By B Izzak
KUWAIT: The National Assembly on Thursday unanimously approved a new housing law with the aim to accelerate the building of homes for Kuwaitis by allowing strategic foreign investors to participate without the need for a local agent. The government accepted the legislation and vowed it will take all necessary measures to implement it to resolve a decades-old problem of people who wait for as long as 15 years to get a house in a country where prices of land are beyond the reach of a majority of Kuwaitis.
During the debate, rapporteur of the Assembly housing committee MP Abdulaziz Al-Saqaabi said there are 25,000 empty plots in the country, 15,000 of which are owned by just 146 big traders. He said the average price of real estate in Kuwait is 13 times higher than the average income of Kuwaiti families and three times higher than Saudi Arabia and 2.5 times higher than in the United States. Saqaabi said there are 92,000 housing applications of Kuwaiti families waiting their turn to get a house or a piece of land.
The waiting period can exceed 15 years in some cases. MP Jenan Bushehri said housing applications are increasing by the day and expressed doubt that all of them will be met. MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari said the law will allow foreign investors to enter into this strategic sector, but expressed doubt that the state housing establishment is capable of implementing the law. A number of lawmakers said this law alone will not be able to resolve the housing problem and must be supported by other legislation, especially one securing financing and another ensuring enough land to build homes.
Over the past decades, the government of Kuwait has been using part of the oil windfall to build homes for citizens, because the overwhelming majority of them cannot afford to purchase their own houses due to extremely high prices of land. A 1,000-sq-m plot of land in Kuwait City and neighboring areas can be sold for more than KD 1 million. It is slightly cheaper in remote areas. The Assembly also unanimously approved another law to add new sections of Kuwaitis to a health insurance scheme that currently offers full health coverage to thousands of retired Kuwaitis.
The amendments to the law add Kuwaiti housewives who receive public aid, Kuwaiti widows receiving public aid and divorced Kuwaiti women who receive government aid and who are at least 50 years of age. The amendments also allow the addition of new categories. The Assembly will hold a special session next Tuesday to discuss the government program of action.