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Jamaica: Conviction Of Developer Is Major Victory For Real Estate Board

The Real Estate Board has hailed the conviction of real estate developer Devon Evans as a major victory after he was found guilty of fraudulent conversion arising from the sale of an apartment unit on Wellington Drive, St Andrew.

Chief executive officer of the board, Sandra Garrick, believes that the recent development sends a good signal.

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“This is a significant victory as the board wants to send a loud and unequivocal message to all developers or anyone in the real estate industry who callously and blatantly tries to swindle innocent persons out of their hard-earned money,” she said.

“What we have here is a case of wanton disregard for the purchasers, which often robs persons of a lifetime dream, which they have sacrificed so much for,” Garrick said.

Evans, of North American Holding Co Ltd, was found guilty by Parish Judge Marcine Ellis in the Corporate Area Parish Court on January 9, 2019, after being charged on July 23, 2017.

According to evidence presented by Clerk of Court Ruel Gibson, Cecil and Ingrid Batchelor made a down payment of $8.5 million to Evans in 2008. The Wellington Drive apartment was to be completed in 2009. However, after realising that no construction had begun, the couple demanded the refund of their deposit.

An alternative unit was offered to the couple after they filed a complaint with the Real Estate Board and the police in 2010, and an additional $7.4 million was requested to acquire the unit. Despite making this additional payment in 2013, it was not until 2016 that the Batchelors were able to secure the unit.

The court found that Evans deliberately sought to take the $8.5 million down payment from the Batchelors, under false pretence.

Source: jamaica-gleaner.com

These 3 U.S. cities make list of world’s 10 least affordable housing markets

Three cities in the U.S. made the list of the world’s least affordable housing markets. No surprise, they are all in California.

Among the top 10, San Jose ranked No. 5, Los Angeles No. 6 and San Francisco No. 8. on a list compiled and released this week by urban planning consulting firm Demographia.

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For the ninth consecutive year, Hong Kong claimed the top spot as the least affordable city in the world. The median property price in that city climbed to 20.9 times the median household income in 2018, according to the study,up from 19.4 in 2017.

By comparison, the median property price was 9.4 times the median household income in San Jose, 9.2 times in Los Angeles and 8.8 times in San Francisco.

Demographia’s study analyzed 309 metropolitan areas in eight countries, concluding that 29 were “severely unaffordable.” The U.S. claimed 13 of those severely unaffordable markets – more than any other country.

But, the U.S. is also home to all of the nine major affordable markets on Demographia’s list.

Among the most affordable major housing markets in the world, Pittsburgh and Rochester, New York, were tied for No. 1, followed by Oklahoma City; Buffalo, New York; Cincinnati; Cleveland; St. Louis; Indianapolis and Detroit.

Source: housingwire.com

Run-Down Buildings Are Hot Property in Land-Scarce Hong Kong

Hong Kong developers are increasingly acquiring and revamping old buildings as land gets more expensive. The number of applications for compulsory sales — allowing developers to gain full control of an apartment block after securing 80 percent ownership — climbed to a six-year high in 2018, government figures show.

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“A red-hot government land sales market in 2017 and early 2018 and large plots on offer — which translates into bigger lump-sum investments — effectively shut out a lot of small-to-medium sized developers,” said Denis Ma, head of research at Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. These companies were forced to focus on breathing new life into old buildings to sustain their development pipelines, he said.

During the height of the property boom between early 2017 and mid-last year, land sold at government tenders fetched increasingly eye-watering prices. Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. paid an unprecedented $3.2 billion for a residential site near the city’s former airport in May, almost one-and-a-half times the previous record set in November 2017.

Source: Bloomberg

Major global housing markets are taking a hit

Major global markets that once seemed insulated from the housing slump are getting caught in the slowdown.

Cities like London, Hong Kong and New York are grappling with a more tepid market, Bloomberg reported. According to a Knight Frank index of high-end properties in 43 cities, luxury residential prices are growing at the slowest rate since 2012.

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“If New York and London are catching a cold, the primacy is large enough that they might have an impact on the overall market,” Albert Saiz, a professor of urban economics and real estate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Bloomberg.

Hong Kong property values are seeing the longest decline since 2008, while Sydney is experiencing the worst real estate downturn since the 1980s. In outer London neighborhoods, prices fell for the first time since 2011 — and in Manhattan, the median condo price recently slid before $1 million for the first time in three years.

Because home values in global cities tend to move in tandem, shifts in these markets have the potential to create a broader ripple effect internationally, the report said.

The slowdown comes after governments’ concerns about unsustainable price appreciation led to measures that sought to limit flows of international money. These moves to reduce foreign purchases have caused values to stall or fall in cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto, Vancouver and Stockholm, according to the report.

In the U.S., developers’ focus on the high-end market has created an influx of million-dollar condos — while lower-end home prices have been driven up by limited supply. Now, in a climate of rising interest rates and financial market volatility, markets are slowing.

“For a long time, you could talk about big, important issues like Brexit or tax policy change in the U.S. — each one of them seemed to hit a major market but didn’t really cross over,” said Dan Conn, chief executive officer of Christie’s International Real Estate. “What happened this year is that the trade battles started to make this, instead of a regional conversation, much more of a global conversation.”

Source: therealdeal.com

Hong Kong ranked world’s least affordable housing market

Hong Kong has been ranked the world’s least-affordable housing market for a ninth straight year.Not only did it retain the notorious title, homes in the city got further out of reach for most residents, according to Demographia, an urban planning policy consultancy. The city’s median property price climbed to 20.9 times median household income in 2018, up from 19.4 times a year earlier.

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Vancouver was ranked the second-most unaffordable market, leapfrogging Sydney — where the housing boom has gone into reverse . Melbourne came in fourth, followed by San Jose and Los Angeles. London was the worst European city, coming in equal 10th with Toronto.

Things may get easier for home-buyers as property markets from Hong Kong to London join a global downturn. Hong Kong housing values have endured their longest losing streak since 2008, prices in outer London neighborhoods have fallen for the first time since 2011 and Sydney home owners are grappling with the worst real estate slump since the 1980s.

The Demographia study covered 309 metropolitan markets across eight countries, including Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S., as of the third quarter of 2018. Twenty-nine major housing markets were classed as “severely unaffordable.”

Source: bloomberg.com

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Resigns Over Disagreements With Housing Policy

A top Department of Housing and Urban Development official is leaving the agency following disagreements with other members of the Trump administration over housing policy and the White House’s attempt to block disaster-recovery money for Puerto Rico, according to five people with direct knowledge of the situation.

Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude, second-in-command at the agency helmed by Ben Carson and widely regarded as HUD’s most capable political leader, is said to have grown frustrated by what a former HUD employee described as a “Sisyphean undertaking.”

Patenaude cited personal reasons when she submitted her resignation on Dec. 17. “It’s a bittersweet farewell to HUD,” Patenaude said in an interview.

She denied that internal conflicts played a role and said she looks forward to spending time with her husband at their home in New Hampshire. “These jobs are all-consuming,” she said. “There are no ulterior motives. I’m not mad at the administration.”

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Patenaude was the main administrator running the agency for much of her 16 months as deputy secretary, according to political and career HUD staffer.

She is departing at a critical moment for HUD, as its largely inexperienced political ranks grapple with the fallout of a prolonged partial government shutdown.

Her impending departure, planned before the shutdown began Dec. 22, hurt the agency’s ability to anticipate and plan for the closure, according to career and political staffers. HUD is under fire for not renewing hundreds of expired affordable-housing contracts before the shutdown went into effect, jeopardizing the budgets of property owners and the housing stability of low-income tenants.

Housing advocates and HUD employees described Patenaude’s departure as a blow to an agency in which the morale of career staffers has deteriorated under Carson.

“She knows the HUD building, the issues, the policies and the politics. She was an especially strong and important counterpoint to Secretary Carson’s early lack of knowledge on any of the issues that he was expected to lead on,” said Diane Yentel, president and chief executive of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “When she battled some of the more ideologically far-right members of her administration, she typically won.”

Patenaude’s departure reflects a broader pattern of political appointees with expertise who are leaving the administration.

Her confidants say there was not one blowup that precipitated her resignation but rather a series of incidents that left her feeling frustrated. The former HUD employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to damage working relationships with the agency, characterized Patenaude’s job as “pushing this rock uphill over and over again only to have it fall back down.”

Patenaude disagreed with the agency’s handling of an Obama-era fair-housing rule requiring communities receiving federal funds to address long-standing patterns of racial segregation, according to three people with direct knowledge of internal HUD debates. Carson had suspended the 2015 rule,calling it “burdensome.”

Patenaude told The Washington Post she did not support the rule as written by the Obama administration but said she wanted to educate communities about the law as the agency deliberated on a path forward. She said policy discussions continue.

“My position was we had a moral and legal obligation to get it right,” Patenaude said. “Policy discussions are a series of explorations, and Secretary Carson and I are absolutely aligned on the need to educate America about fair housing.”

Patenaude had palm-size cards made listing the classes protected from housing discrimination — factoring race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability and familial status — and distributed them widely. One agency official said Patenaude hoped the effort would help allay concerns of career employees and advocates that Carson’s team does not care about civil rights.

Last fall, Patenaude expressed concern over the Trump administration’s intervention in disaster-recovery money that Congress had appropriated for Puerto Rico and states hit by hurricanes.

President Trump in late September grew incensed after hearing, erroneously, that Puerto Rico was using the emergency money to pay off its debt according to two people with direct knowledge of Trump’s thinking.

Trump told then-White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and then-Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney that he did not want a single dollar going to Puerto Rico, because he thought the island was misusing the money and taking advantage of the government, according to a person with direct knowledge of the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive internal deliberations. Instead, he wanted more of the money to go to Texas and Florida, the person said.

“POTUS was not consolable about this,” the person said. Patenaude told White House budget officials during an early December meeting in the Situation Room that the money had been appropriated by Congress and must be sent, according to two people with direct knowledge of the meeting. She assured them that HUD had proper oversight of the funds.

Patenaude, who had visited Puerto Rico more than half a dozen times during her tenure, was about to make her final trip to the island as deputy secretary and wanted to ensure that Mulvaney’s team corrected any misinformation transmitted to the president, said a HUD official who was not authorized to speak on the record.

Patenaude told The Post: “I didn’t push back. I advocated for Puerto Rico and assured the White House that Puerto Rico had sufficient financial controls in place and had put together a thoughtful housing and economic development recovery plan.”

In her meetings with Puerto Rico’s governor and other officials, Patenaude made it clear the territory would need to establish an oversight structure and meet other conditions to receive federal funding, said Carlos Mercader, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in Washington.

“Pam Patenaude showed the most commitment to Puerto Rico of any of the public officials inside the Trump administration,” said Mercader, who accompanied Patenaude on several of her visits to the island. “From the governor down, we are all grateful for everything she did.”

The week before Patenaude resigned, the U.S. territory received authorization to request future drawdowns for their long-term recovery efforts, including the development of affordable housing.

“She didn’t want to abandon Puerto Rico,” said the HUD official. “Once she felt like she left Puerto Rico in a good place, she felt like she could leave.”

The partial government shutdown has delayed Puerto Rico’s ability to access the first $1.5 billion of its nearly $20 billion in HUD disaster-relief funds.

Patenaude is the third senior political appointee with housing experience to leave HUD in recent weeks. Neal Rackleff, the assistant secretary of community planning and development, left in December. Michael Bright, executive vice president and chief operations officer at the Government National Mortgage Association, or Ginnie Mae, announced his resignation last week.

Patenaude, who began her career at HUD as a 21-year-old intern during the Reagan administration, has spent more than two decades in housing policy and economic development, serving as President George W. Bush’s assistant secretary for community planning and development at HUD.

“I’m going to continue to be supportive of the president and his agenda,” she said. “I’m going to be working very hard for his reelection.”

Source: Washington Post

Trump Wall: Past projects show border wall building is complex, costly

President Donald Trump is not giving up on his demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, saying a physical barrier is central to any strategy for addressing the security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border.

Democrats argue that funding the construction of a steel barrier along 234 miles (377 kilometers) will not solve the problems. A 2018 government report warns of increased risks that the U.S. wall-building program will cost more than projected, take longer than planned and not perform as expected.

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Walls and fencing now cover about one-third of the 1,954-mile-long (3,145-kilometer-long) border. Some construction began with former President Bill Clinton in the early 1990s, George W. Bush ramped up the effort in 2006, and Barack Obama built more than 130 miles (209 kilometers), mostly during his first year in office.

Between 2007 and 2015, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spent $2.4 billion to add 535 miles (861 kilometers) of pedestrian and vehicle barriers and other infrastructure along the border.

Trump wants to extend and fortify what’s already in place. But contracting, designing and building new wall systems complete with updated technology could take years, and past experience has shown such work can be complicated and costly.

Here is how much the government has spent on barriers in the states along the Mexican border:


Much of California’s 141 miles (227 kilometers) of border with Mexico was fenced during the Bush administration through a security measure that won congressional approval and had support from key Democrats.

In 2009, the federal government spent about $16 million a mile on a 3.5-mile (5.5-kilometer) stretch in San Diego, using about 2 million tons of dirt to fill in a canyon known as Smuggler’s Gulch. The earthen dam was then topped with layers of fencing.

At the Imperial Sand Dunes, the U.S. built a floating fence of 16-foot-high (5-meter-high) steel tubes that can be raised or lowered as the sands shift. The $6 million-a-mile barrier cuts through a film location for “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” that resembles the Sahara.

Both are examples of some of the rugged territory along the border that can result in higher costs.

The Government Accountability Office estimated in 2018 that new border wall construction averages $6.5 million a mile but terrain, building materials and other factors influence costs. Elsewhere, the Rio Grande’s winding waters and lush vegetation are more challenging for erecting walls than Arizona’s flat deserts.


In 2006, the federal government completed a 30-mile (48-kilometer) stretch of steel barriers to keep people from illegally crossing into the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The barriers were designed to stop vehicles from driving around a checkpoint in Lukeville or up through the desert wilderness. That three-year project had a price tag of $18 million.

More recently, Barnard Construction Co. Inc. of Montana was awarded $172 million for 14 miles (23 kilometers) of new fencing in the Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector. Officials say the total value of that contract could reach $324 million for 32 miles (52 kilometers).


More than a dozen miles of fence were built near Columbus in 2000, stretching from the border town to an onion farm and cattle ranch. A survey done several years later determined that a 1.5-mile (2-kilometer) section that was designed to keep cars from illegally crossing into the U.S. was accidentally built on Mexican soil.

The project was believed to initially cost about $500,000 a mile, while estimates to uproot and relocate the fencing ranged from $2.5 million to $3.5 million.

In 2018, the federal government awarded a $73 million contract to the same Montana-based company to rip out old vehicle barriers and replace them with a new bollard-style wall of tall metal slats and extensive concrete footings along a 20-mile (32-kilometer) stretch near Santa Teresa. That project was finished months ahead of schedule.


Congress last spring approved $641 million for 33 miles (53 kilometers) of construction in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal border crossings. Targeted areas include the nonprofit National Butterfly Center, a state park and privately owned ranches and farmland.

In El Paso, construction started last fall in the Chihuahuita neighborhood — the border city’s oldest neighborhood — to replace 4 miles (6 kilometers) of chain-link fencing with a new steel bollard wall. The estimated cost: $22 million.

There has been fencing for decades in cities such as El Paso and San Diego. Once built, increased crackdowns in those areas led to a drop in apprehensions. But authorities have complained that as a result of those efforts, illegal crossings and trafficking activity has been pushed to more remote stretches of the border.

Source: abcnews.go.com

Here’s how much property Jeff Bezos owns in the US

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ $137 billion fortune are under a microscope after he and his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie, announced their divorce.

It’s unclear from their initial statement, issued via Twitter, whether they had any prenuptial agreement, or any other contract affecting the financial terms of their divorce — and also uncertain how the couple may decide to split the vast amounts of property they’ve acquired over the years.

Although his e-commerce behemoth is based in Seattle, Bezos owns land in several other states. In fact, according to reports,the world’s richest man also happens to be the country’s 28th-largest landowner.

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From sunny California to a 30,000-acre ranch in Texas, here’s a look at some of the estates the Bezos family considers home.

Beverly Hills, California

In July, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos — who have four children — bought a 4,568-square-foot, four-bedroom home with a swimming pool on half an acre for $12.9 million.

That house is located right next door to the sprawling 11,891-square-foot, seven-bedroom, seven-bathroom home he bought in 2007 for $24.45 million.

Washington, D.C.

The city, a suburb of which will host half of Amazon’s second headquarters, is also home to another Bezos mansion. For $23 million, Bezos bought the former Textile Museum about two years ago. Neighbors include Barack and Michelle Obama, as well as Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, according to the Journal.

(Bezos also has another presence in Washington: He bought The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million).

Van Horn, Texas

The multi-billionaire, who grew up on his grandparents’ ranch in a small Texas town, owns more than 300,000 acres in the state, most of which is part of “Corn Ranch.” He told a local newspaper in 2005 that he bought the 30,000-acre Figure 2 ranch to give his family the same experience.

New York City

In 1999, Bezos bought three units at a building in Manhattan’s Lincoln Square neighborhood for about $7.65 million. In 2012, he paid $5.3 million for a 1,725-square-foot unit across from the original building.

Long Island City, which is in the New York City borough of Queens, will be home to the other half of Amazon’s second headquarters.

Medina, Washington

Bezos paid $10 million for his 5.3-acre property in 1998 in the Seattle suburb. His property includes two residences: One is a 20,600-square-foot, five-bedroom, four-bathroom house; the other is an 8,300-square-foot, five-bedroom, four-bathroom house.


More than 400 UK high-rise towers still have ACM cladding

New figures show 437 high-rise residential and publicly-owned buildings in England still have aluminium composite material cladding which is unlikely to meet existing building regulations guidance.

The latest official data on ACM-clad buildings showed as of 31 December 2018, 268 unremediated towers were in the private sector, with 160 comprising social housing and nine being publicly-owned, such as hospitals and schools.

The housing department began compiling figures on buildings over 18m tall with ACM in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 in which 72 residents lost their lives.

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The government has said it will consider in a matter of weeks the recommendations of the Hackitt Review which was prompted by the disaster in west London. Proposals include tougher regulations and enforcement, improving accountability among developers and owners and establishing a joint competent authority to oversee the safety of tall residential buildings during their lifecycle.

Of the 268 private sector buildings, plans for remediation on 56 remained “unclear”, according to the government update, down from “more than 200” in June last year.

Work had been completed on 30 private sector buildings, 18 had seen work start, plans existed for 126, and owners of 38 buildings said they intended to do work and were developing plans.

Communities secretary James Brokenshire said while the government was funding the replacement of ACM cladding in the social sector building owners and developers in the private sector must pay for the replacement of dangerous material themselves.

Brokenshire said the costs must not be passed on to leaseholders. “My message is clear. Private building owners must pay for this work now or they will pay more later.”

Of the 176 private residential buildings covered by the latest findings the government said the owners or developers of 80 had either agreed to fund the cost of remediation or had had warranties accepted in order to pay for the work to be done, while it was unclear who would fund work on the remaining 90.

Of the 160 social sector buildings 37 had finished remediation work, 81 had started work, 40 had a plan in place but work had yet to commence, while owners of two further buildings had indicated their intent to do work.

There were three local authorities with more than 20 buildings which still feature an unsafe cladding system which had yet to be fixed, the government said: Salford in Greater Manchester and Greenwich and Tower Hamlets in London.

Bionic Construction Workers Coming in 2020

An American robotics company has revealed a new full-body exoskeleton for construction workers that aims to be commercially available in 2020.While the US manufacturer specializes in military and public safety devices, the new robotic exoskeleton allows workers to carry up to 200 pounds for extended periods of time. Called the Guardian XO, the design has been in development for nearly two decades and is made to help reduce strain on construction workers.

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The Guardian XO took over $175 million to develop and can last for eight hours on a single charge. The weight of the suit and its carried loads is transferred through the exoskeleton structure to the ground.

The company says the suit contains a “suite of sensors integrated into the exoskeleton, allowing the operator to intuitively control the robot in a way that leverages his or her instincts and reflexes, and minimizes the need for human training”. Built with a strength amplification of 20 to 1, a 100-pound steel beam will feel like a 5-pound weight.

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