For years, AHI has maintained a strong presence in the MENA region, consulting and advising on affordable housing finance and development in countries such as Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. As we move into the future, we will continue to focus heavily on this region of the world and will provide regular news and project updates as they become available.

Field Notes: Subsidized, Low and Middle Income Housing in the Arab World

July, 2016: What has the Affordable Housing Institute been doing in the Arab World?

In addition to our work with housing authorities, we have leveraged our global network of global expertise to assist a limited number of private developers who wished to expand their affordable housing business internationally. Although housing policy is critical for achieving change at a scale, we are keen on developing our relationships with private developers, without whom a healthy affordable housing ecosystem cannot exist.

• Evaluating existing policies and programs that support affordable housing.
• Designing and implementing financing programs;
• Designing public-private real estate partnerships;
• Benchmarking against housing programs in comparable countries;
• Formulating affordable housing strategies;
• Quantifying housing demand and supply at the city level;

Over the past five years, the Affordable Housing Institute (AHI) has been actively expanding its work in the GCC and the broader MENA region (see map below), out of its regional base in Dubai. As a global non-profit affordable housing consultancy that specializes in policy and financial advisory services, AHI has been assisting housing authorities across the region develop a sustainable affordable housing ecosystem. Drawing on its broad international experience, AHI has been working towards improving the efficiency of housing related services; promoting choice, flexibility and affordability in housing; and laying the foundations for more responsive, effective and stable housing markets. To this end, AHI’s services have included:

Stay tuned for future updates!

Maysa Sabah
MENA Managing Director
The Affordable Housing Institute

For more information on AHI please visit www.affordablehousinginstitute.org

June, 2016: Maysa Sabah Shocair presents at Dubai's Urban Thinkers Campus

Maysa Sabah Shocair, AHI’s GCC Managing Director was a speaker at the Urban Thinkers Campus held in Dubai on January 10-11 and organized by the Dubai Real Estate Institute and the International Real Estate Federation.

The UN-Habitat launched the Urban Thinkers Campus as a place to reflect on current urban challenges and trends and propose a new paradigm as a contribution to the New Urban Agenda, which will be delivered at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016.

The inaugural Urban Thinkers Campus, which took place in October 2014 in Caserta/Italy, was organized around the theme ‘The City We Need’ and brought together urban thinkers and UN-Habitat partner organizations. Participants acknowledged the First Urban Thinkers Campus as a model for future events to negotiate principles, policies, and action planning on key issues that need to be addressed at the Habitat III conference and built into the New Urban Agenda, the outcome document of the Habitat III conference. Up to 28 Urban Thinkers Campuses were scheduled to take place in different cities across the world between June 2015 up February 2016.

Based on the theme “The City We Need”, Dubai’s campus focused on the following topics:

1. The City We Need is Smart & Sustainable
2. The City We Need is Economically Vibrant & Inclusive
3. The City We Need is Safe & Resilient

For more information on the Urban Thinkers Campus in Dubai, please visithttp://urbanthinkersdubai.com/.

May, 2016: Abu Dhabi Housing Authority pre-approves 58 designs for Emirati homes

Emiratis who get a construction loan from the Abu Dhabi Housing Authority (ADHA) can now build their homes according to 58 designs pre-approved by authorities, including ADHA and the municipalities. The pre-approved building plans are available to all ADHA loan recipients free of charge.

The purpose of this initiative, called “Bayti” is to ease the construction process for Emiratis, many of whom have little or no experience in supervising their own construction, which often leads to cost overruns and delays in completing housing construction. In fact, it currently takes a borrower six months to choose an architect, develop the plans, and get all the necessary approvals and permits. The “Bayti” initiative will cut the time required to begin construction to about two weeks from the time the borrower chooses the design and its associated consultant, in an effort to reduce the overall time required to complete a house to less than two years. Also, the architect’s fees, currently set at around 4% of the cost of the project will decrease to around 3%.

While changes cannot be made to the floor plans, borrowers have flexibility in selecting some of the finishes. The current designs are available to homes that have between 4 and 8 bedrooms, (with room for future expansion) and an estimated cost between AED 2,000,000 and AED 3,000,000.

ADHA, whose mission is to meet the housing needs of UAE citizens from Abu Dhabi, grants between 2,500 and 3,000 interest-fee housing loans each year, ranging in value between AED 500,000 and AED 2,000,000 to be repaid over a maximum period of 25 years. In addition, borrowers are exempt from 25% of the loan value when they complete their home and can benefit from a one time pro-rated exemption in case of early loan repayment.

For more information on the “Bayti” initiative, please visit http://www.adha.ae/.

April, 2016: A modular future for affordable housing in the Arab region?

Although still in its infancy in the Arab region, Permanent Modular Construction (PMC) is proving, in other parts of the world, that modern manufacturing practices can revolutionize the construction industry. Such innovations are particularly critical for affordable housing, as the cost of labor, construction and land continue to mount. Modular buildings are manufactured off-site as units, complete with interior finishes, flooring, plumbing and lighting fixtures, electrical wiring, plumbing lines, windows and even exterior cladding. The modules are trucked to the site and assembled onto foundations by a mobile crane. As such PMC offers many advantages, including:
  • A quicker return on investment because by working on-site and off-site simultaneously, project completion time is reduced by as much as 30% compared to conventional construction. Factory production is usually faster than on-site work because it minimizes uncertainties due to extreme factors such as weather, absenteeism, accidents, etc. and better organization of on-site installation;
  • Better quality because defects are eliminated at an early stage of construction;
  • Off-site construction is greener because PMC manufacturers can carefully plan and structure all stages of construction and calculate all the materials needed, therefore eliminating a substantial amount of construction waste;
  • Safety is enhanced since there is greater control in the factory.

Many assume incorrectly that modular inherently means savings in construction cost. However, modular construction uses the same material as traditional construction and any cost savings due to the factory production process are usually offset by the over-engineering of modules to withstand transportation and lifting by crane. Naturally, with economies of scale the overall cost per square meter of the modules could come down significantly.

A main challenge in some markets in the Arab region is the perception of modular housing as ‘temporary” or “second rate”. Also, some governments in the region may be concerned with the potential loss in employment as the construction industry moves to less labor intensive technologies.

Nonetheless, PMC is a growing trend worldwide that architects, engineers and developers in the region should explore for their future projects. It brings the benefits of manufacturing to accelerate timelines, allowing for earlier occupancies of buildings, hence earlier returns on investments.

For more information, use the password dubox4410 to watch these videos https://vimeo.com/154266591 and https://vimeo.com/141520706 about Dubox, a modular design and off-site concrete construction company recently established in Dubai.

March, 2016: Bahrain's bold steps to address housing affordability

Like other governments in the GCC, the Bahraini government has been offering eligible citizens housing benefits including free land plots to build a house and subsidized loans for construction, purchase or repair.

However, the government’s subsidy programs are facing several challenges, including: (i) increased demand for housing due to local population growth; (ii) limited public land for housing; (iii) shortage of government funding; and (iv) rising cost of land and construction. This has resulted in a lower rate of housing production and a growing waiting list for housing services.

In this context the Ministry of Housing (MoH) has launched over the past few years, a number of housing programs focusing on: (i) the participation of the private sector in housing delivery; (ii) the government’s role as facilitator, policy-maker and regulator of the housing sector; (iii) effective access to housing for low-income and needy families; and (iv) reforms in planning, land policy, and regulations.

As such, the government is relying on turnkey procurement programs, where the government purchases homes developed by the private sector under tender or mandate from the government, and on public-private partnerships, where the government co-develops in contractual partnerships with private entities (such as Diyar and Naseej).

On the demand side, the MoH has, since 2009, eliminated the waiting period for receiving Social Housing Loans while increasing the maximum loan amount from BHD 40,000 to BHD 60,000 and capping the citizen’s monthly contribution at 25% of their income.

Moreover, the government launched the Social Housing Finance Scheme (SHFS) to assist eligible citizens on the waiting list to buy a house in the open market. The SHFS provides citizens with a monthly mortgage repayment subsidy to bridge the gap between the monthly mortgage repayment to banks and the citizen’s ability to pay.

For more information, please visit www.housing.gov.bh.

February, 2016: Maysa speaks at the Lambda Alpha International, UAE Chapter's annual dinner

AHI’s GCC Managing Director, Maysa Sabah Shocair, was a keynote speaker at the Lambda Alpha International’s (LAI) annual dinner held on January 28 in Abu Dhabi.

LAI is an honorary society that advances the higher study and practice of land economics, provides a forum for members to develop a broad and deep social and professional peer network of colleagues with leaders in all professions associated with land economics, allows members to contribute to the advancement of land economics in all fields, and constitutes a confederation of local chapters that brings knowledgeable professional together at regular chapter meetings and at LAI-wide conferences.

In her talk Maysa discussed the main trends in middle and low-income housing for non-citizens in the UAE. As the luxury market saturates, developers have been increasingly targeting the middle-income sector. Nevertheless, the supply/demand gap in housing for lower income households remains wide with those who can’t find housing within Dubai or Abu Dhabi share crowded accommodation or move to neighboring cities and suburbs resulting in heavy traffic and loss in productivity.

While the government needs to do more to encourage the supply of middle and low-income housing, Maysa focused on the responsibility of investors, who must embrace the triple bottom line approach to evaluating projects (economic, social, and environmental). Investors in other parts of the world have profited (7 to 10% returns) from preserving or building low and middle-income housing. Such developers choose to target lower-income households for the benefit of society as a whole and as a hedge against higher-yielding more risky investments, including luxury housing, which typically need a rising economic tide to lift affluent renters or buyers into increasingly expensive units—and get hit hardest when the economy sours. Moreover, the best low and middle-income housing that is being built in other parts of the world features a combination of creative social programming, cutting edge-sustainability strategies, and a keen aesthetic awareness. Indeed, the benefits of good design need not be reserved for those who can afford them but extended to those who need them the most. It’s common in cities in our region to pursue headline-grabbing architecture of massive sports stadiums, skyscrapers, or cultural centers. Why not also be known for successful, sustainable and beautiful housing projects for those that make the city work?

For more information on the Land Economics Society, please visit https://www.lai.org/.