United Arab Emirates
The Social Dimension of UAE’s Housing Projects 17 Oct 2012
by Abdullah Al-Awadhi

Housing is the most significant unit of possession in one’s homeland. It gives social and psychological security that helps individuals pursue greater achievements. Suitable housing is among the basic needs for an individual along with food and clothing. Housing is also important for maintaining social stability so that individuals play a constructive role in society.

The philosophy behind housing projects in the UAE is to improve the lifestyle of nationals, ensure their well-being and help them fulfill their duties toward their nation and family without being concerned about residential issues. Since its establishment by the Founder of the UAE, the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the country has been formulating policies and programs to provide modern and adequate housing facilities to them.

The state is taking this route due to the vision of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his directives to provide decent living for all citizens besides adopting the principle of sustainability in achieving urban development goals in sync with the changing times. Several institutions have been established to implement this vision. The most important among these is the Sheikh Zayed Housing Program (SZHP), followed by the Mohammed bin Rashid Housing Establishment (MBRHE), Ministry of Public Works and Emirates Development Bank (EDB). All these institutions tackle housing issues of nationals by funding their construction in coordination with various urban planning departments in the country.

The government has made comprehensive plans to fulfill the requirements of decent housing for citizens in all emirates, cities and villages. This is evident in the list of projects announced in recent years that relate to establishing residential buildings for citizens, developing infrastructure in many areas and increasing investments in both water and electricity sectors. It indicates the attention paid by the country and its wise leadership to provide all kinds of facilities to its citizens.

Since 2006, the government has incorporated many modern concepts in implementing housing projects for citizens in Abu Dhabi. The Emirate is establishing a set of integrated residential complexes where all available modern amenities will replace old public housing. In 2011, the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council signed several housing contracts to deliver an additional 7,500 new homes for Emirati families across all the three regions of the emirate – Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Gharbia – at a cost of AED13.5 billion. This is part of an integrated and comprehensive plan to complete building of 13,000 new homes by 2015.

To ensure that multiple options are available to citizens in terms of suitable homes, the emirate set up the Abu Dhabi Private Housing Loans Authority in July 1990 under Law No. (3) of 1990. The Authority provides UAE nationals in Abu Dhabi with interest-free loans to build houses as well as carry out expansion and renovation work on the existing ones. In 2008, the Authority raised the cap on borrowing from AED 1.2 million to AED 2 million to provide better benefits to citizens.

Housing projects implemented by SZHP are not unique to Abu Dhabi but extend to other emirates. In April this year, SZHP announced that it would start a project, Khalifa Complex in Fujairah, which includes 427 villas. This will be followed by construction of a residential complex in Sharjah, including 407 villas in Al Sweih. Such housing projects would begin in other emirates later this year with a total cost estimated at AED1.4 billion, including construction of 1,888 villas across the UAE. As many as 1,505 citizens benefited from SZHP during 2011. Until September of last year, SZHP released 27,000 housing units for eligible citizens. A total of 13,000 units have already been delivered while work is underway to complete another 14,000.

In Dubai, MBRHE is playing a vital role in implementing housing projects. Since its establishment in 2006, it has helped in providing adequate housing for citizens in Dubai. The number of loan applications submitted by citizens to MBRHE until 2011 reached 22,935 while approval was given to 13,247 applications. The remaining are under consideration. In order to provide greater stability to families in the UAE, MBRHE last year announced new categories of beneficiaries. These include male citizens having a second wife and female citizens married to a foreigner. The inclusion of these categories will mitigate the burden of the cost of living for low-income families and young people.

The establishment of EDB in December 2011, with a capital of AED10 billion, provides alternatives and reaffirms the interest of the country’s wise leadership to provide a decent livelihood to citizens and raising their standard of living. The bank provides a range of financing and savings solutions to aid citizens in owning houses through reasonable schemes. Government of Sharjah has also signed an agreement with Emirates Islamic Bank to provide grants and loans for all public housing projects. This has been the result of the keenness of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, to provide ways for nationals to lead a better life.

Housing projects and initiatives in the UAE are not confined to government agencies or institutions alone. There are philanthropic organizations and charities that have also contributed to meeting the housing needs of citizens to consolidate social stability. For example, the Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation is implementing housing maintenance programs, targeting low-income national families throughout the UAE. The Foundation gives priority to action programs and charitable projects for widows and the elderly.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Foundation has also played an important role in this regard with its projects being implemented across different emirates. In 2011, it delivered 60 new public accommodations in Al Siji, Fujairah, to eligible citizens who were previously living in poor housing units. Its four projects were launched in Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain. The number of public houses reached 240 units with costs estimated at AED 165 million. Two years ago, the Foundation built over 30 new public accommodations for widows and divorcees in Al Faseel, Fujairah and in Dibba Al Fujairah.

If one looks at all the housing projects and initiatives that have been launched throughout the UAE, one finds that they are related to the construction of buildings and residential complexes for citizens or the development of infrastructure. We also find a wise and visionary leadership that dedicates resources and makes plans and programs to ensure the well-being of citizens and provides them with decent livelihood.

The welfare provided by the state to its citizens and expatriate population has been the reason behind the country’s stability, which has drawn the envy of many people. Housing and infrastructure projects reflect our wise leadership’s conviction that the Emirati citizen is the real wealth and both the agent and beneficiary of progress. That is why the UAE occupies a leading position in all indices of human development, particularly in terms of citizens’ satisfaction and happiness, not only at the regional but global levels as well.

The content herein does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the ECSSR