x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Dubai Lagoon investor visits construction site every Saturday

'I wish I had not written out that cheque to buy a place on the third floor supposedly overlooking a lagoon. My world turned upside down. They have taken my life. I cannot leave here and I have no property that I own,' said Anita Henry, a 50-year-old British expatriate.

Anita Henry at the site of her yet to be constructed home at the Dubai Lagoon project. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Anita Henry at the site of her yet to be constructed home at the Dubai Lagoon project. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

DUBAI // Anita Henry visits the quiet, sandy building site every Saturday to check for signs of progress.

The school teacher, who once dreamed of owning an apartment in Dubai overlooking an artificial lake, rarely misses her weekend vigil when she keeps tabs, takes photographs and makes notes on the Dubai Lagoon project.

“That is my whole life’s savings, sitting in the desert,” said Ms Henry, 50, a British resident who seven years ago invested Dh310,000 towards a one-bedroom apartment.

“I sold my house in Cornwall to buy this because the lagoon looked so fantastic. I put my whole life into it and I don’t have a home any more, it’s disheartening. I’m kind of stuck really. I can stay here and sit this one out, but for how long?

“I go every weekend and take pictures and come away depressed. But I feel I should go and see it because they have my money.”

Ms Henry has long links with the Emirates. Her father lived here in the 1970s and she began working as a teacher in Dubai in 1982. Her two daughters grew up in the emirate.

A single mother, she stays in accommodation provided by the school she works for.

Like other investors, she has repeatedly approached developer Schon Properties and the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera) for answers.

“I have been to Rera so many times, I’ve given up going,” she said. “They say, ‘Go to court’, but I have no money. I can’t get hold of the owners. I actually want my money back. I don’t care if they will build in the next seven years or if it’s a great location because of the new airport. My kids have grown up and gone. I invested to live here, not to make money.”

Following intervention by Rera last year, Danial Schon, the vice president of Schon Properties, assured a building-by-building handover starting with eight buildings in zone one.

Delays have been blamed on funding, the economic downturn and defaulting investors. Only eight buildings have been constructed with none of the structures completed.

Ms Henry’s spirits lifted when she spotted cranes some months ago but those have since been dismantled. Her apartment is in a building marked for zone two, on which work has not yet begun.

“When the cranes were taken down that broke my heart. I’m frustrated because they said they have cash flow problems, but we all do,” she said.

“My mother is 70 and when I go home, she is beside herself because she knows I have nowhere to live.”

She rues the day she decided to buy the apartment at a Dubai property fair.

“The site office was buzzing with people like me. I wish I had not written out that cheque to buy a place on the third floor supposedly overlooking a lagoon. My world turned upside down. They have taken my life. I cannot leave here and I have no property that I own.”

rtalwar@thenational.ae