DUBAI // Eight hundred Emirati families got the Eid gift of a lifetime when the Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme announced its first batch of housing aid approvals.
Fujairah resident Mohammed Ali Hassan Al Balooshi, 47, was on holiday in Mauritius when he took a call from relatives telling him his loan had been approved.
“I was very excited to hear we finally got our loan. We’ve been waiting to get it since 1993,” said the retired military officer.
Mr Al Balooshi’s 10-member family live in an old house built on his father’s land.
“When we first applied for the aid, we were living three or four to a room. Now that it has been more than 20 years, my eldest son has moved out and is raising a family of his own, things are a bit less cramped,” he said.
The latest approvals were made possible by a grant to the programme by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai. The grant was enough to help 5,000 families and Sheikh Mohammed instructed the programme’s board to give priority to families whose construction had stalled for some reason.
Mr Al Balooshi, a father of eight, does not blame the programme for the delay. “The delay was mostly our fault for not following up and knowing what the process is. Also I’m sure there were those who were more worthy of the aid, so it is better late than never.”
Without the loan Mr Al Balooshi would not have the means to build a new house. “They gave us half the cost and we can put up the other half, so hopefully soon we can start building.”
The programme offers interest-free loans of up to Dh500,000 to build a house, and grants to assist in buying, construction or maintenance of a house. It also builds government houses to hand out to applicants, who must meet the requirement to receive aid, including a maximum income.
Mr Al Balooshi’s one concern was that they had not been granted any land by the government to build on yet, which may delay matters further.
Umm Alia was in the same predicament when she was awarded a loan to build a house for her and her daughter last year.
“Sharjah Land Department had yet to grant us a plot to build on. It took nine months to obtain the plot, and by the time we had designed the house and were ready to build, the one-year deadline to begin construction had passed and the loan approval was withdrawn.”
Umm Alia is a divorcee who lives with her parents. “I was so excited when my mother told me my name was on the list in the newspaper. Now I am ready to begin construction right away.”
Her daughter, 11, wants to become an architect after helping her mother design the new house. “I just want to tell all Emiratis to plan ahead,” she said.
“Owning your own home is a luxury we are afforded here thanks to our government. People should start saving up for it as early as possible, and cut down on unnecessary expenses,” said Umm Alia, a department manager in the government sector.
Dr Abdulla Al Nuaimi, Minister of Public Works and chairman of the programme, said it had about 28,000 pending applications from families in every emirate, some of which date to 2006.
“This grant will be a big step in helping us reduce our backlog so that we can begin assessing the new requests. The number of applications we have pending increases by 5 to 10 per cent each year.”
The programme is under instruction to hand out the outstanding 5,000 grants by the end of the year. “We will have to process 1,000 applications a week if we are to complete the task within the allotted time period,” he said.
Another 881 names will be announced soon for the next batch of approved applicants.