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Apple Commits $2.5 Billion to Ease California Housing Crunch

The plan includes $1 billion for an affordable housing investment fund and another $1 billion to help first-time buyers find mortgages.

 

Apple is pledging $2.5 billion to confront California’s housing crisis, in a bid to help the state ease a situation that’s been blamed for marginalizing people in service and support jobs and creating a spike in homelessness.

“The sky-high cost of housing — both for homeowners and renters — is the defining quality-of-life concern for millions of families across this state, one that can only be fixed by building more housing,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement from Apple. “This partnership with Apple will allow the state of California to do just that.”

The announcement comes as California grapples with how to keep pace with growing demand — by one estimate, as NPR recently noted, the state must build more than 3 million homes by 2025.

Apple’s plan includes $1 billion to create a mortgage assistance fund for first-time homebuyers, and another $1 billion that will be an open line of credit to support building “very low- to moderate-income housing,” the company said.

People who want to own or rent a home in California increasingly face tight supply in high-demand areas. While the crisis has a wide reach, the struggle to find new housing at an affordable price is even more daunting for the millions of people who haven’t benefited from the tech boom that has made some into billionaires.

The result is that in a state famous for nurturing innovative ideas in garages, a number of people have been living in their vehicles because of the high cost of rent — including some lower-paid tech workers. Communities from Los Angeles to the Bay Area have been criticized for banning or restricting people’s ability to live in automobiles and RVs.

“Apple is committed to being a good neighbor and helping to write the next chapter of the region that has been a great home of innovation and creativity for generations,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives.

Some 45% of California residents rent their homes, according to the latest figures from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. It adds that among renters, the average hourly wage is $22.79 — but to afford fair market rent for a two-bedroom home, a renter must earn $34.69 an hour.

Apple’s housing offer follows large commitments from other tech giants. Both Facebook and Google have pledged $1 billion in recent months. In January, Microsoft made a $500 million investment to ease similar pressures near its headquarters in the Seattle area.

Jackson says Apple crafted its approach to match the broad reach of the housing crisis, from helping first-time homebuyers to backing philanthropies that support people who are at the greatest risk of experiencing homelessness.

California’s poverty rate has fallen in each of the past five years, according to the latest American Community Survey report from the U.S. Census Bureau. But the state’s income inequality rate is also one of the worst in the U.S., that same report found. And of all the states that had higher than average income inequality rates in 2018, California was the only one where the income gap grew even wider last year.

Housing Deficit

“Affordable housing means stability and dignity, opportunity and pride,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said. “When these things fall out of reach for too many, we know the course we are on is unsustainable, and Apple is committed to being part of the solution.”

Here’s the company’s breakdown of the $2.5 billion in aid:

  • $1 billion affordable housing investment fund
  • $1 billion first-time homebuyer mortgage assistance fund
  • $300 million worth of land Apple owns in San Jose, which will be available for affordable housing
  • $150 million Bay Area housing fund, consisting of long-term forgivable loans and grants
  • $50 million to support vulnerable people: Apple is donating $50 million to support Destination: Home’s efforts to address homelessness in Silicon Valley, and will look for similar philanthropies in the north and south of the state

Source: npr

Saudi Firms Partner To Build World’s Largest Mixed Use Shopping Destination

The new destination is expected to cost $5 billion and will include major theme parks, water parks, recreational facilities, dining and hospitality components

Al Akaria Saudi Real Estate Company and Triple Five Worldwide-owned Arabian Dream KSA are teaming up to develop what they say is the world’s largest mixed use entertainment and shopping centre development.

Triple Five is the owner and developer of three of the largest retail and entertainment centres in North America: Mall of America, American Dream and West Edmonton Mall.

The new destination is expected to cost $5 billion and will include major theme parks, water parks, recreational facilities, dining and hospitality components, all coupled with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

The development will be located within Al Widyan’s 7 million sq m masterplan, which is being built as a mixed-use development and leisure destination. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed in the first half of next year.

“We are very proud to partner with Arabian Dream and Triple Five on the development of a mega leisure and entertainment destination at Al Widyan project site,” said Saudi Real Estate Company chairman Aiman Mudaifer.

“With the proven track record of Triple Five in developing such projects and creating new experiences for its visitors, we are confident that once completed, it will become a new destination for residents of Riyadh and visitors to Saudi Arabian,’ he added. “Through this project, we are also proud to play an active role in contributing towards Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.”

To date, Al Akaria has worked on over 32 residential, retail and commercial projects.

Source: arabianbusiness

Dubai Unveils Largest 3D Printed Two-Storey Structure In The World

Dubai Municipality has announced another milestone by entering the Guinness Book of World Records for 3D printed building

Dubai Municipality has announced another milestone by entering the Guinness Book of World Records for completing the largest 3D printed two-storey structure in the world.

The achievement is in line with the directives of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai to construct 25 percent of the buildings in Dubai with 3D printing technology by 2030.

Dubai Municipality said it has completed a two-storey integrated building project with a height of 9.5 metres at a total area of 640 square metres through the use of 3D printing technology.

It is the largest and first 3D printed two-story structure in the world executed by undertaking 3D printing onsite directly under external working conditions and using local components, it added.

Dawoud Al Hajri, director general of Dubai Municipality said: “This project is a major turning point in the construction sector at the local and regional levels and is based on the strategy of innovation in 3D printing technologies in construction, which in turn will increase the pace and speed of execution and completion of buildings in record time, and reduce construction costs and contribute to the development of solutions to the demographics challenges by reducing the number of construction labour.

“It will also support the Emirate’s sustainability trends using local materials and reduce construction waste, where printing is done electronically according to engineering plans directly without human intervention,” he added.

 

“The two-storey building has been designed and executed with a number of spaces that can be used as rooms or offices of different sizes. The walls are printed directly from the printer, unlike the traditional method of construction, which depends on the work of tightening wooden pieces with nuts and bolts, reinforcement and pouring of concrete and making bricks. The building has been designed with different curves and shapes through which it was tested whether it can be possible for 3D printing in the construction of a variety of designs,” said Al Hajri.

He added that the Municipality ensured that the materials used in the mixture are local materials available in the country. The printing mix was created from local materials and will be the Intellectual Property of Dubai Municipality as the holder of the rights of this mixture in the future.

Source: arabianbusiness

Foreign Brands Renew Interest in Nigeria’s Real Estate

Building materials manufacturers have said the real estate industry has started stabilising with more investments expected.

At the recently concluded construction exhibition in Lagos, tagged, ‘The Big 5 Construct Nigeria’, some foreign investors looking for opportunities in the country said the real estate industry development reflected the growth in the second quarter of 2019, hence the renewed interest.

The General Manager, Sales and Operations of the United Arab Emirates-based Grannitto – Al Khaleej Ceramics, Siva Gopal,  said it had become important to do business in Nigeria, adding that despite a drop in the last quarter of 2018, the Nigerian construction and real estate industry recorded growth in the second quarter of 2019 with prediction for good numbers in the second half of 2019 and 2020.

He said, “As per the information received through various media, investment in real estate is more stable compared to any other business venture in Nigeria.

“Politicians and people with money would like to invest in the sector. Because of the dull experience in the sector in the immediate past year, the sector will offer people the opportunity to invest in it now.”

The Marketing Head, Abdullah Al Barrak Factory for Plastic Products, Mohammad Aslam, described Nigeria as a growing country with mixed economy and emerging markets.

The country, according to him, is expanding in the manufacturing, financial, service, communications, technology and entertainment sectors.

He added, “We will contribute our services towards the growth and development of the Nigerian construction market. The ABPF polycarbonate sheets have an ideal solution for a wide range of applications in construction, industrial, commercial and domestic segments.

“The PC solid sheets are an engineering plastic used extensively in the construction industry for external applications such as skylights, space frames, roofs, shades and vaults/ barrels.”

The Portfolio Director at DMG Events, the organisers of the exhibition, Muhammed Kazi, said companies from over 20 countries such as China, Egypt, France, Greece, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates had indicated interest to invest in the Nigerian market.

“We believe this is a great success and a clear indication of the country’s growing attractiveness in the global construction arena,” he said.

He explained that new development plans were creating huge demand for international suppliers to bring their products and technologies to Nigeria and The Big 5 Construct Nigeria, which held between September 9 and 11, was a response to such demand.

Source: punchngng

Singapore

Singapore Listed Second Safest City In The World

The ranking means Singapore received perfect scores for their continuity management plans, institutional capacity, disaster-risk informed development and pedestrian friendliness.

Singapore has been ranked as the second safest city in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Safe Cities Index.

Tokyo holds the title as the safest city for the third straight time while Osaka ranked third. Six Asia Pacific (APAC) cities placed in the top ten, including Melbourne (10th), Seoul (8th) and Sydney (5th), reported Singapore Business Review.

The ranking means Singapore received perfect scores for their continuity management plans, institutional capacity, disaster-risk informed development and pedestrian friendliness.

It also indicates that the city-state possesses strong personal security inputs characterised by policing that has high-levels of community-based patrolling and engagement as well as the use of data-driven techniques.

Despite ranking only 8th for the health security list, Singapore topped the sub-rankings for personal security and infrastructure safety and placed second in digital security.

The city-state is also noted to have low infection levels of computer malware and viruses and is known to offer high quality and easy access to safe food, water and air, prompt emergency services and healthcare.

According to the report, APAC cities are generally known to perform well across the categories of infrastructure security, personal security and health security. However, North American cities fare better in digital security, garnering seven of the top ten spots in the category.

“Our research shows that a city’s region does not have any statistically significant relationship with its performance [in the study],” said Naka Kondo, senior editor of EIU.

“Although APAC cities such as Tokyo, Singapore and Osaka continue to rank within the top three cities in the Index, the region also hosts some of the lowest scoring cities in the world, with Yangon, Karachi and Dhaka close to the bottom of the list.”

Source: propertyguru

What Could the Future of Housing Look Like?

Modern methods of construction (MMC) have been used since World War II.

However in recent years, government has placed increasing emphasis on this as a solution to increasing development at pace.

Councils and housing associations are hesitant about this suggestion and the government recognised this in the report Building for Change, which also introduces the role of ‘integrator’.

In response, the London Housing Consortium (LHC) and the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) have come together to launch Consortium Procurement, a ‘one-stop shop’ to help.

What is your definition of modern methods of construction?

Clive Feeney: Modern methods of construction is a definition framework created by the government, containing seven categories of modern construction services. MMC gives social housing providers and their homebuilding partners a common language that will aid collaboration and further adoption of pre-manufacturing, site-based materials and process innovations.

Tracy Harrison: There are a confusing range of build methods covered by the term but we use it to describe the use of factory-produced, pre-engineered building units or components.

What are the advantages of MMC?

CF: The method can be as much as 30% quicker than traditional construction but it’s not just about speed of the build – there are many other advantages. Factory-built homes result in less waste, not just in the build process but once occupied, and there are reduced carbon emissions and improved health and safety. Not only that, but if homes are built quicker then rented out, revenue streams are accelerated.

TH: Alongside speed of delivery, another major advantage of using MMC is the quality standard of homes that are built in factories, which is particularly relevant in the wake of the tragedy at Grenfell. With MMC, you can achieve an extremely high degree of quality control and assurance, plus the benefit of having the location of all the services logged in detail, giving confidence that any repairs and maintenance work that’s needed in the future can be done with precise information of where everything is located in the home.

Why have social landlords been hesitant to find MMC partners?

CF: Many landlords aren’t knowledgeable about MMC so lack confidence in it. Modular builds have a poor reputation and many think that innovative design may be restricted and that this could lead to repetitive, bland housing schemes, and therefore upset the surrounding community. It’s also about having confidence in the materials used and perception of quality. I have experience of working in Scotland where the industry is different and this isn’t an issue – 85% of homes are made from timber components and contain elements of offsite manufacture.

We need to be brave though and it’s an opportunity for the public sector to lead the way by collaborating to build in volume and to reduce risk. We need to be organised and be talking right from the beginning of the process. If there are early discussions between suppliers, contractors and architects about materials and design, then an innovative product can be developed and delivered.

 

TH: Clive’s right that customer perception is often an issue that can lead social landlords to be reluctant, particularly because of negative associations with historic, post-war prefab builds – although it’s important to point out that many of the residents of these properties absolutely love them!

NHC has organised several tours for our members at factories such as Legal & General and Ilke Homes, as well as Home Group’s inspirational Innovation Village in Gateshead, and visitors on those tours have always been surprised and impressed by the high quality of the homes.

But the main barrier members have expressed to NHC is the cost versus traditional build. Tackling this was one of the key drivers behind our partnership with LHC. We know that some of our members are interested in MMC but are only looking at a site of five new homes, for example, and this would make it prohibitive for them in terms of cost. To drive value with the manufacturers, you really need to achieve a visible ongoing pipeline of demand.

So, what we are doing is bringing members together to aggregate their volumes, and this will be when we will see the real cost benefit of MMC versus traditional build. We’ll also be able to offer a solution that works for those with significant new build plans and those who are developing on a more modest scale.

Another very real concern members have raised is around the erosion of the traditional construction skills base. However, MMC presents an exciting opportunity to develop new skills in areas such as digital design and development and, of course, there will always be a need for ongoing repairs and maintenance of properties, meaning several of the core trade skills will still be required.

How can their confidence in MMC be boosted?

CF: Again, if smaller housing associations group together with local authorities and other social landlords to pool demand it can create a large-volume project. This will give visibility of the pipeline to manufacturers who will be able to share this information with their supply chain and drive efficiencies throughout the whole process for the collective benefit of all stakeholders.

TH: Seeing is believing! A big part of boosting confidence is factory and site tours. We are also organising events and round tables to give members a chance to share best practice and start to embrace the use of MMC. We’ve been working with industry professionals who have led on large MMC projects in the North, such as Paul Beardmore [formerly director of housing at Manchester City Council], who has written a discussion paper for NHC to help to share the learning that’s been gained.

What are the issues specific to Northern England?

TH: We need more of the right homes in the right places. We’ve got a big opportunity because of the supply of brownfield land available in the North, and we’re fortunate that we have local authorities who are pro-development. However, the cost of bringing brownfield sites forward for development can be very high, often as a result of our industrial heritage and the associated land remediation costs, and our land values are often low, which presents a real conundrum.

Government policy directs support to areas of highest affordability pressure and in doing so leaves large parts of the country to deal with its own challenges. This national policy of geographically targeted support has an inadvertent impact in the North which is deemed to be ‘affordable’. This is why funds like the Affordable Homes Programme play such an important role in the North. NHC is backing the expansion of the Affordable Homes Programme to ensure it continues to support the North’s housing ambitions. We think this is critical when one in three affordable home completions supported by Homes England occur in the North, making a vital contribution to government’s overall housebuilding targets.

How can using a procurement company help MMC projects?

TH: We can help to de-risk the whole process. We have been jointly working on the procurement of an ‘offsite project integrator’ solution which will be live in early 2020. The integrator’s role and expertise is in understanding the entire process of designing a site for modular building, using experience of modular manufacturing to optimise the site and building layouts to deliver the most cost-effective solution.

The integrator will bring together the member’s brief, an architect familiar with modular and the manufacturing process, and a developer who will manage the site and install the manufactured units. We envisage that the integrator can be the main contractor, or can assign the single contract to its developer for a turnkey solution. The integrator framework will take away the uncertainty members may have by providing a complete end-to-end solution where the contracting party takes on any risk associated with the project.

CF: Using an integrated framework means pre-approved experts and professionals are engaged from the start. Initially, that might mean just making sure the right skills are in the right place at the right time but in the long term it can mean that platform-based approaches can be met. I believe the key to MMC working is collaboration and not simply to solve the issue of building at volume but also to bring in landowners, planning and financiers before the process starts.

It’s a mistake to bring people in once the process has started. Everyone needs to be on board from the start for early pre-project discussions and the advantage of doing this through procuring through a pre-tendered framework is that a client can conduct a soft market test to ensure the MMC solution broadly meets their expectations.

Source: insidehousing

Hong Kong Investors Shun Singapore for Homes in Malaysia, Taiwan

Singapore’s housing market isn’t turning out to be the beneficiary many may have thought from Hong Kong’s increasingly fraught protests. Instead, investors are looking to cheaper property markets like Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan.

“People here tend to think there are only two cities in the world — Hong Kong and Singapore,” said Alan Cheong, a Singapore-based executive director of research and consultancy at Savills Plc. “They think if people flee Hong Kong, they’ll all automatically come to Singapore. But everyone isn’t Li Ka-shing. Most are just ordinary salaried workers,” he said, referring to Hong Kong’s richest billionaire.

As anti-government demonstrations approach their fourth month, many people with the means in Hong Kong have been looking at contingency plans. They can range from shifting funds abroad to physically moving from the city. Hong Kong has held the title of the world’s least affordable real estate for nine years in a row now, and unhappiness over property prices is one factor fueling the unrest.

In Malaysia, for instance, “a property in central Kuala Lumpur could cost 1,500 ringgit ($358) per square foot,” Cheong said. “An apartment in a similar area of Singapore would be S$1,500 ($1,080) or more.” Thailand, meanwhile, is popular for its touristy allure, he said.

Singapore is particularly expensive when extra costs, like additional buyer’s stamp duty, are factored in. Foreigners buying residential property in the city-state since July 2018 pay additional stamp duty of 20%, up from 15% before the government cooling measures were introduced.

Hong Kong citizens purchased just 12 apartments in Singapore in the first half of 2019, down from 32 in the first six months of 2018. From July through mid-August, when street protests turned violent, there were four sales, data from ERA Research & Consultancy show.

Nicholas Mak, the Singapore-based head of research at APAC Realty Ltd. unit ERA, said Taiwan made the grade due to its relative ease of assimilation — both locations use traditional Chinese as opposed to simplified characters on the mainland. Further afield, Canada or Australia are popular, although not for those wanting to remain close to Hong Kong with a view to perhaps one day moving back.

“Taiwan is also majority Chinese, so it’s similar, whereas places in the West are attractive for those wanting to get away from China or Asia generally,” Mak said.

Living Costs

Home prices in Kuala Lumpur are a fraction of Hong Kong or Singapore

The interest from Hong Kong has seen several foreign developers fly agents and staff to the former British colony for seminars and sales events. Malaysia’s Mah Sing Group Bhd. said it had been doing personalized consultations for prospects in Hong Kong, encouraged by significant sales in the past of apartments along the Penang seafront and in Kuala Lumpur.

“We received a strong response as people here are already familiar with the Mah Sing brand and confident about our products,” Group Managing Director Leong Hoy Kum said. “This time, we’re introducing products from Johor as well, to give a variety of options for buyers.”

Leong said that based on the feedback received, Hong Kong buyers are attracted to Malaysia due to the country’s “tropical weather, cleaner air, good education system, attractive properties and mix of Asian values and Western infrastructure.”

Singaporean developers are also trying to get in on the action. Oxley Holdings Ltd. said it had been actively engaging property agents in Hong Kong to market a recently launched Singapore condo, Mayfair Modern. M+S Pte, a venture between Singapore’s Temasek Holdings Pte and Malaysia’s Khazanah Nasional Bhd., had its Marina One Residences project marketed last weekend in Hong Kong by Centaline, the project’s sole agent in the city.

 

To be sure, it isn’t that Hong Kong buyers are actively avoiding Singapore, just that many simply don’t have the money to move to a city where property is also quite pricey. For those who can afford it, they like Singapore’s active resale market, Mak said. He also said Singapore developers were sometimes viewed as more reliable, with better quality projects.

“Professionals are interested in Singapore because it’s politically stable and safe,” said David Hui, a Hong Kong-based general manager at Centaline who was at the Sunday event. They’re mostly in “finance or law, or owners of businesses over 35.”

Yet even Hui said for all the talk of relocating to Singapore, it was the Malaysian apartments selling, with transaction volumes in some areas up as much as 50%.

Alex Wong, a project sales manager for international properties at Midland Realty (Global) Ltd. in Hong Kong, agreed.

“Malaysia is very popular now — we get inquiries every day,” he said. “It’s the option for more ordinary people as property prices are much lower.”

“The Hong Kong protests are like hitting a beehive with a stick,” Savills’ Cheong said. “The bees buzz out of the hive, but they’re not all flying to Singapore. They’re going everywhere else instead.”

Source: bloomberg

Negative Mortgages Set Another Milestone in No-Rate World

The world’s headlong dash to zero or negative interest rates just passed another milestone: Homebuyers in Denmark effectively are being paid to take out 10-year mortgages.

Jyske Bank A/S, Denmark’s third-largest lender, announced in early August a mortgage rate of -0.5%, before fees. Nordea Bank Abp, meanwhile, is offering 30-year mortgages at annual interest of 0.5%, and 20-year loans at zero.

Years of easing by central banks hacked away at interest rates around the world, distorting the traditional economics of lending and borrowing. This is most pronounced in Europe, where a composite home-loan rate across the euro area fell to 1.65% in June, the lowest since records began in 2000.

Euro Area Mortgage Rate Hit Record Low in June

While some regions have resisted the trend, borrowing costs are at or near rock-bottom in many major world markets. That’s boosted demand from homebuyers and spurred fierce competition among lenders for their business.

Here’s a snapshot of mortgage rates around the world:

U.S.

The average American 30-year mortgage rate is 3.6%, the lowest since November 2016. A resulting surge in demand for homes sent total mortgage debt to $9.41 trillion in the second quarter, surpassing the peak reached during the 2008 financial crisis. Mortgage brokers, too, are rushing to keep up with demand for refinancing: Applications are running at a three-year high.

The benefits for home buyers are muted in cities such as New York and San Francisco, however, because the boom has led to a shortage of affordable homes.

France

French mortgage rates reached a trough of 1.39% on average in June, according to Bank of France data. The country’s banking industry is extremely competitive: Many lenders have jockeyed to lure customers with cheaper offers.

Germany

German mortgage rates also reached historic lows this year, with the average 10-year loan currently under 1%. Some lenders are offering rates around 0.5%, according to Interhyp, a comparison website.

The prospect of further declines in benchmark borrowing costs could drive many mortgage rates toward zero. This may have a limited impact on the residential market, however — only 46% of Germans are homeowners, compared with an EU average of 69%.

Cheaper by the Euro

Nearly 70% of euro area countries have lower mortgage rates this year

Euro-denominated loans for house purchase, includes floating and fixed rates

U.K.

Mortgage rates in the U.K., by contrast, have been almost unchanged this year, despite a drop in overall borrowing costs amid a worsening economic outlook. The rate on a two-year fixed mortgage fell just 8 basis points from January to July, compared with a 38 basis-point drop in two-year swaps.

One reason for this, says Mark Gilbert of Bloomberg Opinion, is that the Bank of England’s regulatory arm has discouraged lenders from trying to win market share by easing standards because it’s concerned about their financial strength.

Hungary

Mortgage costs are fairly high in Hungary because regulators steered almost all borrowers away from cheaper (but less secure) floating-rate loans. A 10-year fixed-rate mortgage is currently around 5%, compared with money-market rates near zero.

The attraction of security was heightened by memories of a fashion for mortgages taken out in Swiss francs before the financial crisis. The subsequent plunge in the forint against the franc hammered as many as 1 million Hungarians.

Greece

Mortgage rates have actually risen in Greece, burdened by sovereign and corporate debts. The average floating-rate home loan was 3.08% in June, an increase of 11 basis points from a year earlier.

Greek banks’ mountain of soured loans means they have become wary of extending new credit, even when secured by a house.

Hong Kong

Mortgage rates are also climbing in Hong Kong as the political crisisweakens the appetite for loans. Both HSBC Holdings Plc and Standard Chartered Plc increased effective rates by 10 basis points to 2.48% in July, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

Singapore

DBS Group Holdings Ltd., Singapore’s largest bank, is offering a three-year fixed-rate mortgage at 1.89% in the first year, rising to 2.18% in the second and third years. Floating-rate loans are set at about 1.13% above deposit rates.

Loan-to-value limits for mortgages were tightened last year to prick an incipient property bubble. Residential home prices have been recovering as foreign buyers return to the market, with private home sales jumping to the highest level in eight months in July.

Japan

The Bank of Japan’s negative-rate policy has kept home loans affordable. A 10-year fixed-rate mortgage can be had for about 0.65%, and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank offers a rate as low as 0.53%.

This has spurred property purchases, and prices, in the larger cities, helping reverse years of decline following the bursting of the market bubble in 1991. Residential land prices in the greater Tokyo area rose 1.3% last year, while those outside major urban areas increased 0.2%, the first rebound in 27 years. Nationwide, though, prices stand at just 38% of their 1991 levels, according to the Land Ministry.

Australia

Mortgage rates have fallen about 40 basis points following the Australian central bank’s back-to-back interest rate cuts in June and July. The average standard variable rate at the nation’s big four lenders is currently 4.94%.

The decline in mortgage rates, along with an easing of lending rules and the surprise re-election of the center-right government, has fired up Australia’s housing market. Following a two-year slide, property prices in Sydney have risen over the past two months.

South Africa

The cost of a home loan remains relatively high in South Africa. Banks’ prime lending rate is about 10%, and mortgage borrowers can expect to pay anywhere from two percentage points below that rate to five points above it.

While banks are starting to extend more loans to compete for market share, mortgage rates are unlikely to drop much. Inflation is generally high, and the central bank has held its benchmark rate above 6% since 2015.

Nigeria

Nigeria has had double-digit inflation since 2016, with mortgage rates to match — as high as 30%. Those who contribute a small percentage of their income to the state-owned bank can get a much better 9% rate from the National Housing Fund.

Mortgage uptake is low because of high rates, low incomes and a long wait for government-backed loans.

Source: Bloomberg

People at the Heart of Smart Homes

A Housing Europe HEART Project webinar

People at the heart of Smart Homes – how to enjoy the benefits and prevent the pitfalls? This was the central question that the first webinar of Housing Europe within the framework of the Horizon 2020 HEART project, aimed to address.

How can we ensure that people, the main target of audience, are not actually in the end the ones who are left behind?

Dr. Claudio Del Pero, Senior Researcher at Politecnico Di Milano, Department of Architecture, Built Environment & Construction Engineering shared the ways in which the Horizon 2020 HEART Project is contributing to this end.

Dr. Max Craglia, Lead Scientist at the European Commission Joint Research Centre gave an overview of the relevant priorities in the 2030 strategy of the JRC including energy and digital transformation (DT). The science and knowledge service of the Commission studies the impact of key technologies including Aritficial Intelligence (AI)- see for instance their flagship report.

Stefano Zanini, User EXperience Research Leader at AssistDigital explained what is actually User Experience (UX) and made the case why it is so important, offering an analysis of the customer journey. Stefano gave a number of examples illustrating the so called ‘smart trends’.

The webinar concluded with a lively debate that generated even some partnership opportunities, so make sure you watch till the end…

The event was moderated by Housing Europe Innovation and Project Manager, Sebastien Garnier.

Source: housingeurope

The World’s Most Liveable Cities in 2019

For ten consecutive years, Vienna ranks first in the Mercer survey on cities with the best quality of life in the world. In this edition to the global ranking, eight Western European cities join the top ten, even when “trade tensions and populist undercurrents continue to dominate the global economic climate”, as Mercer points out in its report.

In its 21st edition, the consultancy includes — for the very first time — a separate ranking on personal safety, with Luxembourg named the safest city in the world.

Mercer, which specializes in advising multinational companies in the transfer of employees, has evaluated more than 450 cities around the world.

Their rankings take into account 39 factors divided into 10 categories, including socio-cultural, political and economic environment, medical and health considerations, educational and leisure opportunities, housing markets and natural environment. According to Mercer, the world’s most liveable cities in 2019 are:

1. Vienna, Austria

Adria Wien at Danube Canal. Vienna, Austria.. Image © Christian Stemper, via Vienna Tourist Board

Adria Wien at Danube Canal. Vienna, Austria.. Image © Christian Stemper, via Vienna Tourist Board

2. Zurich, Switzerland

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© Lukas Schlagenhauf [Flickr], under license CC BY-ND 2.0. ImageZurich, Switzerland
 

3. Vancouver, Canada

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© Rick Schwartz [Flickr], under license CC BY-NC 2.0. ImageVancouver, Canada

4. Munich, Germany

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© Mariano Mantel [Flickr], under license CC BY-NC 2.0. ImageMunich, Germany
 

5. Auckland, New Zealand

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© Klanarong Chitmung / Shutterstock.com. ImageAuckland, New Zealand

© Klanarong Chitmung / Shutterstock.com. ImageAuckland, New Zealand
 

6. Düsseldorf, Germany

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© Simon Collison [Flickr], under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. ImageDüsseldorf, Germany
 

7. Frankfurt, Germany

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© Telesniuk. ImageFrankfurt, Germany

© Telesniuk. ImageFrankfurt, Germany
 

8. Copenhagen, Denmark

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© LaMiaFotografia. ImageCopenhagen, Denmark

© LaMiaFotografia. ImageCopenhagen, Denmark
 

9. Geneva, Switzerland

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Geneva, Switzerland. Image © Samuel Borges Photography

Geneva, Switzerland. Image © Samuel Borges Photography
 

10. Basel, Switzerland

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© VV Nincic [Flickr], under license CC BY 2.0. ImageBasel, Switzerland
 

11. Sydney, Australia

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© Kevin Rheese [Flickr], under license CC BY 2.0. ImageSydney, Australia
 

11. Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Amsterdam, Netherlands. Image © Ali Suliman

Amsterdam, Netherlands. Image © Ali Suliman
 

13. Berlin, Germany

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© Daniel Mennerich [Flickr], under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. ImageBerlin, Germany
 

14. Bern, Switzerland

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© dmitry vetrov [Flickr], under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. ImageBern, Switzerland
 

15. Wellington, New Zealand

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Wellington, New Zealand. Image © Victor Maschek

Wellington, New Zealand. Image © Victor Maschek
 

16. Toronto, Canada

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© mariusz kluzniak [Flickr], under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. ImageToronto, Canada
 

17. Melbourne, Australia

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© f11photo. ImageMelbourne, Australia

© f11photo. ImageMelbourne, Australia
 

18. Luxembourg, Luxembourg

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Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. Image © Sabino Parente

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. Image © Sabino Parente
 

19. Ottawa, Canada

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© Michael Muraz [Flickr], under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. ImageOttawa, Canada

20. Hamburg, Germany

© Carsten Frenzl [Flickr], under license CC BY 2.0. ImageHamburg, Germany

Source: archdaily

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