Saadiya Aminu talks about Urban Shelter to International Audience
Urban Shelter Limited (USL) is redefining the real estate sector with a culture dedicated to service, finding opportunities and creating value. USL, a property development company, with headquarter in Abuja, Nigeria, has 3 decades of experience in property development and management. The company is driven to make itself a household name in the country and Africa as a whole.
Urban Shelter has to its advantage an immense reserve of resources, both financial and human capacity, which gives the company the ability to deliver projects effectively. USL has developed and managed properties for individuals, corporate organizations, state and federal government establishments, while strategically consolidating its activities across Nigeria, Ghana, UAE and the entire West African sub-region.
The company has delivered cutting edge and competitive real estate solutions to its valued clients at competitive prices.
Urban Shelter Limited was founded by a visionary leader – Mallam Ibrahim Aliyu, a man of impeccable values and of the highest professional ethics. Over a career spanning five decades (both in public and private sectors) he effortlessly combines his strong family values with intuitive business acumen to lead the company that is renowned for its integrity and credibility.
Currently, the company is being led by Saadiya Aminu, as the Managing Director/CEO. She started her career in Development Finance. Urban Shelter continues to witness remarkable growth under her management.
Saadiya has garnered vast experience in real estate and investment over a 20yr period. Her background in Economics, coupled with a unique ability to anticipate business trends, has put her in the position she is as not only the head of one of the largest real estate companies in Nigeria and Africa, but also one of the most successful business women around.
In an exclusive interview with the PLEASURES Magazine team, Saadiya Aminu gave an extensive breakdown of the company operations, from its strategies and plans to its offers.
She said: “Our passion is people and projects. As such our clientele includes Nigerians across every income category from corporate bodies to private individuals; cooperative societies to institutions. Our primary objective is providing real estate solutions and change the Nigerian skyline one project at a time”.
She stated that the major distinguishing factor of the Urban Shelter model from others was a broad spectrum of services that cover various segments of the real estate market which include residential (affordable, intermediate & high-end), commercial (offices), retail (shopping malls, markets) and specialty projects (hotels, leisure etc).
“Urban Shelter has continued to grow both in sophistication of its projects and geographically through growth of new markets.”
The company’s growth geographically has extended to Kaduna State, Lagos State and Niger State while we have planned projects for Kano State, Enugu State and Abia State. “In 2020, despite a difficult business environment, we launched The Waterfront by Urban Shelter along Jabi Lake. This is a speciality project, which once completed will provide a recreational destination for Abuja families; and The Hills high-end residential project in Guzape”.
Urban Shelter is currently on several potentially high-yield projects to add to its impressive portfolio. “We are currently operating on 7 sites in Abuja with a combination of retail and residential projects including BellaVue Residences Lifecamp, Urban Shelter Residences Dawaki, Promeande Estate Lokogoma, Urban Shelter Estate Kyami, Sarauniya Estate Lugbe, Apo Urban Market and Brick City Valley Kubwa.
In Lagos we are active on two sites: Urban Shelter Estate, Ajah and Urban Shelter Living, Victoria Island, Lagos. While in Kaduna we are developing the second phase of Urban Shelter Millennium City, a 16-hectare project and have also launched in partnership with Kaduna State Government in the development of Kassuwar Barci. A Further two projects in Niger State are also under development.”
The company has a portfolio of over $1.1billion in terminal values of works in progress, and combined assets under management.
She averred that the company is people and project-oriented, committed to delivering consistently superior quality projects to clients at the end of the day.
“For more than 30 years, we have helped Nigerians rediscover the dream of homeownership, the aspiration of turning a house into a home. We have built houses, so our clients can transform them into welcoming homes and safe havens in secured locations. We are proud to say for many Nigerians, Urban Shelter has turned their dreams into a reality.”
“Our strategic focus continues to be centred on building exceptional properties in some of Nigeria’s most desirable locations (residential, retail and commercial) Each Urban Shelter development exemplifies our company’s commitment to the highest standards supported by market awareness, driven by passion and governed by integrity.
We are delighted to announce our several commercial developments that will come on board in 2021. These include the development of UTC, Garki Abuja; Shelter Tower (15 floor office development) in the heart of Central Business District Abuja; and Guzape Mall, a retail development”.
Because Urban Shelter is passionate about getting people into homes, we have made it our singular goal to evolve affordable homes without compromising on aesthetics, design or quality, thus, achieving homes that put the client at its very centre. It’s a segment of the market that we have built expertise in which our signature use of the burnt red bricks we are able to produces homes at competitive rates.
Saadiya emphasized the social advantages of home ownership that lead to better productivity of individuals and in turn lead to a more productive economy.
According to her, “Owning a home leads to better health, better output and productivity. Providing access to water, sanitation and other physical and social infrastructure are our main priorities in all our estates. On financial benefits, home ownership provides the opportunity for individuals to unluck several financial resources such as access to loans that could be used to fund your dreams. During our interaction with clients we identified there was great reluctance for the average Nigerian to access mortgages, most would prefer to save over a long period of time and wait to own a home.
We took cognizance of this and developed different financial options for our clients to help them get onto to the property ladder. These include extended five – year payment plans, pay and stay options; referrals to preferred Primary Mortgages Institutions partners. In 2019, we signed an agreement with Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company to refinance clients with existing mortgages.”
On COVID-19, she lauded the efforts of frontline medical officials fighting the pandemic.
During the lockdown, the management of Urban Shelter prioritized the health and lives of its employees and their families. It has continued to do so by adhering to all the safety guidelines put in place by the NCDC and putting Health & Safety at the core of daily activities.
“While very challenging, the lockdown period has helped the team to focus on pre-development function of project management. This involves – design optimization work, finalising Bill of Quantities, developing artwork, 3Ds and marketing materials as well as evolving research and development. So, with the three months of lockdown, we were able to do more of the planning phase and we are ready to hit the ground running by the time the lockdown was lifted”.
The economy, the business climate and how we interact both socially and professionally – things are changing sequel to the global pandemic. For instance, though most of our building materials are sourced internally, foreign import of building materials for the high-end building has been challenging, but we envisioned these pitfalls and we are currently working our way through them.”
She explained that Urban Shelter currently has a 5-year payment plan for middle-income earners and extended payment plans for different demographics.
“The Building Services, R&D team of our company, have developed N5,000,000 ($10,000) homes that have all the requisite infrastructure, which we are market in Abuja. Last year the Urban Shelter team took its exhibitions to London UK, Italy, and Houston US, to directly reach out to Nigerians in the diaspora looking to invest in real estate at home. There are several stories of individuals who have been conned by relatives and strangers while trying to invest in properties, so Urban Shelter offers a more credible way to invest in real estate and ensure quality for your resources.
“We are also evaluating collaboration with Nigerian banks that function in the diaspora to make remittances easier. Investments in real estate in Nigeria give a higher return than most countries currently”.
“It is important to also address better gender balance and as such we have reviewed trends so women can invest, and we help facilitate that process for everyone. She added that women are very entrepreneurial and should be giving the level playing ground to invest into real estate. Patterns of investment tell more that women invest in commercial and retail projects than residential properties. These nuanced issues are what Urban Shelter looks at, to ensure they are doing the best they can for each unique client,’’ she said.
On sustainability and conservation, we believe minimum carbon footprint is vital in how we operate. By putting nature and conservation at the heart of how we operate, we approach the design of each project with a view to conserving the greenery. We have come across trees that are hundreds of years old and redesigned entire projects, so we protect them.
Our Corporate Social Responsibility projects include remodelling sub-standard schools to help in upgrading their facilities; Sickle Cell Awareness; Give Girls A Chance; WRAPA and numerous others.
As a woman in this position, Saadiya Aminu acknowledges that there are challenges she faced which include not having a background in architecture or engineering.
She stressed that being humble to learn and growing through the ranks, gave her an opportunity to learn under renowned mentors and earned her the position which she now sits on, incompetence backed by knowledge and experience.
“A woman in a leadership position today is not so novel and less of something people are surprised by,” she said, adding that she also thanked the Urban Shelter team who has been supportive and has maintained a sense of camaraderie through all situations.
“Thankfully, I was raised by parents who never adhered to preconceived gender roles, so they gave me exceptional access to education and an opportunity to work and excel in my career”, she said while also lauding her husband who she described as a champion and support to her through all her career endeavours.
As a woman in a leadership position, Saadiya acknowledged the inputs of her male mentors, Dr. Mansur Muhtar and Dr. Abraham Nwankwo who pushed her to be more in her career path.
To aspiring women leaders, she said, “I think women should start and not wait for a perfect condition, and while at it they shouldn’t be afraid of being mentored by men.”
“Envision where you want to be, plan it, prepare for it, pray on it, follow through with it and even when the plan fails, start again. You may fail 1,000 times; you only need to succeed once. God will put people in your life, resources and opportunities that will take you to where you are supposed to be – but you need to be brave enough, so have courage,” she added.
Urban Shelter is part of larger group of companies with interest in Power, Hospitality and Manufacturing including – Shelter Suites & Hotels Ltd, North South Power, Shelter Clay Ltd and Urban Abode.