The revival of Dubai’s property market and the ongoing challenges of making profits from building affordable housing have dampened developer’s interest in low-cost housing, according to Maysa Sabah, managing director, GCC Affordable Housing Institute.

When the Arab spring erupted in the region two years ago, interest in affordable housing was high as governments were keen to quell unrest among their people. But in the last few years there has been a gradual decrease in developer interest in affordable housing as other opportunities have arisen.

“Just looking at Cityscape today, it is a bit alarming because it seems as if developers are losing interest in affordable housing since there are financial opportunities available elsewhere with the market picking up. So that is not good,” she said.

She sees two things that are happening from a developer’s perspective. “First we have been (pushing for subsidies) for three years, but I don’t think developers have seen enough of them to get excited and move aggressively in that area. At the same time the market is picking up so there are other more attractive commercial opportunities,” she said.

Developers also face challenges in meeting expectations when building low-cost housing, she noted.

“For many nationals in Saudi Arabia, for example, it’s extremely challenging for them to make the transition from a villa to an apartment. There are people who cannot and will not be able to afford a villa, and yet the government cannot cater for everybody. So I think in a place like Saudi there is a need to manage people’s expectations and yet at the same time designers have to be creative when designing homes because they have to account for real issues of privacy and expansion within the family.”