By Nihal Zaroug.
Tripoli, 28 November:
The Ministry of Housing and Utilities is due to submit its proposed budget for 2013 to the Ministry of Finance by the end of this month, as officials continue to grapple with an acute housing shortage in Libya.
During a meeting held on 22 November, between Deputy Prime Minister Awad Barassi and Minster of Housing and Utilities Ali Al Sharif, and other government officials, requirements of the Housing Ministry’s 2013 budget were discussed, with the ministry needing to produce a plan that will accommodate for new housing and utilities, as well as the completion of the various housing projects.
According to Hatem Ben Fayed, chairman of the Libyan Housing Committee, there is a need for 900,000 extra housing units, although there are several hundred thousands units available, they are not enough to meet the demand. The majority of these units are incomplete and of questionable quality, particularly the ones started during Libya’s 2010 housing boom.
Completing the unfinished units is a major task, as contracts must be reviewed, many contractors may not wish to resume work if terms of their contracts are subject to change.
Mohamed Al-Manfi, the head of the Housing and Infrastructure committee for the National Congress, told the Libya Herald that among the committee’s main priority is to restart these stalled construction projects. Ideally, companies who are willing to return without new demands would be given priority. However, solutions must be found to facilitate the return of the other companies, some of which may have suffered losses due to last year’s war or question returning due to security concerns.
The committee was not in attendance during last week’s meeting, as their role is to review and approve the final budget for the housing sector provided by the Ministry of Finance. Al-Manfi says that allocated funds have to meet the demands of the sector, adding that what matters is how the money is spent, ensuring quality is vital. Operating costs must be evaluated, as all markets have experienced price changes over the past year, he adds.
Recently, during a radio programme hosted by Radio Zone, the subject of dwindling marriage rates was attributed to a lack of housing for newlyweds. The majority of callers to the show voiced their frustration at the former and current government’s inability to provide quality and affordable housing, and criticised the lack of financing options available from banks.
Buying land and subsequently building on it, can cost over a hundred thousand Libyan dinars, which many young men simply do not have.
In Libya, the burden of providing and furnishing a home falls on men, who many claimed during the show, is something impossible to deliver even if they worked two jobs. Adding, that assistance from the new marriage support fund would not be enough to rent, let alone buy an apartment or a house. Libya’s real estate market is unregulated, renting and buying caps are not enforced. Unreasonably priced apartments and houses are in abundance, with few buyers.
Many also complained that the majority of housing projects, were cramped apartment blocks in congested areas, questioning why the government had chosen to pursue such projects instead expanding outwards, similar to suburbs found abroad. Al-Manfi believes that better urban planning is essential in finding solutions to the housing problems facing the country.