Abu Dhabi agency awards $1.28bn housing contracts

Abu Dhabi developers were yesterday awarded public housing contracts on projects worth Dh4.73 billion (US$1.28bn) by the Urban Planning Council (UPC).

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Abu Dhabi developers were yesterday awarded public housing contracts on projects worth Dh4.73 billion (US$1.28bn) by the Urban Planning Council (UPC). The announcement is testament to the UPC's growing role in supporting the property sector.The organisation was founded in 2007 and is responsible for Abu Dhabi's urban environments.

Aldar Properties, the largest developer in the capital, was awarded a Dh730 million deal to help build more than 1,000 homes for Emiratis in Al Ain, while Al Qudra Real Estate, a smaller private developer, won a Dh4bn contract to build 5,000 homes. Both are public housing projects in Al Ain, the emirate's second-largest city. "The UPC is delivering on its mission to develop the Emirate of Abu Dhabi," said Mahmood al Mahmood, the chief executive of Al Qudra Holding. "There is a large gap for the national housing programme, and it will definitely become bigger and bigger over time."

Property developers have seen low sales for the past 18 months because of the downturn, leading them to seek new ways of making money. They have increased their rental portfolios, created property management companies and sought more government contracts. Al Qudra will build the first phase of the Ain Al Fayda project, including 2,000 homes on 40.36 million square feet, at the base of Jebel Hafeet. It will eventually reach 5,000 homes and house an estimated 60,000 people.

The contract represented a new revenue stream for Al Qudra, Mr al Mahmood said. "In 2008, we decided to shift our portfolio allocation to mid-range housing and now public housing," he said. "It adds more diversification to our portfolio. It brings stability. It keeps the company working." The Aldar project, Shiebat Al Watah, will cover about 420 hectares and is located near Ain al Fayda, about 10km to the south of the city centre.

Aldar will carry out major infrastructure work and hand over 1,045 serviced plots to Emiratis by April 2013, according to the company. "Aldar will construct the residences later on," said Matar Mohammed Saif Al Nu'aimi, the general manager of Al Ain Municipality. "We expect the project to be completed in three years." Aldar will also oversee the development of educational, health and retail facilities.

The project will include 41km of internal roads and pedestrian paths, a 45km water network system and a 32.5km sewerage system. Medium and low-voltage power networks and a fibre-optic telecommunications network are also being installed. It is the second infrastructure contract awarded to Aldar in Al Ain, after the completion of Shabhat, another Emirati housing project close to the city. "The Al Ain municipality expects to add about 11,000 residential units over the next five years in order to meet the demand," Mr al Nu'aimi said.

The Abu Dhabi Government last year increased efforts to provide housing for UAE nationals. "The Government today has Dh25bn to develop infrastructure and public housing for the Emiratis, to spend in the coming two to three years," said Falah al Ahbabi, the general manager of the UPC. "But the [total] budget for Emirati housing is much greater than Dh25bn. Emirati housing is the most important item for us right now. It is a hot topic."

According to the UPC, the Government plans to build 20,000 houses for Emiratis in Al Ain over the next 20 years and more than 30,000 in the capital. @Email:ngillet@thenational.ae