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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Cityscape Abu Dhabi show is a bellwether of a recovering property market

Affordable housing is the order of the day as developers target cheaper homes

The UAE’s real estate developers engaged in a flurry of activity at this year’s annual Cityscape Abu Dhabi exhibition – despite a string of reports that have forecast continued declines in sales and rental values across the country until the end of 2018.

Yet, with oil prices hovering above $65 per barrel after plunging to as low as $30 per barrel in the beginning of 2016, investors’ spirits are lifting. Pavilions at this year’s trade show were mainly busy as developers showcased a string of sizeable new projects.

‘Affordable’ housing was the order of the day, in line with current market demand from budget-conscious buyers. Abu Dhabi’s biggest listed developer Aldar Properties launched for sale the first phase of its planned Dh10 billion Alghadeer masterplan, including 611 homes with prices starting at Dh290,000 for studios.

Sharjah-based developer Arada said it was making good progress selling the second phase of its $6.5bn Aljada scheme, with prices starting at around Dh299,000.

Sameh Muhtadi, chief executive of Abu Dhabi-based Bloom Holding, told The National he would like to see more affordable products across the emirate, and noted that most of the current built stock is better described as “middle income”.

His definition of affordable is a product priced between Dh270,000 for a studio and Dh500,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.

That said, there were plenty of luxury projects on show for those with deeper pockets. Imkan, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Capital Group that is building the 18-hectare Makers’ District to stimulate Abu Dhabi’s creative industries, unveiled a striking concept design for an ultra-prime hotel near the Presidential Palace.

Designed by British architect Thomas Heatherwick, the Ras Al Akhdar hotel is intended as a landmark for Abu Dhabi that the company wants to become as important as the Burj Al Arab hotel is to its neighbour Dubai.

Meanwhile, Austrian developer Kleindienst Group said it continues to sell its ultra-luxury Floating Seahorse villas at The World Islands, the archipelago of man-made islands under construction off Dubai’s coastline. Kleindienst had included just 42 of the marine villas in its original masterplan but has since increased this to 131, founder Josef Kleindienst told The National.

So, despite challenges, the market remains resilient as illustrated by the recent tie-up between Aldar and Emaar Properties, and developers are pressing on with a sharpened sense of what the market requires.