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Housing shortage, a major cause of concern

Kuwait may be one of the worlds richest countries per capita, but the nation is facing serious shortage of housing, and it is high-time that the government tackles the shortage of government-funded housing units, and considers it as top priority, say officials in the Gulf Arab State.

Kuwaitis are concerned that they may even have to wait for up to 20 long years on the housing list.

The Parliament speaker, Marzuq al-Ghanim said during the opening of the National Assembly, that the cabinet needs to put forward improved solutions with a timetable, and the government has sufficient finances to solve this problem.

By offering more government-subsidised housing, further pressure would be put on already stretched public finances, with government spending forecast to exceed oil revenues soon.

The Prime Minister in Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah warned that the welfare system is unsustainable and the major oil producer should slow down consumption of its natural resources.

As part of extensive national welfare programme, Kuwaiti men are eligible to apply for government housing after marriage. They are offered loans and the loans are paid off slowly.

But, the waiting list for government-subsidised housing grew to be more than 100,000 in 2013, and this will grow by thousands each year in the country with more than half of the 1.2million nationals being under age 25.

However, despite its oil wealth, Kuwait has suffered from lack of infrastructure development, due to political infighting, bad planning, entrenched bureaucracy, which makes it lag behind its regional peers like Qatar and UAE.

Kuwaiti nationals may have disposable income, but they lack basic necessities. A campaign called “Waiting for a House” has been set up by a group of young Kuwaitis, to pressurize the government to build more homes. The group recently increased its activities, and drew about 12000 followers on its Twitter account. Moreover, a recent government poll revealed that housing was the most pressing topic for voters.

According to an Oxford Business Group report, less than 8 percent of Kuwait’s land has been developed, and it is hard for investors to enter the market. Campaigners say that individuals hoard land to push up prices and rents to their benefit.

Housing is also a major issue in Saudi Arabia. But, King Abdullah announced that the government would build half a million new homes worth 250 billion riyals. The world’s top oil exporter has also made it easier for people to take out low-interest loans to purchase houses, and has passed a mortgage law that may ease access to private sector home loans. Kuwaitis want this kind of support too.

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