Lord Neil Benjamin Gibson, an accomplished world humanitarian and businessman, presently working with SFBBL and the SEED Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 to further the lives of impoverished communities found an article worth sharing.
Bloomberg Business reported the following:
It’s Too Expensive to Live in Dubai, So People Deal With the Gridlock Commute
Walid Zahra has a 25-minute trip home from his office in Dubai — if you don’t count the two hours he spends waiting at a café for the traffic to clear.
“I decided it’s better to spend that time reading papers than getting stressed in my car,” the 27-year-old human-resources worker said.
Like about half the people who work in Dubai, Zahra, a Lebanese father of one, can’t afford to live there, requiring his commute from the neighboring United Arab Emirates sheikhdom of Sharjah. As the roads grow increasingly clotted, the city is introducing ways to add modestly priced homes to a mix dominated by luxury villas and high-end apartments.
“We can’t just keep building wider roads, bridges and tunnels,” said Abdullah Rafia, assistant director general of engineering and planning for the municipal government. “Affordable housing is the solution to the mobility problem in Dubai.”
The issue is urgent for the U.A.E.’s business hub, which depends on a largely foreign-born work force to keep its economy humming.
“Rents and the high cost of living, if not addressed, will discourage future companies from relocating here,” said Martin Cooper, the Dubai-based director of Middle East real estate at Deloitte LLP. “They need to start addressing it now, because affordability is increasingly becoming an issue even for those with relatively high income.”
Among the steps taken or under consideration, the government says developers should designate 15 percent to 20 percent of their projects for low-cost housing. For now, “we are keeping it optional,” Rafia said. “After a few years, if it’s needed, we’ll go with regulations that are compulsory for everybody.”
Authorities don’t plan to build low-cost homes themselves for the time being, though they have the ability to do so, he said. The government owns most of the undeveloped land and holds majority stakes in developers including Nakheel PJSC, Meraas Holding LLC and Dubai Property Group.
Affordable-housing targets haven’t worked elsewhere. After the U.K.’s Conservative Party-led government cut direct spending on such development by 60 percent from 2011 through 2015, the number of low-income and affordable homes completed in England fell by almost 30 percent in fiscal 2014 from three years earlier, according to government statistics.
Colliers International, a U.S.-based property broker, estimates that about half of Dubai’s population, excluding the lowest earners such as construction workers and maids, earns 9,000 dirhams to 15,000 dirhams ($2,450-$4,083) a month. Based on the U.S. ratio that rent or mortgage payments shouldn’t exceed 30 percent of household income, housing costs should range from 32,500 dirhams to 54,000 dirhams a year.
The few areas where studio and one-bedroom apartments fall into that range for renters include International City, Dubai Silicon Oasis and Discovery Gardens, as well as parts of older Dubai such as Al Qusais, Deira and Al Nahda. Rents in those areas have been rising faster than in the city as a whole, according to Colliers. Dubai apartment rents surged 18 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, while villa rents grew 5 percent, according to a report by broker JLL Inc.
Government subsidies and lower land costs are essential to increasing affordable housing, said Matthew Green, head of U.A.E. research at CBRE Group Inc., a Los Angeles-based commercial-property company. The government can also push construction in bulk by providing land and asking private contractors to bid for the work, he said.
Those steps are unlikely, though.
“I don’t think we will go into those kinds of incentives,” Rafia said.
Dubai’s developers have long focused on luxury properties aimed at wealthy buyers from countries including India, Russia and the U.K. That’s changing as the strength of the dollar-pegged dirham dents demand.
Home prices in the sheikhdom fell the most in the world in the second half of last year, 6 percent, after being the fastest growing a year earlier, according to a March 16 report by Knight Frank, a U.K.-based property broker.
Though developers are shifting toward lower-priced homes as luxury demand subsides, those properties will still be beyond the reach of many, according to Khalid Bin Kalban, chairman of private developer Union Properties PJSC.
“The problem is people at the lower end of the market who tend to commute are often renters who are not interested in buying homes,” Bin Kalban said. “Developers are concerned with buyers and the demand that counts is from the mid-high end of the market.”
In a city where many companies provide housing allowance for staff, the rising cost of shelter has turned into a burden. That pushed some employers, such as Emirates airlines, to build their own compounds. In 2011, the carrier bought land to build 528 homes to house its pilots.
Building affordable homes can attract real estate funds and institutional investors looking for steady income.
Dubai’s residential rental market is “very strong and can attract investors if the right product is made available,” CBRE’s Green said. “Mid-market homes would have demand among corporates with large requirements to house staff who work in schools, hotels, hospitals, airlines and other industries,” he said.
Zahra, who earns 15,000 dirhams a month and provides for a wife and an infant son, started looking at moving to Dubai as his lease neared its end. He found that he would have to pay more than double the rent, an amount that’s almost half of his annual salary.
“We really need a two-bedroom apartment because our son is growing and the extra room isn’t optional anymore,” he said. “But we decided to put up with the pain of driving and just find a bigger home in Sharjah.”
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