Flat-sharing at 30? Price rises create a new reality

The rising cost of living is taking a toll on most in the UAE, writes Rym Ghazal.

Rising rents are forcing some people out of the areas they have been living so they can make ends meet. Photo: Rich-Joseph Facun / The National
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There is a new dreaded word among singletons in the UAE: roommate.

Single people who never thought they would have to do this after their college years are being forced to share accommodation to cope with skyrocketing rents and a general rise in the cost of living. Even some married people who live away from their partners have had to get roommates, compelled by price to share even though they have little in common.

I know of many who are unhappy with this, especially if they are in their 30s or older and are set in their ways. Arguing with one’s roommate over the mess in the kitchen or the temperature of the air conditioning was barely fun in one’s 20s and isn’t amusing later in life.

Besides the challenge of living with strangers, it is also not always allowed by the landlords, adding to the challenge for those with low to middle incomes.

Over the past year and a half, I have met many families and singletons who have been compelled by rising rents to move out of places they liked and into more affordable homes.

Besides an actual physical building, it is the people one knows nearby, the facilities and how congested the roads are that determines how happy someone is with their home. If you live in a place plagued by horrific traffic, you are always on the edge.

The cost of living in the UAE has become the most discussed topic at many social gatherings, whether it is of families or singletons. While the details may differ the theme remains the same: how to make ends meet.

One benefit to this new austerity is that it has made people more careful with their money.

An example of this was a person I knew who was at the spa every day, getting her nails done or some other treatment, but would complain about having no money left at the end of the month. Now, she only goes once a week, and has some money left over. She admits it was worry over rising bills that pushed her to change her spendthrift ways.

For those who live far from parks and other places where you can do outdoor activities like cycling and running, it can be difficult to find inexpensive forms of entertainment. This has led some people to just stay home using social media.

For me, an example was the closure of the women’s beach in Dubai for reconstruction. Many women, myself included, are uncomfortable on a public beach because of the lack of privacy. But other private beaches cost at least triple the Dh20 entry charge for the women’s beach so many of us no longer go to the beach.

At a time when much of the Middle East is in some kind of crisis, many of its citizens are trying to move to the Gulf countries for better jobs and security. Anyone who has settled here is truly lucky and many really love it here and work hard to find ways to stay.

For those who have been here for decades, it is not easy to keep pace with the rising costs. Many long-term residents are re-evaluating their jobs because the rising cost of living leaves them unable to support their loved ones.

The UAE is a wonderful place so it is no wonder expatriates want to put down roots. Those who can afford to are trying to buy property as at least the monthly mortgage payments are fixed and not subject to rises at the landlord’s whim.

Everyone wants a secure future for their family but owning a home is becoming an unreachable dream for many.

If they can’t save money, they can’t buy a home here or back home, wherever that may be. It is no wonder that people seem to be more stressed out than usual. Many are simply worried about their next bill.