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Sat 14 Jan 2006 04:00 AM

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Morocco faces housing revamp

Twelve new town schemes are planned to eradicate slum settlements and halt growing unrest in disadvantaged areas

The first of more than twelve new towns designed to relieve overcrowding in Moroccan cities will be ready for inhabitants this year, housing minister Ahmed Taoufiq Hejira has said.

Overcrowding, rising house prices, urban shantytowns and frustration which has boiled over into bombing campaigns, has led officials to start building planned cities, intended to provide improved amenities.

“The only way to unblock the big cities and improve living standards of the population is to build new towns,” Hejira told Reuters.

The plan is to create one new town from scratch every year until 2020. The government and private businesses are joining hands in the drive to build the towns, with the government offering expertise, cheap real estate and subsidies.

“The prices of homes and land in the new cities are 66% less than elsewhere,” Hejira said.

The first of the planned new towns is Tamansourt, located 15 km northeast of Marrakesh. It could potentially house 300 000 people and will be ready to start receiving inhabitants this year.

“A similar town named Tamesma, outside Rabat, will take root in 2007, and other new cities will be built in the following years outside Casablanca and Agadir,” he added.

Morocco has decided to change its previous town planning mentality that focused mostly on urban expansion.

“There is a saturation in the cities and urban areas and the land prices are very high [and] prohibitive, even for the middle class,” Hejira said.

Tamansourt and the other planned cities offer various choices for inhabitants, ranging from villas to buildings and neighbourhoods modelled on old Arab Casbah architecture.

More than half a million people living in what authorities refer to as “insalubrious homes” across the country, will have access to the new cities, backed by the government subsidies.

About 5000 families in Marrakesh will be relocated to Tamansourt. About US $1.10 billion will be invested in Tamansourt, including investments in industrial and tourism zones to offer jobs and business opportunities for residents.

“For 58 000 housing units already built, demands from individuals and private sector business totalled 120 000.

“This demand proves that the strategy to build new towns is sound,” said Kathib el Khebil, a government town planning official.

The government has another plan to invest $1.8 billion in eradicating the slums on the edges of the country’s 70 main cities.

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