Cracked, sinking and abandoned, Dubai villas to be levelled for new housing

DUBAI // Villas that have stood empty for more than a decade will finally be demolished to make way for new housing.

About 56 houses in Jebel Ali will be knocked down, said developer Nakheel, with many having fallen into disrepair since their completion in 2003.

Families moved into the properties at Garden View Villas 14 years ago but many quickly moved out after cracks appeared in walls and questions were raised about the build quality.

As recently as last year, families continue to be removed from villas with what Nakheel called issues of “structural settlement”.

The development is significant as it was among the first in Dubai to offer title deeds to expat buyers, shortly after laws changed to allow foreigners to own property in the early 2000s.

Originally, three- and four-bedroom homes in the 208-villa development went on the market for about Dh1.5 million

Nakheel this week said demolition will begin this month and that reconstruction would “begin in due course”.

Residents said they are tired of living in what feels like a “war zone”.

Jan Webber has been in the neighbourhood since 2012 but last year she was told her family must leave their villa because of what Nakheel this week described as “structural settlement”.

The house hit with cracks and subsidence — the gradual caving in or sinking of an area of land — the family was forced to move at their own cost, in excess of Dh13,000, to a property nearby.

They had been living next door to a derelict villa, kept awake at night by doors banging in the wind and by young people making trouble. She and her husband got up in the night and wired the doors shut.

“We got fed up with the vermin of the villa next door, the banging doors, the kids going in and trashing it … it was embarrassing when visitors came,” she said.

The family had to delay their summer holiday and spend money on having the new villa cleaned, decorated and re-landscaped. They initially returned to sleep in the old villa as there was no air conditioning in the new home when they moved in last July.

On Mrs Webber’s street alone, half the villas are derelict.

“It’s a shame as when we first moved in it was lovely. It was safe and quiet. I feel that it’s been forgotten,” she said. “I was trying for two-and-a-half years to get a villa here and now nobody wants them. It’s very sad. Some lovely people live here.”

Yasar Khan, a resident since last June, said living around the dilapidated villas is far from ideal.

“The abandoned villas frighten the small kids,” he said.

“My daughter and her friends say some houses are haunted. Other than that, it’s a safety and security threat and an absolute eyesore to one of the most beautiful areas in town.”

Pia Ault has been in Garden View Villas for five years.

“So many residents are moving out. The rent is high and service is terrible,” she said. “They can’t get new people to come in.

“They offered our neighbour two free months when they moved in January but they still couldn’t afford the monthly rent, so moved to Jebel Ali Village.”

She said there is much to be done, including security gates, better landscaping, and doing something with the empty villas.

“Make it look like a finished neighbourhood, not a construction zone,” she said.

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said she no longer allows her two children to play in the street.

“Every time my son plays football, the ball goes into the derelict area and it’s very dangerous, so I just don’t allow them to play there any more. Kids are curious and they want explore so it’s very hard to stop them going into these areas unless you’re with them the whole time.”

She said in the three years she has been there, much has changed.

“I didn’t imagine that three years later it would still be like this. The security is poor, more people are leaving, and it’s still very expensive. We pay Dh165k plus another Dh8,000 to be here and this is our view.”