Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

More housing options benefit all income levels

You can't blame families for being a little anxious about crowds of bachelor neighbours. But there is a need for better options in low-cost housing.

A crowd of bachelors sharing a villa can create unease among families living nearby. How well everyone involved handles this by-product of the UAE's unusual labour market is a test of common sense.

The issue arose this week when Sharjah decreed that villas full of bachelors in two neighbourhoods, Samnan and Halwan, must be emptied, effective immediately, and then either demolished or renovated. The same concern has arisen in recent years in Umm Al Quwain and elsewhere; Dubai's solution is its "one villa, one family" rule.

Sharjah's ruling applies to bachelors of all nationalities, officials said, but everyone understands that semi-skilled expatriates make up the great majority of residents who live in these conditions.

Most such residents are peaceable and law-abiding. Nonetheless, it is easy enough to understand that families can feel uncomfortable with large groups of such neighbours. "Single men in barracks," Rudyard Kipling wrote, "don't grow into plaster saints."

In part, this has been a clampdown on those landlords who are all too happy to pack in low-income tenants, who often have few other housing options. In that sense, this kind of housing regulation amounts to a normal, even healthy form of zoning.

It does however raise the question of where these tenants - who are, for the most part, in the country because they are needed in the labour force - can find living quarters that are more suitable.

Many workmen may prefer a bed-space in a crowded villa in town, imperfect though it may be, to quarters in a labour camp - although it should be said that conditions in most camps have by all accounts improved significantly over the last few years. The labour camps have a place in the residential milieu, as long as they meet certain standards, but there need to be more options for low to medium-income housing.

In many places around the world, zoning restrictions are twinned with policies to encourage provision of adequate amounts of decent low-cost housing for lower-wage families and workers.

That is an interesting challenge in this country, where working-class homes are in short supply. Attention to this problem, from both the public and the private sector, would be a useful step towards tranquillity and decent housing for all.

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 An Egyptian Orthodox Christian priest give communion during the Palm Sunday service inCairo, Egypt. Mohamed El-Shahed / AFP

Region in focus - April 18, 2014

The best images of the last seven days from around the Gulf and across the Middle East.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Hamburg players leave the field after the match against Borussia Moenchengladbach on March 30, 2014. AFP

Hamburg the dinosaur’s time may be up in Bundesliga

Ever-present for 51 years in the German top-flight, Hamburg face the prospect of relegation, writes Ian Hawkey.

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National