Saudi Arabia’s housing ministry has said the Kingdom will need of 3 million housing units by 2025 but real estate agents argue that the country's growing population, which is set to cross 37 million in 10 years, will require more housing units than what the ministry has estimated.
Hussein Al-Zahrani, director general of the ministry's office in Makkah province, reiterated the ministry's estimate of 3 million, adding that the Kingdom would require 330,000 new housing units every year. He expected a 5 million increase in the population over the next 10 years.
Speaking to Okaz/Saudi Gazette, he said the ministry has 95 projects under designing phase, 25 under awarding stage, and 67 under implementation. "This means the ministry has 187 projects with a total of 233,651 housing units."
Al-Zahrani emphasized the need to support the Real Estate Development Fund with additional funds to provide more housing loans to citizens. "This is the best solution for the housing problem."
He said the implementation of housing projects by the ministry would take time as it has to obtain suitable land and carry out projects before distributing them among deserving citizens. He criticized Saudi engineers for not playing a significant role to resolve the housing problem and said housing units constructed by local companies were of a poor quality.
The Saudi Engineering Council acknowledged the complexity of the problem. "The issue is not with engineering but with finance," said Ghazi Al-Abbasi, the council's former secretary-general. He said citizens prefer to purchase villas but would not be able to do so because of financial constraints.
Al-Abbasi called for transforming the ministry into a regulator and planner. "The mix of roles has complicated the ministry's mission," he added.
According to him, the council's role is limited to organizing the profession. "We don't provide any engineering service. The design and construction of housing units are the work of contractors," he said while praising the media for highlighting the housing issue.
He said some Western countries had removed the low-cost housing provided to the poor for social reasons and built houses for them in different locations. "Citizens prefer to have villas instead of flats and they don't like gradual ownership of houses," he said.
A former housing minister said 620,889 people deserved housing loans from a total of 960,397 applicants from different parts of the Kingdom. The applicants registered on the ministry's website within 60 days, reflecting the big demand, he added.