Affordable housing in the GCC: National policies and future needs

New mortgage laws and more flexible financing options are needed to ensure that local populations have adequate housing

In part 1 of this article published last month, we looked at problems and challenges in the provision of affordable housing in GCC countries. In this article we turn our attention to the actions already being taken by governments and charitable institutions and look at further measures that needed to ensure that GCC populations have adequate housing.

National housing policies

With the growing population in the Gulf region and the shortage of affordable housing, the GCC countries are taking serious measures to improve the housing situation.

In Qatar, the Ministry of Civil Service Affairs and Housing has been providing since the mid-1960s affordable housing and furnishing allowances for Qatari citizens with limited income or special needs. In 2007, a general law granted Qatari citizens special facilities for housing loans and purchase of land. Recently, the ceiling for home loans was doubled to $ 330,000 for eligible nationals and repayment tenure was extended to 37 years. The Qatar Development Bank is the main institution responsible for providing government housing loans for citizens.

In Bahrain, in 2007, the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa Habitat Award was established to promote the principles of good governance and equity in housing. The Bahraini government launched a series of regional and international conferences addressing housing issues, the most recent being the Middle-East Affordable Housing Development Summit in 2012. Amendments to the law on land and building regulations now allows the construction of additional houses on plots of land and the enlargement of small houses. A major reclamation project is Diar Al-Muharraq, supported by the government and launched by the private sector, a mix of residential and commercial properties with over 30,000 housing units. In January 2012, the government struck a deal with the private sector to deliver more than 4,000 homes for low-income citizens. Eskan Bank provides housing finance solutions for Bahraini citizens within the framework of the national economic vision.

Kuwait's Five Year Plan 2010-14 included a budget of $40bn to meet the urgent need for housing. The plan targets the development of mega projects and numerous urban projects, the construction of residential units and the development of new satellite cities in different regions. One mega project is Silk City or Madinat Al Hareer, an urban centre with over 175,000 units. The Kuwait Public Authority for Housing Welfare, with the participation of the private sector, launched the Sabah Al Ahmad Future City project providing 11,000 residential units including 9,000 housing units for Kuwaitis on welfare. Under a new law, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development has to contribute up to 25 percent of its net annual income to the Public Authority for Housing Assistance. Oman’s Five-Year Development Plan (2011-15) seeks to implement housing projects with a budget of $1.16bn (eight percent of total planned spending).

Sultan Qaboos ordered a grant of $520m for the housing assistance programme, which includes housing loan projects. New land laws were issued (May 2011) exempting lower-income nationals from fees or allowing a fee reduction, and government subsidies were distributed to them while the Ministry of Housing increased their housing loan. The Oman Affordable Housing Summit (June 2011) discussed the government’s affordable housing policies and the First Oman Sustainable Urbanisation Conference (September 2011) examined rapid urbanisation and its impact on communities, economies and policies. The Oman Housing Bank contributes to the development of the housing sector by providing affordable housing and lending services for Omani adult nationals d with a fixed monthly income.

Article continued on next page

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