Lafarge Africa offers an innovative affordable housing initiative; Easy Homes

Easy Home by Lafarge Africa is an innovative affordable housing initiative aimed at bridging the skills gap in Nigeria’s construction industry, by giving home builders access to trained artisans skilled in block making, among other free services.


For a sector involved in providing shelter for lives and property, the number of people employed in Nigeria’s construction industry is way smaller than those engaged in retail, wholesale and auto repair. The country needs infrastructure, both hard (roads, bridges, railways, houses) and soft (skilled manpower) for its socioeconomic development and this makes the role of the construction industry very critical. However, the sector is neither employing nor contributing enough.

The need for Skilled manpower

As at 2010, according to the statistics available, 1.1 million people worked in the construction industry while 12.1 million were in trading. During this same period, wholesale and retail trade contributed 14% to GDP while construction accounted for 1.2%. “The housing backlog is estimated at 14 million units and it will require ₦49 trillion to bridge,” according to a 2010 report commissioned by EFInA and Finmark Trust. The lack of good bricklayers and well-made blocks are among the obstacles to solving Nigeria’s housing deficit. Topping the list of what home builders want is the need for qualified workers and they also want cheaper cement delivered on time and other building materials at reasonable prices. And it is quite unfortunate that good bricklayers are so hard to find in Nigeria and nowadays these skills are imported from neighbouring West African countries like the Benin Republic and Togo.

Easy Home to boost affordable housing
Aurelien Boyer, Head of the Affordable Housing Initiative by Lafarge Africa says, “The value proposition of Easy Home is that if the challenges are addressed, Nigerians could build more houses faster.” According to him,

“Delays in project completion (2 to 5 years) is as a result of limited qualified professionals in the built environment, mortgages focused on the high-end market, inconsistent quality of building materials, bureaucratic building approval process and high cost of buying land (and Land tenure issues) are some of the challenges of individual home builders which this project addresses.

Easy Home is an ambitious housing solution which involves 25 countries globally. In 2016 alone, over 445,000 people were impacted and it is targeting to impact 25 million people by 2030. In Nigeria, about 30,000 people have benefited from the initiative and still counting.

Boyer, who spoke at a media roundtable in Lagos, recently, described Easy Home as a pragmatic affordable housing solution with which they are building a business initiative with positive social impacts.
Boyer said, “Easy Home looks at how people build, facing the challenges of finance, artisans, project execution and land acquisition. It offers builders the opportunity to leverage its partnerships such as the one it has with Lapo Micro-finance Bank which provides housing finance for those that come through this initiative. It also provides free technical advisory services and assistance and we deliver a construction estimate such as the number of cement, blocks and their unit cost in just 10 minutes.”

He said “These technical advisory services are offered unconditionally, but the beneficiaries are expected to use Lafarge cement and blocks because those are the materials the company is confident to use. The technical support is also available to anybody who has his own source of funds other than the one offered by LAPO Microfinance Bank.”

He said within the three years of operation, the Easy Home has impacted people in some states of the federation including Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Kwara, Ondo, Osun, Nasarawa, Niger, Calabar, Abia, Akwa Ibom, and Rivers, adding that “This is the only home construction solution for low-income earners; it is the solution for this class of people who earn from N20,000 to N300,000 and are aiming to build their homes. The solution is accessible to everybody including petty traders, civil servants, taxi drivers, barbers, etc.”

According to the Director, Communications and Public Affairs, Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, “Lafarge Africa is committed to facilitating affordable housing across Nigeria with its Easy Home initiative, a home construction solution which has so far benefited over 30,000 people since it began three years ago.”

The Easy Home solution, she said was an opportunity available for whoever desired it. “We will provide you with technical support as long as you have a building project because we vouch for our cement and concrete solutions.

Culled from: This Day


Infrastructure Deficit; FG needs N3 trillion to bridge the gap

Mercy Iyortyer; President of Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors

The President of Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS), Mercy Iyortyer, disclosed that the Federal Government of Nigeria needs N3 trillion annually to cover up the huge infrastructure deficit in the country. This statement was made at a two-day workshop on finance and development of capital projects in Lagos.

She noted that while the demand for construction is high, the corresponding fund available to facilitate the growing increase in demand is low, this negative tilt in demand and supply of infrastructure should be regarded as one of the most urgent concerns for this nation at this time, because her inability to deal with this challenge will no doubt define the nation’s future economic trajectory.

According to her, Federal Government has to pay keen attention to options available for project financing in other to develop Nigeria’s infrastructure projects. “Traditionally, the Nigerian government at all levels have financed the construction of infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, power plants, airports, railways, ports and the like from their fiscal budgets, with little or no support from the private sector” she said.

Mercy also noted that this approach of project financing is unsustainable given the present economic pressures, explaining that there is the need for the private sector to become involved in the creation of financing solutions to develop Nigeria’s frail infrastructure.

Also considering that most Nigerian commercial banks are majorly short-term lenders and not suitable for long-term investment projects, it is crucial that alternative sources of investments with larger and more patient pools of capital are incentivized to participate in infrastructure financing.

However, she also hinted that core skills and competencies have to be broadened significantly to facilitate easy access in acquiring expertise for capital project financing and development.


Lagos ranked world’s third unaffordable city for renters

Lagos, the nation’s commercial nerve centre in a new report was ranked number 3 on the list of least affordable world cities for renters.

The report released by RENTCafé, (a property search website) puts Lagos rent at $355 (N129, 575) per month while the household income is $625 (N228, 125), making the city the third behind Manhattan, New York city with 59 percent and Mexico City with 60 percent. This analysis means that the average Lagos family spends more than half of its monthly household income on rent.

Although study also identified these cities as vibrant urban hubs with thriving or emerging economies, no amount of indulgence is enough to overlook the burden of rent on inhabitants. Below is the list of the ten least affordable cities in the world;

  1. Mexico: Rent-to-income ratio 60%
  2. Manhattan: 59%
  3. Lagos: 57%
  4. Los Angeles: 47%
  5. Paris: 46%
  6. Singapore: 44%
  7. San Francisco: 41%
  8. Mumbai: 41%
  9. London: 40%
  10. Dubai: 39%

For full breakdown of the list click here

With the list, the researchers looked at how much money do people earn in these cities and whether these salaries are enough to afford a rental apartment.

The implication of the recent report is that renters in Mexico City, Manhattan and Lagos face severe rent burden, meaning that the rent takes up more than half of a household’s income each month

The ranking is coming on heels of the global professional services firm, Price Water Corporation (PWC), that ranked Lagos as number 28 out of 30 cities on the list of World’s Best Cities of Opportunity. The top-30 ranking is the result of an in-depth analysis of the most prosperous global business, finance and culture capitals, which looks at 10 different indicators—including but not limited to infrastructure, intellectual capital, sustainability and ease of doing business, all of them essential for a great environment.

Lagos residents cough out an astounding 57per cent of their income on rent, while in Mexico City, the median household income barely hits the $14,500 mark and yearly rent amounts to $8,640 on Avg.

That puts Mexico City first among the world’s most unaffordable cities for renters with a 60per cent rent burden. Not even London, which PwC declared the world’s best city to live and work in escapes the affordability woes.

The 40% rent-to-income ratio places UK’s largest city among the moderately rent-burdened global powerhouses of the world.

At the other end of the spectrum, Kuala Lumpur emerges as the best choice for renters in search of more relaxed lifestyles. Rent barely takes 20per cent of the median household income in Malaysia’s capital city.

In the study, the researchers looked at the current rents in the top global financial centres, but not restricted to cities with outstanding activity in the financial sector, and bringing into the equation the affordability of local housing prices too.

According to the Communications Specialist for RENTCafé, Amalia Otet, researchers used the list of the world’s top cities of opportunity as published in the latest issue of their Cities of Opportunity report and study the overall average rents or their US Dollar equivalents adjusted for inflation as necessary.

In the report, London slides back 21 places when ranked by rental affordability, with the seven out of the top 10 most affordable cities of opportunity catapulted straight from the lower third of the initial ranking.

“London is famously expensive. And so is LA. But is this just an outside perception or the sad reality? Our research team here at RENTCafé looked at rental prices in the world’s 30 best cities to live in and compared them with the local median incomes to see just how (un)affordable these fine urban hotspots are”

According to the study, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow and Johannesburg ranked as the most affordable cities of opportunity from the 20th, 22nd and 24th places of the original ranking, respectively.

Speaking on the ranking, and urban development expert, Lookman Oshodi said the ranking is not unexpected considering spiralling inflation that the country has witnessed in the past few years.

He noted that in the past two years, however, most property owners have maintained rent freeze, but despite the freeze on the real rent cost, property owners and renters alike have been dealing with other costs ranging from security, energy, water and road among other housing-related services.

Also noting that “The energy crisis has further pushed housing related cost to astronomical level as residents need to fuel and repair their power systems,”
Culled from: The Guardian

 Nigeria’s Mortgage System Showcased at CCA’s Summit

Professor Charles Inyangete – CEO NMRC Plc

The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), U.S. and Africa Business Summit held last month in Washington DC, and the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company Plc (NMRC) was amongst the 800 participants consisting of government and business leaders that attended.

As the leading U.S. business association solely focused on the U.S. and Africa trade and investment, the sessions at CCA’s biennial signature event – the U.S. and Africa Business Summit – primarily featured private sector solutions and how public-sector actors could support the business through the provision of an enabling environment.

The speakers included Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, and Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The summit also provided a global opportunity and platform for NMRC’s CEO Professor Charles Inyangete to engage stakeholders on how data and lack of qualitative information are impacting the U.S. and Africa investment relationship. The sessions on information and communications technology presented a defining moment for NMRC to contribute towards the discuss on “Expanding Digital Financial Inclusion and Data: How Information Will Transform Business in Africa”.

At the session, it was noted that about 168 million people will become connected in Africa in the next five years – the bulk of this will no doubt be in Nigeria.

Prof. Inyangete during one of the sessions unveiled NMRC’s Mortgage Market System (MMS) and Housing Market Information Portal (HMIP) as innovative and disruptive technologies that consolidates Nigeria’s fragmented housing market and together positions NMRC to unlock value driven by data and technology in view of the fact that data is considered the next frontier for value creation in business globally.

In reiterating the lessons learned at the summit, Prof. Inyangete noted that despite the significant strides in technology that have enabled Africa to leapfrog traditional financial development, growth is still stifled by challenges that include policy and infrastructure.

He further stated that the Economist in 2014 described Africa as “the continent of missing data”. This according to Prof. Inyangete underlines the need for data to drive evidence-based decisions by businesses, investors, and policymakers amongst others.

Though the Summit unveiled opportunities that show technology was being leveraged for a wide range of solutions like mobile money in Kenya and other rural parts of Africa, there is still risks and challenges like regulatory risks, low level of financial literacy, and the need to make digital payment superior to cash on the continent. Other issues discussed included having a single digital platform for the exchange of `funds, understanding and responding to the needs of consumers that include trust and convenience.

Culled from: The Guardian

Mass housing: FCT Minister Promises Compliance to Guidelines

Mallam Muhammad Bello – MINISTER of Federal Capital Territory, applauded the developers of Court Estate, Abuja, Crown Realties, for embarking on a housing scheme that will enable FCT residents to rent and eventually own their apartments 15 years after occupying the apartments, while also promising to ensure strict adherence to laid down guidelines of the mass housing programme in the Federal Capital Territory FCT.

Bello, who was addressing the members of the public at the unveiling of the Court Estate in Durumi, Abuja, said the population of FCT had been growing at a rate of 20 percent annually, adding that the project was in line with the mandate of the present administration to provide affordable houses for the residents. The estate comprising 81 units of single family residential apartments with boys quarters, was built in two phases.

Represented by Engr. Umar Gambo, the Minister noted that efforts are ongoing to ensure that such infractions do not occur in the future by ensuring strict adherence to laid down guidelines. Lamenting a situation where estates are developed but remained unoccupied as a result of the high cost, Bello noted that Crown Realties ‘lease to own’ initiative would enhance housing ownership. Quoting the Minister, he said “Let me say that the FCT Administration sees this project as a gesture of good will and a demonstration of confidence in the present administration which is working round the clock, to not only address the housing deficit in the country but also attract foreign direct investment into the sector. I am particularly happy to see that the whole estate was conceived with the lower income earners in mind, with an innovative programme called Lease-To-Own, which I was told would allow your clients to own a house by leasing or renting the property over a 15-year period. “This is an innovative idea which I must say is highly commendable and it is also in tune with the vision of the FCT administration.”

In his remark, the Chief Executive, Crown Realties Plc, Mr. Darl Uzu described the estate as a place to live a good life, pointing out that aside from the modern facilities and technology driven security system used in the construction of the estate, the residential estate is built with a golf court and runs on 24-hour power system. He also expressed his optimism in the vision of the company to provide affordable modern housing facilities for low-income earners all over Nigeria as captured in the organisation’s rent-to-own projects.

Culled from: The Vanguard


Housing, Still on The Priority List


Affordable housing seems unobtainable and given the squeeze in consumers’ purchasing power, demand has remained soft, and this is not without cognizance to the fact that Nigeria’s housing market has suffered from the persistent macro challenges.

We struggle to see how the FGN will bridge the country’s housing deficit over the medium-term. Mortgage financing in the country is still underdeveloped and for income-earners engaged in homeownership schemes via mortgaging, the process can be expensive due to volatile high-interest rates.

Data from the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation suggest that as at February, c.55% of mortgage loans were non-performing. Given the volatility of the labour market, there is a high possibility that more defaulters will be recorded as job losses rise. According to the NBS, the unemployment rate stood at 14.2% in Q4 2016.

It is believed that the high average cost of mortgages of above 20% is also a contributory factor to the weak asset quality positions of mortgage firms. On a brighter note, the FGN recently launched an N1.3bn refinancing loan in collaboration with the Nigerian Mortgage Refinancing Company for civil servants.

The first phase is expected to capture 5,635 civil servants, and effective implementation of this scheme will also depend on state governments for swift land approvals. Furthermore, last month the World Bank set aside a US$300m fund to assist with Nigeria’s mass housing projects, and the fund will be facilitated by the Nigeria Housing Finance Programme.

A recent market intelligence report projects an annual expansion of 14.6% in mortgaged households in Nigeria this year. The same report estimates expansion of 16.3% y/y and 18.9% y/y for Algeria and Egypt respectively in 2017.

Efforts from the private sector include the “Easy Home” initiative of Lafarge Africa. Over the past three years, 30,000 Nationals have benefitted from this scheme.

Lagos State has keyed into the scheme and aims to deliver 200,000 housing units over the next five years; the housing deficit in Lagos is estimated at three million.

In addition to the increased prices of building materials, property developers have cited the lack of skilled labour in construction as a major issue.

In anticipation of the capital releases from this year’s budget, investors, real estate professionals and individual home buyers (IHB) expect a pickup in activities within the construction sector as well as visible results from the FGN’s housing projects. According to the budget, N57bn has been allocated for capital expenditure to the housing sector.

Culled from: Proshare


InterContinental Hotels Group opens Holiday Inn in Zimbabwe


Located in the heart of the city centre with significant business activity across the forestry, citrus farming, and mining industries, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has announced the opening of its new Holiday Inn in Mutare, Zimbabwe – the third Holiday Inn franchised property with African Sun Limited. The hotel features 96 rooms, an outdoor pool and a meeting room that can seat 250 people.

South Africa and Zimbabwe have good bilateral relations and strong economic cooperation with trade interest in various sectors such as capital equipment, textile, agricultural products, and diamonds, amongst others. Mutare is positioned in the diamond mining region of Zimbabwe, and close to the Tete Province, a coal mining region in Mozambique.

Supporting business travel
Commenting on the announcement, Pascal Gauvin, chief operating officer, India, Middle East and Africa, IHG, said: “Africa represents huge untapped opportunities for a variety of industries across the region. We’re thrilled to announce the opening in Mutare as we believe that it will further support business travel between the Middle East and Africa. We are especially proud to continue working with established partners such as African Sun Limited who also own several other properties with us. We are excited to begin welcoming guests to the Holiday Inn Mutare.”

Edwin T Shangwa, managing director, African Sun, said: “We are happy to be partnering with IHG once again. We have successfully launched two Holiday Inn hotels together, and have seen great success across both properties. Now that the hotel has opened its doors, it will benefit equally from IHG’s global distribution systems, strong brand portfolio, and loyalty programmes.”

The Holiday Inn Harare and Holiday Inn Bulawayo have both performed to brand standards and present further opportunities for growth. The new Holiday Inn property in Mutare increases IHG and Africa Sun’s footprint to a total of 351 rooms.

Across the Middle East and Africa, there are 31 (6,346 rooms) Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts open and an additional nine properties (2,503 rooms) due to open within the next three to five years. Globally, there are almost 1,200 Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts open, with a further 265 facilities, due to open in the next three to five years.

Culled from: Bizcommunity


Property Regulations in Africa Spooking Real Estate Investors


At the recent South African Property Owners Association (Sapoa) Conference which was held in Cape Town last week, it was observed that various large Listed South African funds feel African real estate is being hindered for growth by weak laws. They need alternatives if something goes wrong.

Addressing the conference, CEO of Fortress Income Fund, the very successful diversified property group, Mark Stevens said it still highly risked to invest institutional capital in the likes of Nigeria, because property laws and regulatory frameworks were not strong enough yet. Stevens was a part of a panel at the South African Property Owners Association’s (Sapoa) conference, held in Cape Town.

Fortress has invested in industrial property in South Africa – in fact, it owns the most of the listed industrial property in the country. It invests in Western Europe through its stake in Hammerson plc and in central and eastern Europe through New Europe Property Investments (Nepi) and Rockcastle Global Real Estate which own assets in countries including Romania, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Nepi and Rockcastle are set to merge into the largest property fund on the JSE with a market capitalisation of over R85bn.

Fortress is part of the Resilient REIT group of companies. Resilient REIT had plans to build ten shopping centres in Nigeria, but these have been put on hold with active market survey and analysis ongoing.

“Nigeria is on ice in our portfolio for the time being. We are looking to move our efforts elsewhere,” he said.
“We have been unable to spend the money which we raised in Nigeria. The economic policies related to currency control are not conducive to investing for us,” said Resilient REIT MD Des de Beer a few months ago.

Rendeavour CEO and founder and developing market investment expert, Stephen Jennings, said many African countries were actually offering very high growth relative to a decreasing degree of political and conflict risk as compared with the likes of Western Europe and the US.

He said many South African investors may have taken their money out of the continent because of push factors without considering strong genuine opportunities in Africa.

Stevens said he still believed political risk had caused trouble in SA’s economy. It had created volatility.

“We are in a recession and recent rating downgrades have prompted investors to buy assets offshore. SA’s government needs to stay out of running much of the economy,” he said.

Culled from: Africa Property News


Technology Now Used to Enhance Employee Office Experiences Worldwide

Amidst rising occupancy costs, companies are tasked with creating a user experience, partly through technology, that makes employees more efficient and effective, and that makes the office the preferred place to work. This was according to CBRE’s latest Global Prime Office Occupancy Costs Report.

The report notes that technology is the biggest catalyst of change in the workplace today, as mobile devices, virtual networks, video conferencing and cloud storage have created a seamless transition from the physical workplace of the 20th century to the virtual workplace of the 21st century. Companies increasingly are using sophisticated technology offerings to attract and retain talent in a competitive hiring environment.

Technology is also being used by occupiers to understand and manage their occupancy patterns in sophisticated ways and create an environment that maximises employee efficiency.

“One of the coolest things we see organisations doing today is thinking about the opportunity to connect people more effectively,” says Lenny Beaudoin, leader of CBRE’s Global Workplace practice. “A building is inherently a social network, and predictive technology can be used to connect people working on similar projects, connect people to space and connect people to services that help them make more efficient use of their time.”

Georgia Collins, who co-leads CBRE’s Americas Workplace practice, notes that “Predictive tools will help us accelerate how professional networks are built and relationships are formed. This will be facilitated by technology, but it will be the responsibility of someone at the local level to take on a concierge-type role that will foster these relationships. Many commercial real estate organisations are transforming to fill this role.”

Health and wellness is also a growing trend in workplaces across the globe. Technology related to health and wellness, such as wearable fitness trackers, apps and social network platforms, is growing in usage. These platforms are making health and wellness more fun and interactive for employees, while allowing companies to better understand the impact and effectiveness of their programs. However, simply providing the technology is only the first step.

“Analysing data to create targeted campaigns to employees based on health needs and evaluating program effectiveness according to healthcare spend is the future in this space,” said Julie Whelan, America’s head of occupier research, CBRE. “As demographics in the workplace get younger and technology advances, we expect this trend in health and wellness to grow.”

Culled from: WorldPropertyJournal

Mortgage applications rise 1.4%, defying higher rates

More borrowers applied for home loans last week, even as interest rates made their largest five-day jump since just after the presidential election. Perhaps some thought it might be their last chance at low rates. The math doesn’t exactly make sense, but perhaps the sentiment does.

Total mortgage application volume increased 1.4 percent from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted report. Application volume was 26 percent below the same week one year ago, when rates were lower.

Refinance volume, which is highly rated sensitive, dipped just 0.4 percent for the week, despite interest rates hitting their highest level in seven weeks. While millions of borrowers have already refinanced at rock-bottom rates — some several times — there is still a sizable pool who could benefit from a refinance. Well over a million borrowers could qualify and see at least $200 per month in savings, according to a recent survey by Black Knight Financial Services.

Homebuyers, who are less rate-sensitive week-to-week, accounted for the gains in total volume. Purchase applications rose 3 percent for the week and are 6 percent higher compared with a year ago. Buyers have been plagued by unreasonable prices and limited supply, which may be why the adjustable-rate mortgage share of activity increased last week. ARMs offer lower interest rates than fixed term loans.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages with conforming loan balances of $424,100 or less increased to its highest level in about two months, 4.20 percent, from 4.13 percent, with points decreasing to 0.31 from 0.32, including the origination fee, for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio loans.

“The 30-year fixed mortgage rate increased to its highest level since May 2017, following a jump in the U.S. 10-year Treasury which was driven mainly by the news that European economies have strengthened and the ECB may be poised to tighten its accommodative policies,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist.

Mortgage rates continued to move higher early this week but then stalled Wednesday. All eyes are now on Friday’s monthly employment report, which could move markets.

As at the time of compiling this report, analyst patiently anticipates Friday’s job report. With expectations that if rates make it through Friday morning at current levels or below, the recent trend toward higher rates would be officially defeated. This was a thought shared by Matthew Graham, chief operating officer at Mortgage News Daily.
Culled from: CNBC News



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