Abu Dhabi's new housing plans will help the country to reach 70 per cent private residence ownership among nationals by 2020, which would make it number one in the world for home ownership among citizens.
Currently at 69 per cent, the UAE has the second highest amount of residence ownership after Singapore. But Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, announced on Monday that Abu Dhabi plans to double the number of housing loans and reduce waiting times for property.
Dr Abdulla Al Nuaimi, a cabinet member and Minister of Infrastructure Development, told The National on Tuesday that the country is now on the "fast track" to ranking first worldwide.
At the moment, all married Emiratis, depending on their income, are granted either a ready built house or land by the state. Those on a higher income are granted land and a no-interest housing loan so they can build a house.
However, many Emiratis have complained that housing loan waiting times can be as much as ten years.
Like the majority of Emiratis, 40-year-old A. Salem has been waiting for more than five years for his housing loan, after waiting five years for his land.
“I received my land in 2010 after applying for it in 2005 and I still haven’t received my housing loan. My elder brother has been waiting for longer," the father of four said.
"In the mean time, all the money I've spent on rent has gone to waste and hasn't going towards anything that is mine in the end.
“Every year we live under the mercy of a landlord who can increase the rent at any time or ask that we vacate the house because he wants to live in it,” Mr Salem's brother – who asked not to be named — said.
Meanwhile, Emiratis live in rented accommodation or their parents’ houses. Other have gone ahead and taken private loans to buy houses instead of waiting for their government loan to come through.
Abu Abdulla, 39, took out a loan for three million dirhams to buy a house in a private compound in Abu Dhabi.
“I am in a lot of debt but needed a house for my wife and kids,” he said.
The father of three applied for a housing loan five years ago after waiting for three years for his land.
Under the new measures, waiting times will be reduced to a maximum of three years, Dr Al Nuaimi said.
“These housing initiatives are undoubtedly a positive addition and an improvement to the lives of Emiratis. They are a natural continuation of the care and support of the leadership as the move was announced on Zayed Humanitarian Day.
“Reducing waiting times to a maximum of three years will give a lot of comfort to UAE nationals who have previously had to go through a long waiting process. It is a great move,” he said.
FNC member Salem Al Shehi said the announcement came after comprehensive studies on life for UAE nationals.
“Offering Emiratis houses and land and reducing long waiting times for grants contributes to the stability of the Emirati 'family'. We hope that the government continues to find solutions to housing problems and hopefully these latest announcements will resolve many, if not all, of the issues nationals are facing,” he said.