x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

First flats scheme for Emiratis

The body that builds affordable housing and distributes housing grants and loans to Emiratis is building its first pilot apartment scheme for nationals.

The body that builds affordable housing and distributes housing grants and loans to Emiratis is building its first pilot apartment scheme for nationals.

The Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme is building its first block of flats for Emiratis in Fujairah in a project that it hopes to roll out in areas across the UAE where there is little available land for development. The block will comprise 12 300 square-metre apartments, each of three levels. They have been designed to resemble villas as closely as possible. Each apartment will have its own entrance.

The executive director of engineering and housing affairs, Abdullah Khamis Al Khaddeim, said that each flat would cost Dh900,000 (US$245,000) to build, excluding land costs - the same as it costs to build a villa. The Fujairah project is scheduled to be completed early next year.

If it proves successful, Sheikh Zayed Housing hopes to build a further 36 similar blocks of apartments in the Fujairah region. It is also considering building in Sharjah.

Speaking on the sidelines of the first day of the Future Housing Summit in Abu Dhabi yesterday, Mr Al Khaddeim said the apartments were built on three levels "because we want to attract people from villas to apartments. We will see whether people will take to it".

He said the size of land plots gifted by the Government had fallen from about 2,025 sq metres in the early 1990s to about 900 sq metres today. This compares to national housing scheme houses, which average about 350 to 450 sq metres in size - far higher than the global average of 150 sq metres.

"In the scale of the world it is very high, in the scale of the region it's in the middle," he said.

"But social attitudes are changing. I believe 100 per cent that over time housing here will get smaller because what was available yesterday is not available today. And the population yesterday is different from today.

"I believe also that in the future we will get some kind of housing which today is not always accepted by Emiratis, types of housing which you find in Europe and it's normal because they are thinking about the cost."

Also speaking at the housing summit, Mohamad Al Marri, the assistant chief executive of the Dubai-based Mohammed bin Rashid Housing Establishment, said that the Dubai Municipality was also in the process of building its first apartment schemes for nationals.

He said that the Dubai Government had been about to start building its apartment scheme before the financial crisis hit but that it had been delayed.

"We still have the project ready in design. The land is waiting for the project to start. And once we finish our securitisation of the portfolio there will be enough cash." Mr Al Marri said.

"In certain aspects customers do not know what they need," he added. "If you asked everybody what is your dream house, it would be a palace. Is that affordable? Is that sustainable? Is that something that we can do again and again? I guess that everybody will know that is impossible.

"Our society is improving and developing into a better income bracket, so many things are changing for the better. But still the proportion of society that has a limited income will still be there and they will have to have some kind of support from the Government," he said.

"The Government has limited resources and these resources need to be managed properly."