Monday, 23 March 2015

Affordable housing: Fashola unveils CHOIS City Estate in Agbowa

By Olasunkanmi Akoni

The initiative which is meant to address the housing deficit in the state witnessed the unveiling of the first phase which comprises 280 two-bedroom semi-detached bungalows and 180 three-bedroom semi-detached houses.
Speaking at the event on Wednesday, Fashola disclosed that the project which involves the partnership between the state government and First World Communities to provide 10,000 homes was to complement government’s effort in community development under the Co-operative Home Ownership Incentive Scheme, CHOIS, in such a way that the ability to become a landlord will be tied to the occupant income and prosperity.
Housing-pixThe governor stated, “The truth is that there are many people in our society who need home and can get loan from their place of work but there is no houses to buy while some people also need the support of government to become the landlord, this is what the Lagos State Mortgage Homes and CHOIS City meant to address. This is our first establishment of lease-to-own that involves gradual payment in which after 15 years window one will become the ownership.”
He however, noted that such benefit is what democracy can offer when government is accountable to his people. “Agbowa and its environment ensure you collect your voter’s card and vote wisely so as to ensure continuity of this progressive work in the state and vote for change which our party represents.”
On his part, President of First World Communities, Brig Gen Tunde Reis, Retd, said that the first phase of the project which is 10,000 homes is going to be built across the three senatorial districts of Lagos State with the core aim of delivered housing for low and medium income households in sustainable communities through lease-to-own schemes.
“The pilot project, CHOIS Garden, which was developed at Abijo Government Reservation Area, GRA along the Lekki-Epe Expressway is to have over 2,000 homes with over 500 already built and allocated. Agbowa target is 4,000 homes, Epe-Ibeju is 1,000 while Badagry axis is to cover 3,000 homes. All in such a way that ability to avoid it is tied to once income and continued prosperity.”
Speaking on the benefit of newly commissioned CHOIS City at Agbowa, Reis said that once the prospective buyers pay 10 per cent of the total purchase price, he/she is entitled to move into the house. “This initial deposit is expected to be funded from personal savings and on the completion of payment the title passes on to the buyer.
“The estate is accessible from Central Lagos via Epe, and from Ikorodu via Itoikin. Agbowa is about 30 kilometers from Ikorodu town and the estate could be reached from Agbowa through Lateef Jakande way on either of Agbowa city centre or Community Grammer School, Owu-Ikosi in close proximity off the Itoikin Road. Access is also possible to the site through the Lagos Lagoon from Ijede in Ikorodu, Badore and Victoria-Island.
“The estate is to have 4,000 housing units on about 200 hectares of land with associated infrastructure and amenities. The first phase of development comprising 460 homes of two and three bedroom semi-detached bungalows and interested person can apply to Lagos CHOIS LP for membership”, he stated.

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Rising rent, vacant houses, homeless tenants

By Yinka Kolawole

In spite of the huge housing deficit in Nigeria, there are increasing cases of unoccupied houses in major cities across the country. Experts blamed this mostly on soaring cost of renting houses in places such as Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja, which are beyond the reach of potential tenants.
Other reasons fingered for this paradoxical situation, especially in high brow and middle brow areas of the cities, are high cost of building material, land, lack of infrastructure facilities, inability to access fund, among other reasons.
Findings reveal that annual house rents range from N500,000 to N1 million for 2/3 bedroom flats in such places as FESTAC, Surulere and other middle income areas of Lagos. In FCT, it costs between N2.5 million and N3 million to rent a two-bed bungalow in areas such as Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse and Garki, while it costs between N400,000 and N700,000 to rent a two-bed room apartment in the satellite towns such as Kubwa, Lugbe and Karu areas per annum.
Port Harcourt, one-bedroom flat costs N250, 000 to N350, 000 per annum, depending on the location in the oil city, a two-bedroom flat goes for between N400, 000 and N650, 000 per annum, while a three-bedroom flat and four-bedroom bungalow cost between N800, 000 and N1.3 million per annum, respectively. Prof. Timothy Nubi of the Department of Estate Management, University of Lagos, noted that by UN standard, a worker should not spend more than 30 percent of his/her income on rent.
“By the time a civil servant pays 60 percent of his income on house, it definitely affects his general well being. The UN standard is that nobody should pay more than 30 per cent of his income on rent. By the time you pay more than 30 percent it means that the houses are not affordable,” he said. Emeka Okoro, who has been searching for accommodation through an estate agent for the past six months in Lagos, lamented the astronomical fee being demanded as rent.
“You see lots of beautiful buildings that have been completed but with no occupants because of the outrageous prices they are tagged, either for rent or sale,” he lamented. Analysts believe that lack of property tax regime is partly responsible for the increasing cases of unoccupied buildings littering the cities. They posited that property tax will provide a check on greedy property owners and alleviate the sufferings of tenants who can’t afford the high cost of accommodation being demanded.
As a way of redressing the trend, the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) has called for imposition of special taxes on unoccupied buildings. According to Mr. Rowland Abonta, 2nd Vice-President of the institute, imposition of taxes on properties that are vacant for years continuously would force owners of such buildings to reduce the cost of rent to attract tenants. “There are quite a number of vacant houses around but the rent is high.
Many of these houses are built by very rich people who didn’t suffer much for the money and so when they build the houses and fix the prices, they can afford to lock up the houses if people don’t rent them. But there is a way out – government should start imposing taxes on such accommodation when these houses are built. They should be able to pay government such taxes and this could be used to put pressure on them to rent out the houses,” he said.
Indeed, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) said it had mapped out measures to check the activities of owners of housing estates that remained unoccupied for more than six months after completion. Mr Dominic Odenigbo, Head of Aesthetics and Amenities, Department of Development Control of the Administration, noted the reason for constructing a house is habitation, adding that the initiative would have been defeated if after completion such houses remain unoccupied for years.
He said that some owners of such unoccupied estates were not eager to allow tenants into their houses and estates because their sources of funds could be questionable. “Part of our condition for granting building approval is for that construction to commence not later than six months after approval and completed, at most, two years after. But we have observed that several of the houses in the city and in some mass housing estates are not occupied for several years after construction and that is not acceptable.
Some builders acquire these structures as a way to tie down illegally acquired wealth so, they might not be eager to rent them out. To stop this trend, we plan to include a clause in the approval that would compel builders to rent or occupy such houses not later than six months after completion,” he stated.
The Central Bank Cash Transaction limit policy makes it impossible to lodge certain amount of money without drawing attention. So, people who embezzle money invest in property with pseudo names with no plans to rent or make the rents unaffordable. The introduction of property tax, whereby anyone who has more than two houses, or owners of houses unoccupied for upwards of six months, would be made to pay higher tax on such properties will not be out of place.