x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Minimum housing grant 'should be lifted to Dh1m'

Sharjah officials say it is hard to build a home for Dh650,000, the minimum housing grant for Emiratis.

SHARJAH // A motion to increase the minimum housing grant for Emiratis to Dh1 million from Dh650,000 has been tabled at the Sharjah Consultative Council.

The council member Hussein Al Midfa tabled the motion at a meeting last week with the emirate's housing department, saying it was almost impossible to build a decent one-storey home with Dh650,000.

"At present a lot of things are expensive and a number of people have had to dip into their pockets to complement funds for the finishing of their houses," Mr Al Midfa said.

Khalifa Al Tunaiji, the director general of the housing department, promised it would conduct an extensive study to consider the suggestion. At present, the department offers grants and loans for public housing through Emirates Islamic Bank of Dh650,000.

Emiratis with a monthly income of less than Dh15,000 receive Dh650,000 from the Government for their home, which does not have to be repaid.

Those earning more than Dh15,000 can receive a Dh650,000 interest-free loan, repayable between five and 25 years.

Under Islamic finance rules, interest is illegal but similar payments, referred to as profit, are not. Any profits on the loans are serviced by the Government.

The council member Fathima Al Suwaidi asked the department why it gave only one loan for each family when the law allowed men to marry up to four women.

Ms Al Suwaidi asked if the department thought all of the wives would share the same house.

Mr Al Tunaiji replied that when several families were waiting to be allocated housing loans, it was within the emirate's means to give each family only one loan.

The husband should use his discretion to accommodate other wives, he said.

Abdul Rahman Al Muhairi, another council member, asked why the department was considering only married people for loans when bachelors needed a house as a prerequisite for marriage.

Mr Al Muhairi also asked what happened to loans in the case of a divorce.

Mr Al Tunaiji replied that families needed housing more than singles, and said policies in relation to divorce were still being formed.

ykakande@thenational.ae