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Surveyor General ascribes his successful tenure to Buhari

Perhaps his background has a lot to explain his unprecedented achievements. He is undoubtedly one of the most detribalized Nigerians ever to hold the post of Surveyor General of the Federation. His name is Ebisintei Awudu, and he is one of few Nigerians who can stake a genuine claim to being from the far-north and the far-south. Reason? From his paternal side, he is from Bayelsa, and he is a Borno man from his maternal side.

When he was appointed to this office at the twilight of the Jonathan presidency, ethnic merchants were seriously taken aback. To their luck, the then President got defeated at the election of that year, and the winner was a northerner, in the person of Muhammadu Buhari. To these ethnic jingoistic therefore, it was only a matter of time before the new President give them what they desperately wanted: kicking Awudu out of office.

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But their optimism was the key indicator that they knew nothing about President Buhari, who, throughout his military career, has saved and promoted a countless number of Christian southerners.

So when the matter of Mr. Awudu was brought to the attention of the President, all he asked was whether the man was qualified for the job. He asked for evidence to that effect. As far as President Buhari was concerned, where the new Surveyor-General hails from was not even a matter for consideration. He needed someone who could do the job. And in Mr. Awudu, the President saw a clear round peg in a round hole; a man who is well educated, was surveyor-general of Bayelsa State, a director in the office he is heading, and a member of the prestigious National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru.

surveyor general

The President wondered why anyone in his senses could even contemplate removing such a person from office just because he belongs to a minority tribe. It was to the blessing of this country that such a dispassionate persona is its Number One Citizen. And Nigeria is the best for it.

But these enemies of progress will not allow peace to reign. They keep churning out everything – from the ridiculous to the disgusting – to smear Mr. Awudu all in their desperate quest to shove him aside and get their preferred lackey appointed in his stead. Unfortunately for them, the Surveyor-General is here to work, to make President Buhari and Nigeria proud.

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He has no time for such frivolities. Or engage in war with anyone on account of where he comes from. As human, Mr. Awudu definitely has his limitations. But most often his mistakes are of the head, not of the heart. They are therefore forgive-able.

For the Surveyor-General, the achievements of his office automatically translate into the achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration because they would have been impossible without budgetary allocations and releases. And without a President who regards the entirety of Nigeria (and not sections of it) as his constituency.

In Nigeria the Office is the nation’s apex authority in surveying and mapping and their related matters. The Surveyor General of the Federation (SGoF) is the Chief Executive Officer of the Office.

The primary responsibility of the Office is the provision of requisite geospatial information needs of the country for sustainable national development, the co-ordination of all Surveying and Mapping and their related activities in the country.

The staff strength of the office as at December, 2018 is 687, with approved establishment staff strength of 1074.

surveyor general

Since the appointment of Mr. Awudu, the Office has been restructured and expanded into thirteen departments comprising ten technical departments, three service departments, nine units, six Zonal Directorates and thirty six state survey offices.

The constitutional roles of OSGoF give rise to the following activities: Establishment of National geodetic Infrastructure including National GIS; and definition of all international and internal boundaries of the country. Other include the provision of all geospatial Information products such as administrative maps, topographical maps, electronic national atlas, gazetteer of geographical place names, road maps and other thematic maps, as well as execution of vital National and Peculiar surveys in collaboration with relevant Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the government.

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These peculiar surveys include time-lapse mapping of exploration and exploitation of solid minerals, oil and gas, forestry, other national resources and ecologically impacted areas such as desertification, gully erosion and land degradation.

The office also handles the provision of Magnetic, Gravity, ROW, Geo-hazard and other special surveys for monitoring, guidance and decision making; provision of Cadastral/Legal Surveys of all Federal lands and properties; provision of training, supervision and research in Surveying and Mapping in collaboration with the academic institutions; provision of consultancy  services to all Government agencies and Ministries on Surveying and Mapping themes; serving as National Repository of all Geospatial data and information including Metadate, and finally, pooling of Surveyors in the Federal Civil Service.

 

To achieve the constitutional responsibilities of the office, Surveyor Awudu has evolved some core strategies that has ensured some unprecedented achievements, including, but not limited to the expansion of the Office from six to twelve Technical Departments with the approval of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.

surveyor general

At present, the Office has Survey and Mapping Units in eight ministries where it pooled 8 Resident Surveyors. Also, the Schemes of Service for Surveyors, Survey Technologists, Survey Technicians and Craftsman cadres were revised to conform to international best practices of Surveying and Mapping profession. Similarly, craftsman cadres were referred to a standing committee on establishment for further consideration.

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Experience over the years has shown that Surveying and Mapping is the bedrock of any physical development, and hence more investments and additional operational departments are required for the Office to meet her constitutional role for sustainable national development. This is even more apt now following the greater awareness and requests from the various MDAs on the use of geospatial (surveying and mapping) information in their sustainable planning and informed decision making.

The Office of the Surveyor General of the Federation is clearly determined to achieve its mandate in order to contribute its quota towards sustainable national development. The challenges faced by the Office, such as inadequate funding, would, if addressed, greatly enhance the achievements of this objective.

Source:  By Mohammed Dahiru

Issuing Houses: economy needs N35tr investment to thrive

The economy needs N35 trillion investment annually for the next 10 years to achieve desired economic growth, Association of Issuing Houses of Nigeria (AIHN) has said.

In a statement at the end of its first bi-annual business lunch in Lagos, the AIHN President, Chuka Eseka, said Nigeria is a N140 trillion economy, adding that to reverse the negative trends in unemployment, poverty and experience real growth, the country needs  capital investment of N35 trillion per annum consistently for the next 10 years and the capital market if properly incentivised, can facilitate this.

He explained that to deliver economic growth, revenue generation must be a priority for the government. “We must stimulate productive activities within the economy that will generate revenue. Private sector efficiency is critical in harnessing the potential infrastructure development. Increased efforts must be made to galvanise Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as well as domestic investment,” he said.

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He added: “For the power sector to thrive, the government must create an enabling environment and address existing governance, legal, regulatory, funding and pricing issues.”

Investment

According to Eseka, this is the time for the capital market to invest in intellectual capital and develop solutions for funding key national priority sectors such as power, transportation and telecommunications to achieve the transformational and catalytic economic benefits.

“While recognising the desired supporting role of government, the private sector and capital market need to put themself in the driving seat. The government must, however, be decisive and close out on key policy issues affecting the functioning of the economy to create the right framework for the market to thrive. Focus must be on policy reforms that promote market economics,” he said.

According to the group, Nigeria is out of recession, but growth is anaemic at approximately two per cent. Inflation has moderated from 18 per cent to 11 per cent, but remains sticky above the Central Bank of Nigeria’s target of six to nine per cent.

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“Revenue improved by an estimated 41.2 per cent, but underperformed by an estimated 47.6 per cent relative to budget in 2018, the fiscal deficit remains elevated but reduced to 2.6per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2018. There is also a lack of fiscal buffers as the Excess Crude Account has reduced to $249 million as at February 2019 from $2.3 billion as at October 2018,” it said.

Investment

Continuing, it said: “The capital market is the barometer for measuring the health of the economy. Since the global financial crisis of 2008–2009, Nigeria’s capital market has been constrained in fulfilling its mandate to drive the growth and development of the biggest economy in Africa. The capital market provides a good platform for addressing many of Nigeria’s economic challenges.

The AIHN must take the initiative to influence the new administration’s implementation strategy of its Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) by pointing out areas where funding can be more easily accessed from the capital markets if appropriate reforms are introduced.”

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The group said for the capital market to deliver on its role as a catalyst of economic growth, market operators have to be put in the position to operate optimally. Pricing for our services has to be market driven and policies put in place that would allow operators intermediate properly in the financial markets and develop local capabilities so that Nigeria can develop its own global firms and rely less on foreign expertise to execute major projects.

Source: By Collins Nweze

Black Housing

How black residents of Long Beach fought racist real estate policies and influenced a nation

“I can sympathize and empathize with the frustration, dismay and disappointment experienced in unsuccessful attempts to acquire housing in the bigoted ‘International City’ of Long Beach. I have not been able to rent an apartment after searching for almost three months—indubitably due to the fact that I am a Negro.”

This is what a Long Beach professor, communicating anonymously to protect himself, wrote in the Long Beach Fair Housing Foundation Newsletter in 1965.

The professor’s experience was by no means unusual, in fact, it was the stark reality when it came to real estate in the 1960s: a black person, whether university professor or a blue-collar worker, could be denied the ability to purchase a home based solely on the color of their skin. A person selling or renting a home could shrug their shoulders, say they don’t do that kind of thing for negroes and there was absolutely nothing legally that could be done about it.

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Black Housing

In Long Beach, the practice led to how neighborhoods were shaped, affecting everything from the dispersion of infrastructure to white flight, leaving some neighborhoods, particularly in the west and north, hanging with no future investment. In fact, by 1963, blacks could find housing in one of only two places in the city: a small, particularly disinvested neighborhood northeast of 10th Street and Atlantic Avenue and an area southwest of Willow Street and the Los Angeles River, one of the few integrated neighborhoods in the region.

That, of course, has all changed, in large part because the racist practices were fought and defeated throughout Los Angeles County, particularly and most effectively by the efforts of black men and women of Long Beach.

“The way we were being treated had lit something within us,” said Councilman Dee Andrews, who moved to Long Beach from rural Texas when he was 5 with his family. “We were tired of being tired, tired of not receiving the benefits of the lives we were being robbed of. We stood up and we wouldn’t shut up.”

In 1959, Assemblyman William Byron Rumford—the first black person from Northern California to serve in the state legislature—headed the campaign for anti-discriminatory legislation in California, proposing the creation of the Fair Employment Practices Commission as well as the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

Named after its author, Assemblyman and eventual California State Treasurer Jesse Unruh, the bill was clear in its intentions: Anyone, outside of their race or economic class, has the right to participate in business to the best extent they can, including finding housing.

Despite heavy Republican opposition, the Unruh Act passed.

Four years later, Rumford decided to tackle the subject again because he was deeply concerned about two very big issues: weaknesses in earlier fair housing legislation and what the influence of the larger civil rights struggle nationwide meant fighting for important political issues like the creation of a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission at the state level. That was a battle that black Californians had been struggling with between 1946 and 1959, when the California Fair Employment Practices Act passed.

Rumford succeeded. The Fair Housing Act of 1963, dubbed the Rumford Act, was passed by both the assembly and senate, prohibiting public and private property owners to discriminate when selling on the basis of “ethnicity, religion, sex, marital status, physical handicap, or familial status.”

This led to what some believed was genuine progress, especially within Los Angeles County: Compton, a predominately white suburb with a charming downtown, became a destination for black families escaping urban Los Angeles. Likewise, Long Beach saw significant growth in its black population.

Republicans, however, did not let the act pass as it was originally written, exempting most forms of private homes. The result? While the original law freed up some 3,779,000 homes to potential buyers of color, that number dropped to about 950,000 after Republicans amended the law.

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Black Housing

“Even with the Rumford Act then,” author Mark Brilliant writes in “The Color of America Has Changed,” “the bulk of California home and apartment owners remained free to discriminate on the basis of race when selling or leasing.”

Despite the Republican exemptions, those attempting to gird the former racist policy coalesced. Led by the California Real Estate Association, they pushed forward Proposition 14, one of the most racially divisive initiatives ever proposed on a California ballot.

“If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, he has the right to do so,” Ronald Reagan told audiences during his 1966 gubernatorial bid, after openly criticizing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and using Prop. 14 as a bolster against the Rumford Act.

Here’s how Prop. 14 read:

Neither the State nor any subdivision or agency thereof shall deny, limit or abridge, directly or indirectly, the right of any person, who is willing or desires to sell, lease or rent any part or all of his real property, to decline to sell, lease or rent such property to such person or persons as he, in his absolute discretion, chooses.

Proposition 14 argued, essentially, that requiring someone to sell to someone of another race against their will was forced integration as well as a stripping of property rights, which it claimed was un-American. If anyone was in doubt whether Prop. 14 was racist in its intent and practice, the Real Estate Association made clear in its messaging that its mission was “the promotion, preservation, and manipulation of racial segregation as central—rather than incidental or residual—components of their profit-generating strategies,” according to historian Robert Self.

Prop. 14 passed easily by a two-to-one margin. In its passage, and before it was found to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966, it prompted a fear that led to what was called “blockbusting” in West and North Long Beach. Real estate agents would go into the prominently white areas, convincing them that minorities were on the move into their neighborhood following the political movements set forth by Rumford. This, in turn, would prompt many white families to sell their homes, often at significantly lower prices than their worth. In turn, these same agents would sell the homes to affluent black families at a higher price.

Prop. 14, and the subsequent battle over it in the Supreme Court, prompted the creation of the Long Beach Fair Housing Foundation in 1964, formed with a mission “devoted entirely to the promotion of fair and open housing practices in our community” and to “act as a clearinghouse and work with all persons interested in fair housing, to carry on a continuing educational campaign, to function as a fact-finding agency, and to maintain a working committee of volunteers available.”

The organization was made up entirely of black women who worked for free. As there was no money initially to work with, they volunteered 30 hours a week. Even after they garnered enough money from private donations and $2 subscriptions for their newsletter, that money went toward leasing office space while the women continued to volunteer their time.

The foundation eventually developed an important listing service where property owners who actually believed in equal housing could list their properties. Every single neighborhood, from Signal Hill to Naples, was eventually represented on the listing and by 1965—at the peak of tensions between the passages of the Unruh Act, the Rumford Act and Prop. 14—the foundation’s listing service “handled a total of 180 open occupancy listings (129 for sale and 33 rentals) and requests from 80 minority group applicants,” according to its newsletter in November of that year.

“It was as if California was the tale of two states,” Andrews said. “Sure, we had integration. I went to Poly, played sports. On the court, it seemed like nobody cared what color you were—if you were black or white or brown, I’d still beat you; that’s where the respect probably came from. But afterward, the black kids had to go to the Cal Rec center to hang out while the white kids went to The Hutch. There was no mingling—and the politics reflected that.”

Within 10 months of operation, the women of the foundation increased the number of families of color living in integrated neighborhoods from eight to 33. By 1969, that number grew to 160. But the fight was more than just listings and information; those in the foundation knew it had to increase its power with the city of Long Beach itself.

Journalist George Weeks, writing for the Press-Telegram, noted that in 1965, 50 West Long Beach residents testified in front of the city’s Human Relations Committee, accusing California real estate agents of creating a “reservation of Negroes” on the West and North sides while “talking down the area to discourage Caucasians from viewing and buying homes [there].”

By 1966, the Navy de-commissioned its yard in Brooklyn, New York, moving many Naval officers, including blacks, to its Long Beach yard—something the Chamber of Commerce welcomed with pamphlets advocating Long Beach as a “fair city” with “abundant housing.” Now the foundation was flooded not only with local families of color seeking help, but veterans of color, amping up the foundation’s efforts and tactics.

One of those tactics included “testing,” which involved sending a white person to see if a house was available and, if it was, then sending a black person with the same qualifications to see how differently they were treated. These and other tactics—the far more complicated “double escrow” involved opening two different escrows to two different parties, one white and one black, on the same property on the same day to see which one would be processed more efficiently—allowed the foundation to build up more legal ammunition that blatantly proved racial biases in real estate transactions that, on paper, are entirely similar.

By 1967, Prop. 14 having been ruled unconstitutional allowed the foundation to take discriminators to court and Long Beach led the way by winning six cases.

Claude Hudson, shown speaking to a KABC reporter, at a Prop 14 protest with Congressman James Roosevelt (far left) and Leon Washington (2nd from left), owner and publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper. The group is seen on Spring Street, east of the Hall of Justice (left). Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.

“No other city in California has had anything approaching this amount of court action on housing,” the foundation reported in “Newsletter #22” in 1967.

Court victories were led by foundation co-founder and lawyer Myron Blumberg who, despite facing all-white juries, managed to find success in part because of Shirley Blumberg, his wife, who convinced city hall to give the organization $25,000 in support of their efforts. The foundation’s efforts also led to the submission of evidence to the Department of Justice in June of 1970 after the Office of the Attorney General began examining 8,000 rental and real estate agencies across the county.

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Black Housing

Still, progress was slow. The foundation had 75 volunteers to investigate more than 200 apartment complexes in Long Beach, and what they found was remarkable:

Out of 243 buildings covered in the investigation, fully-documented evidence of racially discriminatory practices emerged from 114 buildings. These represented a total of 1,450 units; and the owners of these properties also owned an additional 875 units not included in the investigation. There was a grand total, then, of 2,325 units directly or indirectly involved in the reports sent to the Justice Department – all in the immediate Long Beach area. The last reports went to the Housing Section, Civil Rights Division on September 15, 1970. Foundation was assured that prompt action would follow.

Despite overwhelming evidence, the Department of Justice eventually decided not to file suit and instead sent officers to the offending areas to issue warnings. The foundation was informed that the department would have political officials and powerful groups like the Realty Board chastising them.

However, the efforts of the foundation continued, leading to a landmark case in 1972 that rewarded a black couple $10,000 after dealing with a racist landlord, one of the largest awards of its time, and those efforts altered the local, regional, state, and national attention toward discriminatory housing policies.

Source: Brian Addison

How unplanned cities and urbanisation contribute to human misery

When Okafor Ofoegbu left his village in the Eastern part of Nigeria for Lagos, the country’s sprawling city and commercial capital, he did so with high optimism, thinking  that the city was the answer to the many unanswered questions about life and living that forced him out of his place of birth.

It is believed that the city is a land of opportunities and Ofoegbu had no doubt about that, hence, he told himself that he must, on coming to the city, tap into these opportunities, position himself properly by getting something doing, earn income, build a house and set up a family.

But coming to the city was a great eye-opener for Ofoegbu because there and then it dawned on him that the grass is always greener from afar; that perception is always different from reality. This is Nigeria where cities are unplanned and so, life and living are not only difficult, but also stressful, tortuous and miserable.

In advanced economies of the world, when cities grow and urbanisation rises, they usually do so with economic growth and wellbeing, improved living standards for the people, and increased prospects for job and wealth creation.

But, in Africa, when cities grow and urbanisation follows, they come as liabilities chiefly because cities are not planned. Expectation is that, in about 15 years to come, unless something happens to check it, city population will double its current figure of about 65 percent of the continent’s total population.

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Though misery is an off-shoot of many unfavourable human conditions, it is almost always linked to poverty and suffering. Of the many sorrows of life that include the anguish of death, the torture of poverty, the pain of alienation and betrayal by loved and cherished ones, Bertha M. Clay, an English writer, contends that none is as heart rending as the misery of long suffering.

In Nigeria misery is a native. It lives and thrives in many homes which is why there is protestation, in many quarters, that the recent ranking of Nigeria as the 6th most miserable country in the world is incorrect because, given the reality on ground, the country ought to have been ranked number 1.

Steve Hanke, an economist from John Hopkins University, United States, in the 2018 Misery Index report, ranked Nigeria among the top miserable countries of the world, citing unemployment, poor access to bank loans, among others.

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But, both experience and findings have shown that poor human conditions, very common in unplanned cities, are major sources of misery in Africa as a whole and Nigeria in particular.  Nigerians, whether in the city or in the rural areas, live miserable lives.

Those in the cities, especially Lagos, seem to suffer more. Lagos is urbanising rapidly. This is not an economic asset which it is supposed to be because it is happening in a largely unplanned city.

It is estimated that about 60 percent of the urban city dwellers in Africa lives in slums and Nigeria has a large share of this percentage. Lagos, which is the country’s largest commercial city, has nine identified slum areas including Ijora Badia, Amukoko, Ajegunle, Okokomaiko, Orile, among others and over 70 percent of the city’s 20 million people live in these slum areas. Abuja, the federal capital city, also has a number of growing slum areas like Kuje, Kubwa, Nyanya and others.

Majority of the people in these urban slums live on dollar a day. Their sources of livelihood are mainly at the city centres where they serve as domestic servants to the very few rich who live there. Others are mid-income workers whose places of work are also at the city centres.

From these slums they commute to their various places of work and businesses at the city centre, spending quality hours on traffic, enduring stress, getting weak and sick, in some cases, and ultimately miserable even before getting to their work places.

Every morning, people from Okokomaiko, Ajegunle, Agege, etc are seen milling out and snaking their way to Lagos Island, Ikoyi, Lekki or Victoria Island where they work, and repeat the same process in the evening on their way back. The same thing happens in Abuja where every early morning residents from Nyanya, Kuje, Kubwa and even Suleja in the neighbouring Niger State file out like ants to their offices at the city centre and come back the same way in the evening.

All these are sources of stress, coupled with the fact that many of these residents have no access to electricity and clean water. They go home to either endure the cacophonous noises of generators or sweat their way into sleep for the night.

An official of the UN-Habitat, therefore, advises that governments at all levels should improve the city, bearing in mind that  improving the city means improving the economy and the human person, thus creating chances of people getting more jobs.

Promoters of upcoming cities should, therefore, reflect modern city development that incorporates living, working and leisure.

Source: Chuka Uroko

Reasons for drop in bank lending to real estate in Q4 2018

The decline in the rate at which Nigerian banks allocated credits to the real estate in Q4 2018 may have resulted from their quest to invest in risk-free assets coupled with the political uncertainty during the review period, industry analysts have said.

Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) for the last quarter of 2018 reveals that the N622 billion credits to the sector represents a 12.3 percent decline from the N 710 billion it got in Q3 2018.

The credit share the sector got from the country’s commercial banks in the review quarter represents 4.12 percent of the total N15.13 trillion credits to the entire private sector.

Jide Ogunleye, CEO of Denaro Properties Limited, who is also a business and investment strategies expert with emphasis on real estate, explained that the only reason a bank would lend money at any point in time was not for charity purposes.

“It is to make good returns and, on that note, a couple of reasons can be linked to why the banks reduced their lending to the real estate sector”, he said.

The CEO said “it could be that they are finding returns in fixed income market. You can put your money there and go to sleep, as there is no risk involved.”

This was affirmed by Godwin Asuelimen, Head, Core Product at Propertypro.ng as he said: “I don’t think the decline in the bank lending to the sector was about the fact that the sector was less attractive; it was mostly because of the election uncertainty.

Analysis of the banks’ credit to the property industry in the review quarter shows it represents the lowest decline since Q3 2015. Meanwhile, figures from NBS reveal that the all-time highest and lowest credit allocation to the sector were in Q3 2017 and Q2 2015 with credit of N798.39 billion and N548.21 billion respectively.

Yemi Stephen, a partner at Estate Links, a firm of estate surveyors and valuers in Lagos, said despite the decline in bank lending to the sector, it is still one of the most attractive sectors for investment.

“The year was coming to an end and people were uncertain about the recently concluded elections; it was also as a result of the economic performance, as the more the economy grows the more activities that will be reported for the real estate sector, Stephens said.

Real estate is about real investment. Huge capital outlay is needed and the stake is very high. Femi Akintunde, GMD, Alpha Mead Group, explained in an interview, noting that banks slowed down lending to real estate just as even people taking corporate bonds were being careful in Q4 2018 because of the uncertainties that surrounded the just concluded general elections.

This is quite evident, looking at bank lending to the sector earlier in the year as reported by NBS. According to the Bureau, N784 billion and N744 billion were lent to the sector in first and second quarters of the 2018 respectively.4

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Another factor that may be daunting banks’ lending to the property industry, according to Ogunleye may be risk assessment. “Every bank has a risk assessment unit; if they carry out risk assessment and they see that the real estate sector is not going to do well in a particular year, definitely, they will withhold their funds.”

He said the banks now carry out their due diligence owing to their past experiences with non-performing loans. “You know there are some banks that have not recovered from the loans they gave to oil and gas industry which may have been as a result of the fact that they failed to carry out due diligence.”

Ogunleye noted that the banks have information about the property market, citing instance of when people take loans from the banks and they give them property as collateral, upon their default, the banks put those properties in the market and as such they know the sale velocity of the real estate market.

Unlike other sectors of the economy, real estate in Nigeria plunged further into recession in Q4 2018 fuelled by the political uncertainty from the February general elections.

After showing signs of rebound for two consecutive quarters through to Q3 2018, the property market turned southwards, falling deeper into contraction mode.

The figures released by NBS show that, in real terms, the sector contracted by 3.85 percent in Q4 (year-on-year), which is 2.07 percent points better than the -5.92 percent recorded for the fourth quarter of 2017.

Source: By Endurance Okafor

 

Ambode completed 54 roads, abandoned 74 in 2018

Tracka, a subsidiary of BudgIT, which tracks the implementation of government projects in their community, on Friday released its report on 2018 road construction by the Akinwunmi Ambode-led government in Lagos State.

A statement by Damen Ilevbaoje, Head, Tracka, said while the breakdown of the total cost (N18,545,657,940.00), remains unknown to the public, the Lagos State Government last year flagged off the construction of 181 roads spread across the 20 Local Governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs).

Lagos State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Ade Akinsanya said in a press statement February 2018 that “the roads will be done in phases.

“The first phase consists of 57 roads cutting across the 20 Local Governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas.”

Tracka said it deployed two Field Officers to monitor, very closely, the progress of the projects vis-à-vis budget implementation and quality delivery.

“Given the population and rising number of industries in Lagos,financial breakdown of the projects remains secret.

“The only information in the public space is the gross amount allocated for the roads and the part payment by the state government. As such, the quest for transparency and accountability is fiercely strangled by the government.

“Out of 175 roads tracked by our team, only 54 are completed; 38 are ongoing while 8 bear unspecified locations, all at the time of our last visit in February 2019. Tracka confidently reports that a higher number of the roads (74) are yet to be constructed.

“More surprisingly, a number of roads that have been completed in the 114 Roads in 2016 are recaptured in the new project (e.g. Community Road in Alimosho LGA).

“Aside from abandoned roads, some projects have been left off worse than they actually were before the intervention, making life harder for commuters and members of the community. A typical case is Ayilara street in Surulere LGA.

“Finally, we observed some glitches in the construction of certain routes ranging from poor quality to contractors’ disappearance from sites to lack of proper implementation. In specific terms, the use of substandard materials like Asphalt and Bitumen, which often lead to the short lifespan of roads, is also recorded.”

Source: Inemac.com

Secretary of State for Housing pledges planning reform green paper later this year

Home builders have welcomed a pledge from the Government to reduce planning delays, increase the capability of local planning departments and improve procedure to accelerate the end to end planning process.

Secretary of State for Housing, James Brokenshire told the Home Builders Federation’s policy conference that quality counts and it is not simply about getting the numbers up.

But he pointed out that for the first time in 10 years home ownership amongst 35 to 44 year olds is up and in 2018 more new homes were built than in any other year bar one of the previous 31.

‘I don’t want to tell people what to build, but I do want to ensure that the next generation of homes we build are ones of which we can be proud. And I know that there are a number of developers who are delivering on this, who are following through on this, and I think are setting that lead for the industry but we cannot be blind to the wider challenges the industry faces,’ he told the conference.

‘Businesses need to make money to be viable, absolutely yes. But the public looks at some companies’ profits and bonuses and wonders how they tally with extensive snagging, unfair leases and a seeming lack of understanding of the responsibility they have towards customers who are left struggling and out of pocket,’ he pointed out.

‘For most people, buying a home is one of the biggest financial and emotional investments of their lives and for that to go from being a cherished dream to becoming a nightmare of snagging problems months after moving in, and punitive costs, is simply unacceptable,’ he added.

Brokenshire also explained that as well as good quality homes, new homes need to be built faster and to do that there needs to be a reduction in planning delays that hold up good developments.

He revealed that the Accelerated Planning green paper, mentioned in the Spring Statement, will be published later this year to look at how greater capacity and capability within local planning authorities, better performance management and procedural improvements can accelerate the end-to-end planning process for all.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, welcomed he address. ‘The housing crisis is the greatest challenge to social equality that we have in the UK. The Government must prioritise it. By building more and understanding how we physically get more quality homes built, we can make really positive changes to our communities,’ he said.

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy at the House Builders Association, explained that when Ministers utter the words, planning reform, the industry gets quite excited.

‘Getting permission to build is a painful, slow and desperate process, especially for SMEs. Reforming it will go a long way to helping solve the housing and skills crisis,’ he added.

Source: PropertyWire

Why building plans must be updated and fully approved by the local municipality

In order for a residential property to be sold or for a bond to be acquired, South Africa’s banks are increasingly insisting that the property has up-to-date building plans which have been approved by the local municipality. Rowan Alexander, director of Alexander Swart Property, explains that to be fully compliant, the seller or the buyer has to be able to show that the building was awarded an Occupation Certificate, confirming that the construction was done in accordance with the approved plans and the regulations pertaining at that time.

To qualify for such certificates, the building will have had to be inspected at specified stages by a licensed building inspector. The same process should have been followed on any subsequent alterations or extensions.

Quite often, says Alexander, the inspector will have been called in during the initial stages of construction but not towards the end – with the result that no Occupation Certificate was ever issued. Quite often, extensions and alterations were done without any plans being submitted to the council for approval, or without the building inspector being brought in. In nine out of 10 homes that Alexander has been involved with as an estate agent, the building plans are either missing or, more frequently, not up to date.

‘Sneaking the job through’

“In a typical scenario,” he said, “the owner will add on a patio without permission and then, a few years later, enclose it as a braai room; again without any plans being submitted. Or he may convert a garage into bedroom, again without any attempt to make it legal.” Sometimes owners simply do not know when they need to get approved plans. Others think that by doing the work themselves and “sneaking the job through”, they are saving considerable sums of cash – forgetting that later this will make it difficult to sell or pass the home on to heirs. Similarly, they may employ a substandard builder who either ignores or does not know the regulations.

Every home owner, says Alexander, should as soon as possible ( i.e. right now) check that plans are available and if so, that they correspond in all respects with the building as it now is – and is compliant with the building regulations. If it transpires that the owner has no plans, he can try to obtain copies of those lodged at the municipality.

Having found the plans and the owner feels that he is not up to checking whether they conform, he should consult an architect to assist him. In the event of defaults, the owner should take steps to rectify the omissions and errors. In some cases it will be necessary to ask the architect to redraw the entire plan of the home as it now is and resubmit this for approval. This could be expensive – but there may be no other way out.

Some home owners, says Alexander, take the attitude that as they do not intend to sell the home in the foreseeable future, they can leave the gaining of approvals for a later date, or to others, such as their heirs. Experience has however shown that people regularly have to sell earlier than they expect e.g. for health or financial reasons. As the obtaining of fully approved plans can take months, Alexander says it is better to do it now. To delay will simply compound existing difficulties – and could place big burdens on others

Source: Biz Community

Absa sees pockets of decent growth in Africa’s Real Estate Market

Presenting snapshots of African markets in which Absa operates, Head of Africa Coverage, Commercial Property Finance, Selwyn Blieden, says significant opportunities for property developers and investors abound even in lean times.

For a long time, the most prominent players in the African property sector have been private equity or other institutional investors.

It is also true that there has been an obvious gulf between demand and supply in all property sectors (commercial, industrial and residential) across many markets on the continent.

The investment proposition, often-repeated to prospective funders, regulators and local partners, was that by pioneering landmark projects international investment and development teams would go some way to bridge this gulf. But few of those presenting this thesis have shown the success they predicted for themselves and their investors.

Asset realisations have taken longer and have been less profitable than expected. Some institutions have chosen to exit direct African real estate investment entirely. With few exceptions, large South African REITs that expressed broader African ambitions have either closed their African operations or indicated that they intend to do so. Given its uneven performance record, an observer of the market might question the market-theses that seemed to be so alluring only a few years ago.

Despite this, we still believe that there is evidence to show that the African property market has evolved, just not in the way and for the segments previously expected. It is up to investors, financiers and other stakeholders to adapt their approaches to pursue the opportunities this market offers.

Our analysis shows that since the end of 2015 the domestic bank-financed commercial property market in our active African jurisdictions (which we identify as Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mauritius, Seychelles, Ghana and Namibia) has grown in US dollar terms at a compounded rate of 9.5% per annum. This represents an acceleration in growth since the period 2012 to the end of 2015 the same market grew by 8.3% per annum.

This means that since 2012, and even more so since 2015, growth of bank-financing to many African property markets has been faster than the growth of the underlying economies in these jurisdictions. Such growth could only have been possible if some combination of the following factors had been in place: the number and size of bankable projects and clients has increased; banks have become increasingly willing to undertake property finance; and/or the currencies in which property loans have been denominated have strengthened.

In all cases the factors mentioned above are positive for the property markets we are targeting: either the broader economies in which they are located are strengthening (as indicated by stronger exchange rates) or the property finance markets are becoming more active and formalised.

It bears repeating that not all African property markets are alike and data covering multiple markets may often conceal wide-ranging differences between those markets and nuances within markets. In the case of the countries we have been studying, there are two where the bank-financed property market has actually declined since 2015. These are Mozambique and Uganda.

In Mozambique’s case the decline (of 8.8% per annum) would be expected given the broader debt-crisis in the country. In Uganda the decline has been an annual 2.1% — less than the decline in the local currency over the period and thus indicating a market that is, at least, growing in local currency terms.

The largest property finance market on our list is Kenya which on its own holds about 46% of the total commercial property financing pool within the markets we service. Its commercial property finance growth rate has been at 9.6% over the past years. Its currency has been relatively stable, ranging only from 99 to 105 Kenyan Shillings to the US dollar over the period.

The growth has achieved is largely, therefore, a function of real growth in bank funding and property investment activity. In our experience, growth in this market has been led by market participants that would in South Africa or similar banking markets be classified as commercial or local corporate clients rather than institutional players.

In conclusion, it is evident that even though the most prominent segment of the investment-grade African property market has shown signs of strain, the broader bankable property market has been growing significantly and in the case of key markets such as Kenya, the growth is the result of real property activity and risk-taking.

For banks and other financiers, future growth may require broadening their target-range of clients and adapting their credit and service models for strong local players. For equity investors, potential focus may be on finding ways to get effective exposure to this same category of market participants. Opportunities exist for those who are willing to adapt their approach and their guiding beliefs regarding this market.

Source: Africapropertynews

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Zillow is now a mortgage lender, launches Zillow Home Loans

Zillow has owned a mortgage company for approximately six months, having purchased Mortgage Lenders of America in November 2018, but now, the online real estate giant has truly become a mortgage lender as well.

Zillow announced Tuesday that it is launching its own mortgage lending operation, which it is calling Zillow Home Loans.

For years, prospective homebuyers could search for a mortgage through Zillow’s site, as lenders paid to have their interest rates and terms listed on Zillow’s mortgage marketplace. Now, they’ll have a new competitor: Zillow itself.

The company is rebranding Mortgage Lenders of America to carry the Zillow name, and will use the lender to finance home buying and selling through its Zillow Offers platform.

It’s a truly massive move for Zillow, which describes the change rather simply: “Home shoppers who visit Zillow to shop for a mortgage can now get financing directly from Zillow Home Loans.”

The move is the latest in a nearly two-year effort to reshape how Zillow conducts its business.

Back in 2015, former Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff said that the company views itself as a media company, not a real estate company.

“We sell ads, not houses,” Rascoff said at the time. “We’re all about providing consumers with access to information and then connecting them with local professionals. And we do a great job of giving those local professional high-quality lead, they’ll covert those leads to at a high rate and then want more media impressions from us. So we’re not actually in the transaction, we’re in the media business.”

But in the last few years, things changed dramatically at Zillow.

In 2017, Zillow shook up the real estate industry when it announced that it was getting into the home selling business by launching “Zillow Instant Offers.”

In the program, homeowners looking to sell their home in certain markets were able to get cash offers for their home from selected investors interested in buying it, all within Zillow’s platform.

But that was just the beginning. Later, Zillow began buying and selling homes directly to and from homeowners, becoming an iBuyer. Through its “Offers” program, Zillow buys a home directly from a seller, makes the “necessary repairs and updates” and lists the home “as quickly as possible.”

Zillow expanded the “Offers” program to new markets, but it didn’t stop there.

Last year, the online real estate landscape shifted dramatically when Zillow announced that it was getting into the mortgage business by buying Mortgage Lenders of America.

According to Zillow, the acquisition of Mortgage Lenders of America would allow the company to “streamline and shorten the home-buying process for consumers who purchase homes through Zillow Offers.”

The company paid $65 million to acquire Mortgage Lenders of America, and closed on the deal late last year. At the time, Zillow said that it planned to rebrand MLOA, and that’s just what it has now done, rebranding its mortgage business to carry the Zillow name.

“Getting a mortgage is often the hardest, most complicated part of buying a home. Since our inception, Zillow has been empowering people with information and resources to make smarter real estate decisions, including helping borrowers shop for the best lender and loan for their new home,” said Erin Lantz, vice president and general manager of mortgages at Zillow.

“With Zillow Home Loans we are taking an incredible step forward to deliver an integrated payments platform to complete the financing for Zillow Offers that delivers a more seamless, on-demand real estate experience today’s consumers expect,” Lantz added. “We continue to offer consumers the power of choice to shop for loans directly through Zillow Home Loans or through our popular mortgage marketplace.”

According to the company, homeowners using Zillow Offers to sell their home can “easily secure their financing through Zillow Home Loans, giving them the certainty to be able to sell their existing home and shop for a new home simultaneously.”

Additionally, homebuyers who want to purchase a home that Zillow owns may use Zillow Home Loans to “seamlessly finance their home purchase, giving them a convenient way to get into their new home on their timetable, with less hassle and stress,” the company said.

But the company added that the use of Zillow Home Loans is “not restricted” to Zillow Offers home sales. According to Zillow, borrowers may still use Zillow’s mortgage marketplace to shop for a lender and loan for any home purchase or refinanced loan.

Zillow Offers is now available in nine markets, according to Zillow. Zillow Home Loans is headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas, and has more than 300 employees.

Source: By Ben Lane, Housingwire

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