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Another building on fire in Lagos

A building on Jebba by Okobaba Street, Lagos Mainland is currently on fire.

Residents of the area have trooped out in their hundreds to put the fire out.

Over 20 minutes after first filing this report, firefighters arrived the scene of the fire outbreak at Jebba by Okobaba street, Ebute Metta.

However, as of  2.10 p.m., efforts to douse the fire have yielded no results.

 

Source: Punch

Why Politicians Must Unlock Investment Rather Than Create More Risk

On one level, the strategic choices facing most providers are relatively straightforward, and really boil down to two questions.

The first is where to target our scarce resources – or, put another way, who to help. This is not always easy. For example, most of us wrestle with hard choices between services to existing residents – some of whom are really struggling – and investment in new supply to support those who aren’t adequately housed. There is no right answer, so the best we can do is strike an appropriate balance given our context and capabilities.

The second is how much risk we can afford to take in pursuit of these objectives. Clearly the answer is driven by our financial standing and our view of what the future may hold.

I have always felt that politicians spend a little too much time thinking about how they can influence the answer to the first question, and not nearly enough time worrying about the second.

The recent government announcement on a new shared ownership Right to Buy scheme is a case in point.

There has rarely been a period in which housing associations have faced such significant uncertainties. The range of potential outcomes of Brexit and clouds gathering over the world economy means that the housing market could be just about anywhere in 18 months’ time – not good news given the rapid growth in sales exposures since the last recession.

Brexit also casts a shadow over other issues. For example, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would dramatically increase public borrowing. The last time government faced this sort of challenge, following the credit crunch, it ended up reducing rents on social housing, going back on a 10-year ‘deal’. Could history repeat itself?

There are also major policy and regulatory risks to the core business of managing and maintaining existing homes. As a society we have been complacent about the quality and safety of complex buildings.

“A sensible policy approach would be to try to mitigate some of these risks. A good start would be to commit to grant funding beyond the end of the current programme in April 2022”

Now that Grenfell has forced us to take a closer look, we face a large and growing bill, which many of the developers and contractors responsible will do just about anything to avoid. This is closely linked to implementing the outcome of the Hackitt Review – the cost of which also remains uncertain.

Last but not least, there is uncertainty about what as a sector we will be expected to do on the greatest challenge of all: climate change. There simply is no route map to carbon neutrality and what it means for housing.

In theory we have 30 years to get there, and experience suggests that government will dither and then demand a wide range of expensive interventions just before it is too late, which at least suggests we won’t face big costs tomorrow.

However, there is also ample scope for the politics around the environment to change abruptly – perhaps as a result of unforeseen events – which might create an imperative to spend money sooner than we think.

All of the above suggests that boards will be (and should be) wary of taking the sorts of development risks that will be necessary to achieve a step change in the number of new homes.

A sensible policy approach would therefore be to try to mitigate some of these risks. It is not very hard to imagine what this could look like. A good start would be to commit to grant funding beyond the end of the current programme in April 2022 – to enable those of us that are not strategic partners to take on new land-led schemes.

And adjusting grant rates – including for strategic partners – which would mean schemes stack up without providers having to assume implausible levels of cross-subsidy from sales profits.

“Even if implemented, shared ownership Right to Buy may well turn out to be a damp squib”

Instead, government has introduced additional uncertainty with its shared ownership Right to Buy announcement.

Even if implemented, it may well turn out to be a damp squib – it is hard to see many renters taking on higher rent/mortgage costs and full repairing responsibilities to get a 10% stake in their home. However, it creates new risks around security, and will lead to providers trying to stress test their potential liabilities owing to the mortgagee protection clause in shared ownership leases.

We all know this is much more about politics than economics, but that excuse is wearing increasingly thin. Given the state of the economy and the scale of the housing crisis, we desperately need politicians to unlock investment, rather than creating yet more risk. When in a hole, stop digging.

Source: insidehousing

 

33 states can’t survive without federal allocation — Report

Thirty-three state governments cannot finance their recurrent expenditure without allocation from the federation account, a report prepared by BudgiT has said.

The federation account, according to nigerianstat.gov.ng, is the central pocket through which the three tiers of governments maintain their respective workforce and fund their developmental projects.

BudgiT said in the report released in Abuja on Wednesday that going by its findings, many states would be in jeopardy if the federal allocation were to reduce owing to oil price fluctuations.

The report titled, ‘State of states 2019’, explained that only three state governments could finance their recurrent expenditure independently, without funds from the federal allocation.

It gave the three states as Lagos, Rivers and Akwa Ibom.

Speaking on the outcome of its findings, the Lead Researcher, BudgiT, Orji Uche, said only 19 states could meet their expenditure with internally generated revenue and federal allocation.

The report wondered why a state such as Delta was running huge recurrent expenditure reaching up to N200bn.

It also wondered why despite the size of its population, Bayelsa State still had recurrent bill as high as N137bn, compared with Ebonyi, which had a recurrent bill of N30bn; Sokoto, N38bn; Jigawa, N43bn; and Yobe, N35bn.

The report said it was a recurring development to see states in the South-South region running high recurrent bills, mainly driven by the high revenues earned as a result of the 13 per cent derivation principle.

In its analysis, the firm said it was also interesting to see  states such as Cross River with a bogus budget of N1.04tn spend less than N93bn on an annual basis.

Uche said with the current uncertainties facing the oil market, state governments should not continue to rely heavily on federal allocation.

She said, “The implication of looking at this index is to enable us to understand without federal allocation, how many states can sustain themselves.

“And by sustaining themselves, we are looking only at recurrent expenditure. Are you going to meet your operating obligations? Are you able to pay salaries so that anything coming from broad federal allocation would go to investments in the key sectors of the economy?

“When we look at the index, we can see that those states that can meet their expenditure only with IGR are only three stages out of 36 states.”

The Senior Economist, World Bank, Yue Man Lee, speaking on the report, said one of the implications of having low revenue was that the amount Nigeria could spend on human development would be restricted.

She said over the years, the fiscal capacity of states to generate the needed revenue to finance their operations had reduced.

She said, “The broader fiscal challenge that Nigeria faces is low revenue that constrains the budget envelop. This, when out in plain terms, is how much revenue that is available to spend on public service and investments in human capital.”

Source: Punch

Ikea-owned developer to open UK modular factory

BokLok, the modular housing joint venture between Ikea and construction giant Skanska is on the verge of signing a deal with a manufacturer to build its homes in the UK.

Graeme Culliton, UK MD of BoKlok, said the firm, which this summer announced its first UK development, on land owned by Bristol city council, was aiming to sign a memorandum of understanding with a UK supplier for its homes in the coming weeks.

BoKlok, which uses a timber-frame modular technology to produce schemes of up to four storeys, is aiming to grow in the UK through initially targeting sites in the Bristol region and the south coast of England. Culliton said the plan was that BoKlok’s UK homes will be built here, while UK apartments will be built in the firm’s existing facility in eastern Europe, to take advantage of a “tried and tested” supply chain.

He said: “Our houses will be manufactured here in the UK – I’m not going to reveal where because we’ve still got to sign the MOU with the supplier – they will be manufactured here in the UK, the apartment product will be manufactured in Estonia in an existing facility that has been used for the Nordics.”

Culliton said the firm hoped to sign a deal with a UK manufacturer in the next month.

BoKlok is a major home builder in Scandanavia, having built 12,000 homes in the past two decades, mainly in Sweden, after being set up by Ikea’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, with the aim of offering homes affordable to people on an average wage. It currently develops around 1,200 homes every year, acting as developer, with homes manufactured under licence in a facility in Estonia.

Culliton said the firm, as in Sweden, would target buyers on average incomes, meaning homes will ultimately be available to purchase for around £250,000. He said the firm was currently working to sign five development deals, amounting to a pipeline of hundreds of homes.

In October, the firm said it had been selected by Bristol city council to build out 200 homes on the Airport Road site in the south of the city, with 30% made available for social rent and shared ownership.

Culliton said the firm would look to expand geographically outside of its current Bristol and south-coast focus, but only when the business had proven itself.

Culliton’s comments came after BoKlok chief executive Jonas Spangenberg at Tuesday’s Bristol Housing Festival. Spangenberg said the firm was in the middle of investing heavily in its existing facility in order to bring automation and digitisation “to the next level”. He said: “In doing this we have been heavily influenced by other industries, such as the car industry, but not by the construction industry.”

Source: Housing Today

The school of social housing

Going back into education to begin a new qualification is not what Sharon O’Connor expected to be doing in her sixties.

“I only did secondary school – and that was a long time ago,” she says with a smile.

But Ms O’Connor, a leaseholder at London housing association Phoenix Community Housing, has stepped back into the classroom as part of a unique project to empower and equip tenants and residents so they can help run the organisation themselves.

The Phoenix Academy was set up in 2014 to encourage more residents to become involved with Phoenix and potentially take up future positions on the provider’s board and committees. It bills itself as a “school of social housing” – teaching people about the sector from top to bottom.

The Level 1 course – which is delivered by Phoenix staff and residents – focuses on the history of social housing, asset management, housing finance, models of governance and more. Its aim is to demystify the housing system – challenging people on everything from how you prioritise repairs to how landlords manage risk. It is free for Phoenix tenants to attend.

The academy is the brainchild of Jim Ripley, the softly spoken chief executive of Phoenix, who realised that the association’s resident-led model was only going to be sustained into the future if it actively recruited switched-on tenants who knew about the housing system to lead it.

Phoenix, which owns and manages more than 6,000 homes in Lewisham, south-east London, is a ‘community gateway’ landlord, and its rules stipulate that its chair and vice-chair must be residents.

“We’re always thinking about succession, and it’s very challenging,” Mr Ripley explains. “Our board does not pay, so you need skills and motivation to be involved.”

He realised that setting up a course, running on consecutive Tuesday evenings, would increase people’s confidence and convince them of the value of getting involved in life at Phoenix.

“The most important thing about the academy is that people ask a lot of questions – they are very challenging,” Mr Ripley says. “That’s a thing that boards need.”

The course proved extremely popular – so much so that the landlord set up a Level 2 course and, this month, a Level 3 course. It is now accredited by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), making Phoenix the only housing association to run a course of its kind aimed specifically at tenants.

The first day of the Level 3 course starts with an introductory session with tutor Sarah Whitelaw; while the Level 1 course is taught by residents and staff, for Levels 2 and 3, an external teacher is brought in.

Ms O’Connor is looking forward to adding to her qualifications and increasing the ways she can serve a community she is passionate about. “I’ve been a leaseholder here for many years,” she says. “I want to gain the knowledge to put it back out there.”

She is already Phoenix’s energy champion and holds a weekly drop-in for people wanting a better deal on their bills or to use less energy. The fact that she lives in a Phoenix home is what has made this successful, she says. “If it’s coming from a resident it’s not ‘us and them’ any more,” she points out.

Doing the Level 3 course will mean she will understand more about what it takes to run a housing association and what can be done to improve the lives of those who live in its homes. The course features modules on the housing system, customer service and occupancy, among other things.

“I’m already finding that people are coming to me for advice with their rent or for other problems. I’m hoping to get more knowledge to give out by doing this,” she adds.

The academy is achieving its aims: of the nearly 180 previous graduates of the academy, three have become Phoenix board members, others have joined the resident-led scrutiny committee, and still more are involved at all levels of governance.

When Inside Housing visits, Deirdre Kennedy, Gwen Smith and Eileen Davies are enjoying a coffee in Phoenix’s headquarters and community centre, The Green Man. All three of them attended the Level 1 course at the Phoenix Academy, which they feel has strengthened their involvement in the organisation’s scrutiny committee.

“It shows Phoenix is trying to do something to make tenants aware of the situation within social housing,” Ms Kennedy says. Phoenix has begun to build its own homes, and the course has helped residents understand the implications of this, she says.

“It’s really useful to have more information behind you – to know the ways social housing is being battered and what we can do to help,” Ms Davies adds.

She says doing the course gave her a better sense of the internal workings of the organisation.

“Part of the course was informing you how to look after your property, when to report a repair and how to explain it. It helps people to take part in looking after their own homes,” she says.

Participants also get to visit City Hall and the Houses of Parliament during their time on the course. “We want to encourage people to see themselves as citizens,” Mr Ripley explains. It has proved to be an eye-opening experience each time a group goes in – many of whom have never considered how local and national democracy works.

Mr Ripley is obviously thrilled that the courses are producing tangible results and genuinely affecting the way that the organisation functions. “I’m really proud that the three newest members of the board went through the academy,” he says.

Simon Barlow is one of those new board members. A communications professional by day and a Phoenix tenant, he felt being part of the organisation’s leadership was a good way of giving back to his community.

He first joined the Phoenix Academy two years ago, and has since completed the Level 1 and 2 courses.

“I found the management side really interesting,” he says. “[Running a housing association] is not just about collecting the rent – it’s about repairing the homes and supporting people if they are out of work and so on.

“There is so much going on that we, as tenants, aren’t aware of, such as tackling anti-social behaviour or helping people who are being housed here who are refugees. It’s not just a home, it’s a 360° thing.”

Having been a member of Phoenix’s scrutiny panel, earlier this year he took up a place on the board. He is keen to encourage more young people to get involved, so that the make-up remains diverse.

“It’s nice to feel that as a resident we can look at some of the decisions that have been made at quite a senior level and how they impact on the frontline,” he says.

Since the academy launched, other housing providers have begun to send their members of staff on the courses and Phoenix has altered the content slightly to fit. By paying, they effectively cross-subsidise Phoenix’s tenants’ involvement, which continues to grow: bookings are already being taken for a course that begins next April.

At the end of each course, people who have completed it are invited to a graduation ceremony, where they receive a certificate. For some, it is one of the few formal qualifications they have ever achieved.

“I found the management side really interesting,” he says. “[Running a housing association] is not just about collecting the rent – it’s about repairing the homes and supporting people if they are out of work and so on.

“There is so much going on that we, as tenants, aren’t aware of, such as tackling anti-social behaviour or helping people who are being housed here who are refugees. It’s not just a home, it’s a 360° thing.”

Having been a member of Phoenix’s scrutiny panel, earlier this year he took up a place on the board. He is keen to encourage more young people to get involved, so that the make-up remains diverse.

“It’s nice to feel that as a resident we can look at some of the decisions that have been made at quite a senior level and how they impact on the frontline,” he says.

Since the academy launched, other housing providers have begun to send their members of staff on the courses and Phoenix has altered the content slightly to fit. By paying, they effectively cross-subsidise Phoenix’s tenants’ involvement, which continues to grow: bookings are already being taken for a course that begins next April.

At the end of each course, people who have completed it are invited to a graduation ceremony, where they receive a certificate. For some, it is one of the few formal qualifications they have ever achieved.

“We need people who are inspirational to run this,” he says. “And that’s what we’re getting.”

By: Rhiannon Curry

Rwanda: City Mayor Elated As Forbes Names Kigali Among 20 Best Places to Visit

The City of Kigali this week made it to the Forbes’ list of the 20 best places to visit in 2020.

The exclusive list, drawn up based on sales and client aspirations, was made by travel agents of the Ovation Travel Group, a 35-year-old $1.4 billion travel company.

Judy Stein, president of the Stein Collective, an affiliate of Ovation Travel Group, noted that people should visit Kigali to witnesses its dramatic success since the end of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.

“Kigali is clean, safe and filled with enlightening cultural experiences from world-class modern art galleries to fashion, local crafts and even a coffee co-op run by women making the world’s best coffee,” she told Forbes.

“Rwanda in general and Kigali as the capital gateway city have really come into their own since the genocide a generation ago,” Stein said.

She also urged travellers to visit the recently opened Singita Kwitonda lodge in Musanze District, and One&Only’s Nyungwe House in Nyamasheke District, for wildlife exploration, especially gorilla trekking.

Speaking to The New Times, the Mayor of the City of Kigali, Pudence Rubingisa, said these were exciting times for the city residents are visitors.

The capital, he said, is “indeed a gateway to Rwanda’s incredible touristic attractions”.

We are increasingly becoming an ideal destination for travellers from around the world, he added, citing ongoing efforts to make travellers’ experience even more exciting.

Frank Benoit Kanyamutara, the owner of Golden Rwanda Safaris, reckons that the growing recognition of Kigali and Rwanda, in general, as a top destination presented an opportunity to travel agencies.

“Although the Government invests in tourism, we are the ones who host these visitors. As such, when the country is ranked highly, it means more possibilities for the people of Rwanda in general and for us in this sector in particular,” he said.

Frederick Ndikubwimana, the Managing Director of Rwanda Discovery and Travel Agency, said: “These rankings are good for the domestic tourism sector because they influence people’s perceptions and inform their decision-making when it comes to such things as holidaying.”

We expect more tourists to consider Rwanda in their travel plans, he added.

According to RDB, 1.7 million people visited Rwanda in 2018, representing an 8 per cent growth from the previous year.

Rwanda is home to hundreds of mountain gorillas as well as several national parks teeming with wildlife of all kinds.

The country also boasts the Big Five following the successful translocation of certain species to the Akagera National Park.

Most of these parks are less than two hours drive from the capital.

Other destinations on the Forbes’ list besides Rwandan capital city Kigali include Cape Town, Patagonia, Marrakech, Tel Aviv, Atacama Desert and Tokyo.

Source: AllAfrica

Breaking: Mob grab, burn another ‘one chance robber’ in Abuja

Another mob in Abuja a while ago Tuesday killed suspected robber beside the former Daughter of Charity hospital, a few metres from the Kubwa train station, few weeks after ‘one chance’ men were equally burnt.

It was gathered that the suspect alongside his accomplice attempted to snatch a motorcycle from a commercial motorcycle rider but their plot was foiled when their victim raised the alarm which attracted passers-by, Punch reports.

One of the suspected robbers was killed and his body set ablaze on the rail track, while his accomplice in the crime was rescued by the police.

Source: BluePrint

Sleek home built from 8 used shipping containers

From afar, it looks like a sleek South Florida house splashed in white and gray hues. Impact windows outline the exterior. There’s a two-vehicle carport and an open-air terrace. A bed of river stones fill the front yard.

But if you take a closer look at the boxy home, you might see a semblance of its former life; this is a house built out of used ocean cargo containers.

For over a year, South Florida architect Asghar Fathi has been slowly building this three-story shipping container home in Davie that he and his family soon plan to move into.

Installing cabinets and appliances, he’s just adding the finishing touches to the project, which he began to show people that you can build a sustainable and economical house in the region.

“It’s a simple, straight-forward modern building,” said Fathi as he proudly gave a tour of the home at 4620 SW 55th Ave. in Davie, which dwarfs the quaint one-story bungalows on the block. “And it’s strong and durable, termite-proof, hurricane-proof.”

In recent years, fellow homeowners and developers have also jumped on the cargo home building trend, recycling former sea containers into new residences and offices.

In Jupiter, there’s a rustic two-story cargo home that serves as an Airbnb rental. In September, Miami startup Echo Tech Visions and container home developer Build Everyday Better broke ground on two affordable and environmentally friendly container homes in Miami Gardens.

Those new residences will be about 1,200 square feet, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Units will cost about $205,000.

“The innovation is finally catching up,” said Keiandra Payton, a facility manager at Echo Tech Visions. She believes the shipping container home trend is spreading because the units are easier to build in a shorter amount of time. And they’re affordable in a region where homes can top more than $300,000.

Source: SunSentinel

FG Restricts Foreign Trips to Two Per Quarter for Officials, Cancels Estacode

The Nigerian government, in a bid to curb leakages and ensure efficiency in the management of its resources, has directed that henceforth, all Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen of Extra-Ministerial Departments, Chief Executive Officers and Directors are restricted to not more than two foreign travels in a quarter for highly essential statutory engagements that are beneficial to interest of the nation.

This directive was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari as part of additional cost saving measures aimed at instilling financial discipline and prudence, particularly, in the area of official travels.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, it was emphasised that the affected officials can only embark on more than two foreign trips in three months “except with the express approval of Mr President.

In addition, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have been asked to submit their Yearly Travel Plans for statutory meetings and engagements to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and/or the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation for express clearance within the first quarter of the fiscal year, before implementation.

They are further required to make their presentation using the existing template and also secure approvals on specific travels as contained in the plan, from the appropriate quarters.

The statement obtained by Business Post said “all public funded travels (local and foreign), must be strictly for official purposes backed with documentary evidence.”

Also, when a Minister is at the head of an official delegation, the size of such delegation shall not exceed 4 including the relevant Director, Schedule Officer and 1 Aide of the Minister.

Every other delegation below ministerial level shall be restricted to a maximum of three and for the class of air travels, the President has approved that Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants to the President, Chairmen of Extra-Ministerial Departments and Chief Executive Officers of Parastatals who are entitled, continue to fly Business Class while other categories of public officers are to travel on Economy Class.

“Also, travel days will no longer attract payment of Estacode Allowances as duration of official trips shall be limited to only the number of days of the event as contained in the supporting documents to qualify for public funding,” the statement said.

Source: Business Post

Family Homes Funds to deliver 40,000 homes by 2020

The Managing Director of the Family Homes Funds, Femi Adewole, says the target of the FHF by this time next year is to complete or commence the construction of about 40,000 affordable homes across the country. Adewole said this yesterday during a courtesy call on the FHF in Abuja by a team from Media Trust Limited, publishers of the Daily Trust and other titles.

The Family Homes Funds, dubbed sub-Sahara Africa’s largest housing fund, is a social housing initiative promoted by the Federal Government as part of its Social Intervention Programmes.

Adewole said the fund, in just a year of existence, had about 4,000 homes currently at various stages of completion across five states of the federation.

According to him, the FHF is probably the largest building programme in Nigeria in a very long time. He said: “In Ogun state, we are doing 1,070 homes. In Nasarawa, we have completed about 580 and in Kaduna we are about 60 per cent completion of about 620 homes. In Kano, we are building about 767 homes. In Delta state, we have about 620 homes.” He said FHF had reached agreements with some state governments to finance a number of affordable homes. “We have an agreement with Borno State to finance about 4900 homes. Of that, 3200 is replacement homes for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and 1,700 for civil servants. We have also signed with Yobe state for 3,600 homes, Adamawa 2,000 and for Bauchi 2500 homes,” he added

He said discussions were currently ongoing with states like Ebonyi, Kogi, Akwa Ibom, Anambra and a number of others. “The objective is that by this time next year, we should have completed or have gone into construction for about 40,000 homes,” he said. He said the FHF would soon roll out a rental housing scheme where Nigerians could move to their houses with just a month rent and a month deposit and with an option to buy the house.

Source: Daily Trust

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