly by railways across other territories of economic activities in the hinterland and further into the north.

In summary, this article celebrates the vision as well as the arduous work going on to give Nigeria a fresh start with rail infrastructure. The Lagos-Kano standard gauge rail takes care of a vital artery in this design and is currently nearing the finish line. The Abuja-Itakpe-Warri standard gauge line is on course with add-ons that make a further economic statement such as new Warri deep sea port, University of Transport. There’s also the rehabilitation of the narrow gauge lines such as the Port Harcourt-Enugu-Maiduguri lines. Although no major push has been given to the previously mooted 1,402km rail infrastructure from Lagos-Benin-Port Harcourt-Calabar rail line but it goes to highlight what the future holds with this team on the saddle.

Source: Daily Trust

On Rent Subsidies and Affordable Housing

Both Sen. Cory Booker and the Journal overlook the most direct public response to the affordable-housing crisis—the government building more rental units.

Regarding your editorial “Cory Booker Wants to Pay Your Rent” (June 13): Both Sen. Cory Booker and the Journal overlook the most direct public response to the affordable-housing crisis—have the government build more rental units. Dramatic failures like Pruitt-Igoe have given public housing a bad reputation in the U.S., yet overseas successes including Sweden and Singapore’s housing programs show what can be accomplished by the direct construction of new housing by the public sector to alleviate a housing crisis.

A key difference between the U.S. and public-housing efforts in Sweden and Singapore is that public housing there has been open to all residents, leading to mixed-income neighborhoods instead of impoverished ghettos. In both countries renters have long had the option of buying their flats, becoming homeowners. These residential projects also included various on-site services from retail to day care.

Many will cry “socialism,” but both Sweden and Singapore have thriving market-economies that rank high in the Heritage Foundation’s 2019 Index of Economic Freedom: Sweden is No. 19, while Singapore is No. 2, just behind Hong Kong at No. 1, a city-state that also has an impressive public-housing program.

These overseas public-housing case studies are not without issues—but just as Hong Kong’s MTR runs trains much better than New York’s MTA—these examples show how mass affordable housing can be built and run well by the public sector.

Benjamin Turon

Sen. Booker’s affordable-housing plan is a good start. I would go further. I would provide either a tax break or preferably a housing allowance to everyone who cannot afford market rent with 20%-25% of their income. That was the standard for federal housing programs until David Stockman’s Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.

How can our wealthy country do nothing when over half a million were homeless on a given night in 2018? Why should we provide housing assistance by lottery allocation? We don’t do that for health care or food assistance. How can we do nothing when middle-income families cannot find a place to live within a reasonable commute to work?

In Scotland, affordable housing is a human right. The city of Vienna provides decent housing for every resident. In Singapore, 82% of the population lives in high-quality public housing with amenities.

A few amendments to President Nixon’s Section 8 program could make housing available to everyone who needs assistance, while stimulating the economy, saving on the costs of homeless shelters and more. Safeguards could limit rents, and good regulations would set standards. The Section 8 program was most effective when Carla Hills was HUD Secretary in the Ford Administration.

Source: wsj

Here’s the Salary you’ll need if you want to Afford a Mortgage in 17 major US Cities

  • Monthly mortgage payments in the US increased twice as much as incomes did from 2017 to 2019, according to the home-ownership-investment company Unison’s 2019 Home Affordability Report.
  • The report takes a look at how much homeowners need to make each year in order to afford the median monthly mortgage payments in major US cities.
  • The report’s findings are based on homebuyers who spend 30% or less of their gross income on monthly payments.
  • Of the 35 cities the report ranked, we looked at the 17 cities where homeowners need to make the highest income to afford their mortgages.

Saving up for a down payment is only part of the hurdle between homeownership and potential homeowners.

Unison’s 2019 Home Affordability Report found that since mortgage interest rates rose from 3.99 to 4.54%, monthly mortgage payments across major US cities have increased twice as much as incomes.

The report broke down how much homeowners need to make in 35 US cities in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payments. From that list, we looked at the 17 US cities where homeowners have to make the highest income to afford mortgages.

The report’s findings are based on homebuyers who spend 30% or less of their gross income on monthly payments. The report assumes a 20% down payment, as well as a 4.54% mortgage interest rate on 2018 data and a 3.99% mortgage interest rate on 2017 data, the average annual Freddie Mac 30-year fixed rates. Data on median household incomes and median value of owner-occupied housing units were provided to Unisonby S&P Global.

Keep reading to see the 17 US cities where homeowners need the highest income to afford the median mortgage.

17. Las Vegas

In Las Vegas, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $1,150, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $45,998.

The average price of a home in Las Vegas is $234,832.

16. Minneapolis

In Minneapolis, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $1,228, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $49,122.

The average price of a home in Minneapolis is $250,779.

15. Chicago

In Chicago, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $1,276, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $51,031.

The average price of a home in Chicago is $260,526.

14. Atlanta

In Atlanta, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $1,357, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $54,266.

The average price of a home in Atlanta is $277,041.

13. Salt Lake City

In Salt Lake City, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $1,431, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $57,248.

The average price of a home in Salt Lake City is $292,263.

12. Miami

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In Miami, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $1,541, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $61,634.

The average price of a home in Miami is $314,657.

11. Denver

In Denver, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $1,725, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $68,983.

The average price of a home in Denver is $352,172.

10. Portland, Oregon

Nadia Yong/Shutterstock

In Portland, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $1,853, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $74,137.

The average price of a home in Portland is $378,483.

9. Boston

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

In Boston, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $2,384, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $95,344.

The average price of a home in Boston is $486,752.

8. New York City


In New York City, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $2,733, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $109,313.

The average price of a home in New York City is $558,065.

7. Washington, D.C.

Orhan Cam/Shutterstock

In Washington, D.C., in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $2,803, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $112,106.

The average price of a home in Washington, D.C., is $572,324.

6. Seattle


In Seattle, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $2,855, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $114,217.

The average price of a home in Seattle is $583,100.

5. San Diego

Steve Heap/Shutterstock

In San Diego, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $2,916, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $116,652.

The average price of a home in San Diego is $595,533.

4. Los Angeles

Let Go Media/Shutterstock

In Los Angeles, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $3,048, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $121,939.

The average price of a home in Los Angeles is $622,523.

3. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii

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In Urban Honolulu, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $3,514, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $140,555.

The average price of a home in Urban Honolulu is $717,564.

2. San Jose, California

Getty Images

In San Jose, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $3,817, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $152,697.

The average price of a home in San Jose is $779,549.

1. San Francisco


In San Francisco, in order to afford the city’s median monthly mortgage payment of $5,052, homeowners must earn a minimum annual income of $202,094.

The average price of a home in San Francisco is $1,032,732.

Source: businessinsider

Housing PPPs can help fight Poverty

Elliot Ziwira Senior Writer
“We can start with housing, the sturdiest of footholds for economic mobility. A national affordable housing programme would be an anti-poverty effort, human capital investment, community improvement plan, and public health initiative all rolled into one,” so reasons sociologist Matthew Desmond.

As a basic need, housing is a necessity which is recognised as a basic human right. Housing is considered one of the effective indicators of the extent to which poverty has been eradicated in any country (Martin et al 2015).

A man’s worth is determined by the way he treats his family and that includes provision of a roof over their heads; a roof that they can inherit and call their own. Hunger, ruggedness, metaphorical and literal nakedness may be debilitating for any man in his effort to keep his family satiated, but if he is to be a father and husband, he has to provide reliable shelter for his wife and children.

It is this desire to provide the family with decent accommodation that exposes many a responsible father to fly-by-night land developers. Often the promises and conditions for payment are tempting, but the heart-rending stories that come with such temptations are many.

True, as Desmond points out, there is no poverty that beats the poverty of homelessness, which is why Government’s commitment to provide affordable housing for its workers through its signing of a Memorandum of Agreement with National Building Society (NBS) to roll out a $60 million housing facility for them early this year touches our hearts.

It is a noble move which speaks to the needs of its close to 500 000 workers in more than monetary terms.
The catch is that if whatever may be put on the table with regards to remuneration does not translate to provision of homely homes, then it is void.

For years the civil service has been a hotbed of unrest mainly because of remuneration, which to workers falls below expectations and places them in the bracket of poverty; and to the Government is a tricky situation since the national cake has remained the same, or even shrunk.

It is imperative to decipher that the issue of housing is a thorny one the world over, and for Government — a major employer — to cater for all its employees, takes more than money since it cannot be done at one go.

Yes, $60 million may appear insignificant if it is read in relation to its labour force, but there should always be a starting point, a willingness to work towards the provision of shelter. As a revolving fund the money will go a long way in addressing non-monetary issues that come with remuneration of workers.

Private companies, local authorities and other institutions in Zimbabwe have always had housing facilities for their employees across ranks. In Glen Norah A, for example, where I grew up, sections are either known through beerhalls or company allocated houses. One talks of Chitubu, Spaceman or Zvimba, which are beerhalls or kumalines eMetal Box (the company my father worked for), PTC (Posts and Telecommunications Corporation) houses, Rothmans, CAPS, SISK and so forth. There were also council houses.

Recently, the Harare City Council allocated 305 stands to its employees to offset salary arrears, having reportedly promised 4 150 of them residential stands in lieu of salaries way back in 2016. While this, indeed, is a noble gesture, one wonders how an employee who has gone for months without getting his dues, would be able to construct a house.

The temptation to sell the stand to satisfy immediate needs may be overwhelming, and one may be forgiven for that. An ideal situation would be building low-cost houses for the employees, so that they would have something to fall back on in the event of incapacitation; and in the event of death their families would also have a starting point — shelter.

In Glen View there are houses for wedded couples (Dzimba dzemuchato) provided through the city council. The idea was and remains the welfare of workers, which goes beyond salaries. Salaries were never adequate, because our parents could not afford colour television sets, refrigerators, cars, or any other consumer goods in vogue today, but they had houses in their names bought through company-supported mortgages. They really were not poor because they were and still are proud homeowners.

The issue of salaries becomes secondary if workers get affordable housing, for poverty begins from lack of a reliable roof over their heads. The Poverty Datum Line that citizens always use as a yardstick factors in housing.

Since Independence in 1980 the Government has been forthcoming in the provision of housing facilities, especially for low-income earners. Between 1984 and 1993 the World Bank provided a $43 million Urban Development Loan to Zimbabwe, which was aimed at easing pressures that come with urbanisation as the country transited to self-rule.

The project proved that public-private partnerships work as the building societies involved, chief among them the Central Africa Building Society (CABS), delivered through coming up with favourable conditions for low-income earners with the support of the central bank.

There are houses and flats in Highfield, Mufakose, Mbare, Belvedere, Mabvuku, Mabelreign and other areas across the country that were built through Government support for civil servants. It is not possible that all of them can get houses at the same time, but what is required is continuity.

Across the country there are Government- owned houses that civil servants occupy during their tenures free of charge. The flipside, though, has always been that upon retirement, death or otherwise loss of employment one’s family soon finds itself on the road to nowhere again.

There is need to understand that low-income earners in most cases cannot punch above their weight. Therefore, stringent conditions that ask them to pay 10 percent of the total cost upfront, and punitive monthly mortgage repayments, as is the case in some cases push them out of facilities meant for them.

As a result, undeserving people, who may already have houses cash in at their expense. We have witnessed how corruption has robbed the needy of their pie, which has a way of shifting from their laps to the air.

The fact that the Government has partnered NBS ensures both continuity, transparency and accountability. Many other public-private partnerships (PPPs) can be sought, because provision of housing cannot be the burden of Government alone. Private players, with Government support, can get opportunities in the construction sector, a case of profitable social responsibility. What should be guarded against is profiteering at the expense of the same people they purport to be helping.

Since land is finite and a bone of contention globally, it has to be utilised effectively, for the benefit of future generations. High-rise flats are the way to go, although in some cases they may be costly as compared to building low-cost 50 square metre houses on 200 or 250 square metre lots, considered socially acceptable.

But when the cost of land is factored in, then high-rise flats suffice. Growth points can also be revisited since they provide serene environments for retirement and reduce pressure on urban areas, which is causing headaches for town planners.

Furthermore, comparatively, land in rural areas is cheaper, which will go a long way in the Government’s quest to provide shelter for its employees; and other partners can also take a cue from this. Granted, monetary benefits may be attractive for the here and now, but “we can start with housing, the sturdiest of footholds for economic mobility”, because “it is hard to argue that housing is not a fundamental human need”.

It is beyond argument that “decent, affordable housing should be a basic right for everybody”, because “without stable shelter, everything else falls apart” (Matthew Desmond). Therefore, companies, banks and local authorities should complement Government efforts in the provision of affordable housing units, as a progressive way of eradicating poverty, as enshrined in our Vision 2030.

Source: herald

Why South Africa Can’t Avoid Land Reforms

In 1996, while I was teaching at the University of Cape Town, I was invited by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be an in-house critic at a town hall it had organized. A member of the largely black African audience told this story:

“Tom and John were neighbors. One day Tom stole John’s bicycle. They did not speak for years until the day Tom extended his hand to John and said, ‘Let us reconcile.’

“‘What about my bicycle?’ John asked.

“‘Forget the bicycle,’ Tom said. ‘Let it not stand between us.’”

John’s question has now turned into a growing social movement. Students and labor movements in South Africa are leading a mobilization of transformative potential by focusing on the land question to address the social and economic legacy of apartheid in the country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was re-elected in May, conveyed his awareness of the challenge during his inauguration speech, saying that the country “can no longer abide the grave disparities of wealth and opportunity that have defined our past and which threaten to imperil our future.”

The African National Congress won the May elections but with the lowest share of votes since the end of apartheid in 1994, illustrating its failure to address these disparities. The Economic Freedom Fighters, a far-left populist party that has been pushing for the nationalization of land, banks and mineral rights, got the votes A.N.C. lost.

South African apartheid borrowed key institutions from its North American predecessor. The Natives Land Act of 1913 appropriated 87 percent of all arable land for the whites and left a mere 13 percent for the black majority, who were herded into separate ethnic homelands. The American “reservation” became the South African “reserve” whose native inhabitants were governed by an ethnically coded patriarchal “customary” law enforced by state-appointed “traditional chiefs.”

After 1913, in rural reserves, black people were deprived of the right to buy or sell land; they could occupy and use land only with the consent of a government-appointed traditional chief. In 1923, black people in urban areas were deprived of freehold property rights.

After the Afrikaner National Party won the whites-only elections in 1948, it introduced formal apartheid. It ensured white hegemony by keeping black South Africans away from the urban-industrial economy by restricting their movement into cities, forcing back those who had left the reserves through mass removals and restoring autonomous tribal authorities in the reserves, charged with disciplining and containing its black population. The reserves were renamed Bantustans, the ethnic homeland areas for various tribal groupings.

At the end of apartheid in 1994, 60,000 white farmers held 86 percent of all farmland. Thirteen million blacks, many of whose forebears had been dispossessed in 1913, held the remaining 14 percent, much of it poor-quality land.

Post-apartheid South Africa was marked by two glaring birthmarks: racialized inequality in urban areas and tribalized despotism in Bantustans. President Nelson Mandela and the A.N.C. promised to transfer 30 percent of agricultural land from white to black hands by 1999, securing their ownership rights through tenure reform, and to reform the power structure in the former Bantustans.

But it has failed to do either meaningfully. Instead of being democratized, chiefship was rationalized as native “custom.” In the new South Africa, nonracial democracy in urban areas coexists with ethnicized despotism ensuring chiefly control over land in rural areas.

A mere 8 percent of land was transferred from white to black hands over 24 years. The budget for land reform was pitiful — less than 1 percent of the national budget. The “Willing Buyer, Willing Seller” market-based reform, under which government bought large tracts of land from white farmers to sell pieces to landless applicants, allowed white farmers to drive up the price of land. And many whites weren’t willing to sell.

The demand for land is increasingly urban in South Africa. In the post-apartheid South Africa, a third of the population lives in predominantly rural former Bantustans, another third in urban areas that comprise both affluent suburbs and impoverished townships, and the remaining third in informal shanties around formal townships.

Out of South Africa’s 58 million people, over 27 million are without proper housing, living in matchbox houses built by the A.N.C. government, slum-type shacks, on farms belonging to others and in impoverished communal areas in former Bantustans, according to an estimate by Ben Cousins, a researcher at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies.

How land is utilized and by whom has direct bearing on growing unemployment, which at the current rate of 27 percent is the premier economic and social issue in South Africa.

The post-1994 land reform program has been a dismal failure. And that failure and growing dissatisfaction have led to an intense debate on land reform, forcing the A.N.C. to introduce a bill in the parliament last year to carry out expropriation of land without compensation, which is yet to be debated.

The “Willing Buyer, Willing Seller” formula is defended by the Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, a post-1994 liberal coalition of whites and the newly rich black middle class, which stands for an unqualified defense of the right of private property.

The Economic Freedom Fighters Party, which pressures the ruling African National Congress to address economic inequality and land reform, shown rallying before the national election in May. CreditThemba Hadebe/Associated Press

In 1996, Nelson Mandela signed into law the new Constitution of South Africa, Article 25 of which deals with land and property rights. It prohibits “arbitrary deprivation of property” but allows expropriation of land for “public interest” after “just and equitable” compensation.

Part of the debate focuses on whether the country needs a constitutional amendment to the sections dealing with land and property rights. Many in the A.N.C. say no, since Article 25 allows for appropriation without compensation where public interest is concerned. Skeptics argue that the clause will not deter endless litigation in courts. The Economic Freedom Fighters are calling for nationalization of all rural land without compensation.

On May 16, Mr. Ramaphosa assured foreign investors at an event organized by Goldman Sachs and the Eskom public utility that there will be no land grabs and that land reform and expropriation without compensation would take place in an orderly manner.

South Africa needs a triple reform to have an even chance of dismantling the social legacy of apartheid: a land reform that passes control over communal areas from traditional chiefs to the present tillers of the land in rural areas, allows the urban poor to produce food and graze livestock in municipal commons, and provides land for housing for the millions in informal settlements.

Without land reform, the A.N.C. and Mr. Ramaphosa will fail to lift a majority of the black people from abysmal poverty and will fail in ending social apartheid. Few doubt that the specter of Zimbabwe plagues South Africa’s political leaders. In the absence of a credible response to the land question, the A.N.C.’s fear of populism and demagogy is likely to come true.

Source: nytimes

Sam Amadi: Power sector privatisation was designed to fail

Sam Amadi, former chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), says the privatisation of the power sector was designed to fail.

In a series of tweets, Amadi said the privatisation process could not produce the desired results because the power assets were sold to investors who lacked the financial and technical capacity.

The sector was privatised after the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in November 2013, as private investors took over distribution and generation firms “to ensure adequate, regular and stable supply of electricity to the consumer at a reasonable cost”.

“The power sector was designed to fail. We failed to corporatise and commercialize before privatizing; we privatize senselessly without paying attention to context and corporate governance and regulatory regime; we sold to investors who lacked capacity,” he said.

“We had conducted three tariff hike before December 2015. Did any of these hikes resulting in any significant improvement in revenue or service quality? No. Why because the problem of the sector is not mainly tariff.”

Amadi argued that the challenges in the sector go beyond tariff increase, as such move would force manufacturers off the grid.

“Cost reflective is important. but excessive tariff hike is problematic because it cannot be collected and in a country with poor supply the propensity to pay is low,” he said.

“When NERC conducted “Fit and Proper’ test on all the preferred bidders, only one (or none) has the requisite financial and technical competence to effectively manage the network. I took the report to the VEEPEE to argue that none of these firms are fit. VEEPEE was alarmed and set up a committee with BPE, MOP and NERC.

“We later discovered that BPE amended the TOR to reduce the threshold or financial and technical capabilities. The World Bank doubted that we could sell the discos. We surprised the World Bank and we rejoiced but we did not know we sold to ‘straw-men’.

“The meeting called against me by Minister and DG BPE that I was against privatization because at the villa I advised the DG BPE that so much faith in haste privatization is not justified by theory and practice, I hate to say I have been proved right.”

Source: The Cable

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