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Mar 18 2013

Housing inadequate for 30% of Saudis

By IBARAHIM NAFFEE & REEM WAFAI In opening remarks at the first session of the Jeddah Economic Forum (JEF), Abdullah Sadiq Dahlan, member of the JEF's organizing committee and chairman of the board of trustees at the University of Business and Technology, warned of an imminent threat of a housing crisis exploding in the Kingdom over the coming years in the absence of realistic housing plans.

Dahlan said that 37 percent of Saudis do not own houses and pay rent, while 30 percent live in inadequate housing facilities. He also pointed out that the Kingdom is in need of 350 million sq meters to accommodate a growing population with 67 percent of the population currently searching for affordable housing.

According to statistics presented by Dahlan, 85 percent of the Saudi population lives in major cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, with Jeddah listed as the city with the highest population density.

Those who spoke in the first session were Joseph Danko, managing director of Urban Programs- CH2M Hill; Thai Ker Liu, director of RSP Architects Planners and Engineers in Singapore, and David Smith, founder of Affordable Housing Institute (AHI).

The specialists provided their insight regarding the characteristics and features of competitive cities in the 21st century, while addressing the key questions of how cities compete, how they attract capital and whether newly built cities compete better than existing cities.

In relaying Singapore's successful experience in public housing, Liu highlighted that creating cities that stimulate economic growth and provide citizens with a high quality of living, should be the driving factors underlying urban planning. Liu said that 95 percent of the population in Singapore owns a house, an astounding figure given the high-density population of the island nation, which was a huge endeavor undertaken by the government over five decades.

Danko provided three key points that define competitive cities from his perspective, namely the need to embrace sustainable solutions in urban planning, accentuating the unique characteristics of a city and emphasizing a shared public realm.

He also underlined that urbanization has led to an unprecedented consumption of natural resources, which mandates a shift to sustainable economic solutions in development.

Smith reinforced the previous speakers' comments regarding how successful urbanization is the driving force behind prosperous cities and affordable housing is what makes cities function properly.

"Urbanization is here already, cities that don't plan their city landscapes will be met with unplanned urbanization," he said.

© Arab News 2013

© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.


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