Special Report: Construction - Sector lifted by infrastructure

28 April 2010

The drive to provide affordable housing to support the local young population has become an important trend for construction companies in the region since the global economy took a turn for the worse at the end of 2008

In times of uncertainty, people are reluctant to live beyond their means, and whereas in the past many might have aspired to live in new-build, high-end accommodation, now low- to middle-income earners, in particular, have become more realistic about what they can and cannot afford.

This is a problem throughout the GCC. Put simply, not enough affordable housing has been built during the past decade. For developers, this pent-up demand represents a clear business opportunity. But responding to it is something few have figured out as yet.

In a region in which property developers have built their reputations on mould-breaking iconic megaprojects, there is understandable hesitation about switching to lower margin developments.

But it is a change that must happen in order to maintain socio-economic stability and to prevent even more luxury properties wastefully standing empty across the region. Governments are working hard to effect this change, obliging developers to include low-cost housing in their property schemes and Riyadh is already moving in this direction. Other Gulf states would do well to follow suit.

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