ABU DHABI // Almost 17,000 new villas for Emiratis will be built in the emirate over the next five years in 23 separate locations. This was disclosed yesterday by Khamis Sultan al Suwaidi, the director general of a body established by the Urban Planning Council to ensure the buildings are developed to an acceptable standard.
The Abu Dhabi Centre for Housing and Service Facilities Development will oversee the building of new homes allocated to Emirati nationals, he said. Most houses and plots would be given to the citizens free of charge. "Our role is the execution of the Emirati housing," said Mr al Swaidi. "The Government gives priority now to the local housing to help families have a secure and decent life. We are building full community houses along with facilities."
According to the director, the projects are divided into three regions. They include 2,874 villas and 2,000 plots of land in nine towns of Al Gharbia, formerly known as the western region, and 3,056 villas and 977 plots in 14 towns of the eastern region around Al Ain. In the capital, the new centre will monitor the 43-square-kilometre South Shamkha development, consisting of up to 10,500 villas, and a smaller 168-villa project close to Aldar's 5,000 villas of Al Falah.
The plots will be given to Emirati families to build their own homes, although the centre will ensure that the infrastructure for the buildings, such as the water and electricity supplies, is of an adequate standard. "The Government wants locals to have a high standard of living," Mr Suwaidi said. "We are not compromising on quality for the locals." Tens of thousands of Emiratis have applied for government housing and the waiting list is up to five years long.
In March this year Falah al Ahbabi, the general manager of the UPC, announced a plan for more than 50,000 homes for Emiratis over the next 20 years. Plan Al Ain 2030, which was revealed in April, projects the city's population will grow by 21 per cent over the next five years alone, from the current 374,000 residents to 476,000, of whom 33 per cent are expected to be Emiratis. The vision for Plan Al Gharbia 2030, to be released in November, would accommodate a growing population that is expected to expand more than three-and-a-half times from the current 120,000.
"Emirati housing is the most important item for us right now. It is a hot topic," Mr al Ahbabi said in an interview. "What the Government is having in mind for Emirati housing is huge." Mr al Suwaidi said that the work of the centre had previously been handled by a UPC committee. "The Government saw a need for a centre that would co-ordinate [the work] between the services departments and execute the projects," he said.
The centre would implement the planning council's policies according to Plan Abu Dhabi 2030, and award all the contracts for the infrastructure and the construction of the buildings. It would also make sure that deadlines were met and the budget respected. The new entity would also act as an integrated community developer and collaborate with the private sector to apply the principles of Estidama, the UPC's sustainability initiative.
An intelligent system of monitoring electricity and water consumption, for instance, would be put in place. "The system can shut down the power when there is a misuse of power. There is a need for green communities," Mr al Suwaidi said. In all the projects, 15 per cent of the homes would be designed for disabled and elderly people. "These homes will be located in the core of the cities, near the shopping malls, the parks and other facilities," the director said. "Pavements, for instance, will be lower to enable the disabled to have an easier access."
The centre also encourages limited use of vehicles. "The maximum distance between the last point to the centre point is about 1.5km," he said. "This will encourage people to walk to the community facilities. We have also considered the plantation of parks and gardens." All the villas will be extendable and include a majlis, dining halls and facilities. "We basically start with four-bedroom schemes along with the facilities. And we can adapt them to seven bedrooms without interfering with the land use."
The most advanced project in Al Gharbia is the 788-villa development Marabi Al Zafra in Madinat Zayed, where the first 200 houses have just been handed over to the Government. "It is in the process of connection for the services," Mr al Suwaidi said. "Hopefully, within the next couple of months they will be handed over to the end-users. "We are focusing at the moment on facilities including schools, playgrounds, spas, clubs, malls. All of these will be tendered out during the next two to three months."
He added: "In Marabi al Zafra we are expecting 10,000 inhabitants as a community, depending on the families who want to stay." Another of the new centre's key roles will be to develop utility and service facilities including mosques, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, commercial centres and sporting venues, and ensure the provision of electricity, roads, sewerage and water. Mr al Suwaidi did not want to disclose the budget, although the figures exist, to avoid disturbing the market.
All the projects will be built within the next five years, according to the director, who added that partnerships between the Government and the private sector were welcome. "For South Shamkha, three lots have already been awarded for the earth work and we are going to tender the infrastructure works towards the last quarter of this year and have the evaluation towards the first quarter of 2010. The area is huge. There is work for everybody."
The infrastructure for the first 3,000 units of South Shamkha would be ready by the last quarter of 2012, Mr al Suwaidi said. The centre will give priority to UAE manufacturing companies, established and licensed in Abu Dhabi. firstname.lastname@example.org