x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sheikh Mohammed approves Dh2.1bn housing grant for Emiratis

The Vice President and Ruler of Dubai has approved the funding for the Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme which will help 5,000 families.

Mohammed bin Rashid visits the headquarters of the Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme. Wam
Mohammed bin Rashid visits the headquarters of the Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme. Wam

DUBAI // A housing grant of Dh2.1billion has been approved for Emiratis who want to build a home.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, approved the funding for the Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme (SZHP) on Saturday. The grant will help 5,000 families.

“We currently have 1,500 uncompleted homes throughout the UAE where construction has stalled,” said Dr Abdullah Al Nuaimi, Minister of Public Works and Chairman of the SZHP. “These will get priority according to Sheikh Mohammed’s instructions.”

Dr Al Nuaimi said they had about 28,000 applications pending from families in every emirate, some of which dated back to 2006.

“This grant will be a big step in helping us reduce our backlog so that we can begin assessing the new requests,” he said. “The number of applications we have pending increases by 5 to 10 per cent each year.”

The SZHP has been instructed to hand out the 5,000 grants by the end of the year. “We will have to process 1,000 applications a week if we are to complete the task within the allotted time period,” Dr Al Nuaimi said.

Starting this week, the SZHP will announce the names of between 800 and 1,500 approved applicants every week until September 18.

“This is a big challenge. The pressure is on with his highness taking direct interest in our progress, and having to process a huge number of applications in a short time,” Dr Al Nuaimi said.

“But I’m confident that the staff at the SZHP are more than capable to meet the challenge and complete the task.

“This shows the high importance that the right for Emiratis to own a home holds in the hearts of the leaders of this country. In one visit Sheikh Mohammed has cleared almost 20 per cent of our case log, which would have otherwise taken a few years to clear.”

Dr Al Nuaimi said one of the biggest problems faced by Emirati families was being in debt to banks.

“The family has taken on the burden of a large loan to build a house and then the construction stalls, either for financial reasons or regulatory reasons, such as reaching their spending limit on the house. This building is now getting older and more expensive to complete, and all the family has to show for it is a large debt.”

Ali Hassan Al Beloushi, a 37-year-old father of five, has been waiting for his grant.

“The house we are currently living in is more than 30 years old, it is my father’s house, and there is no room for me and my family,” he said. “I applied for a grant to both the SZHP and the Sheikh Mohammed Housing Programme five years ago, but I’ve yet to get approved.

“A lot has changed in the past five years for my family, I’ve had to adjust our applications a number of times.”

Mr Al Beloushi, a government employee, said he lived in a rented villa five years ago and was hoping he would get the grant for a house soon after applying.

“I was raising a family and it was when rents were increasing and living costs were on the rise, school fees were skyrocketing, I couldn’t afford to rent any more. My father was kind enough to give us a couple of rooms in his house, the house I grew up in.

“I hope now that Sheikh Mohammed has lit a fire under them we might finally see some results, and my family and I can look forward to moving into our own place.”

The SZHP offers interest-free loans to build a house, grants to assist in the buying, building or maintenance of a house, and builds government houses for applicants, who must meet the requirements to receive aid, which include a maximum income.

The application process operates a point system to determine where an applicant falls on the priority list. An applicant receives 20 points if he lives with family or rents, and each child adds another point. The higher the points the sooner an application gets processed and assessed.

malkhan@thenational.ae