'No apartments, just villas' at the heart of housing crisis in Kuwait
Most countries struggle to provide housing welfare for their citizens, but the story is a little different in Kuwait. While the Gulf state is not short in financial resources, it lacks available land, a comprehensive vision as well as principles of planning and execution. This was the introduction to an investigative report published by Al-Qabas yesterday to highlight Kuwait’s housing crisis which was identified as the top priority in a parliament survey to determine which topics Kuwaitis want their representatives to address the most. The report begins by mentioning the government’s failure to provide a solution that could at least prevent accumulation of housing applications annually. Despite repeated promises, the Public Authority for Housing Welfare failed to execute a residential project since 2007.
That includes projects that have been finalized on paper such as the Khairan City which has a total capacity of 32,000 residential units, Al-Subbiya with a capacity of 25,000 units and Al-Mutlaa with 22,000 units. Going ahead with these three project would significantly meet a majority of housing applications which reached 110,000, according to Al-Qabas. It further indicates that the annual average number of housing applications increased from 5,000 in 2007 to 9,000 now. “The only solution in front of the state is to start taking steps to change the housing law that gives a citizen the right to obtain a 400 square meter housing unit and a KD 70,000 loan to build a house, and instead adopt vertical construction”, said an expert quoted in the report. But the idea of granting citizens apartments instead of villas seems to be a bold step, or a “difficult” one that the expert said neither the government nor MPs have the courage to take.
Yet, he indicated that it is a necessary step if the state wanted a large number of Kuwaitis to have houses to live in. The law in Kuwait says that the government is required to grant a housing unit to a Kuwaiti citizen within a maximum of five years after the application is submitted, but there are people who have been waiting for more than a decade now. The expert who preferred to remain unnamed in the report indicated that the majority of Kuwait’s land (over 17,000 square kilometers) is either on oil fields or groundwater, located over petroleum and water pipelines, or are extremely polluted, leaving only 10 percent suitable for housing.
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