Demolition City? Construction projects push Makkah residents to the edge
Ongoing construction projects in Makkah and its neighboring districts have forced the inhabitants of these areas to move to other parts of Makkah further away.
April 25, 2011 1:12 by Arab News
Some of the ongoing projects, which are costing billions of Saudi riyals, have already been completed, while others are under various phases of implementation. Around 30,000 buildings have so far been demolished to make way for the projects, which are aimed at creating residential facilities for Haj and Umrah pilgrims.
Some of the projects are part of plans to develop poorly planned shanty districts. Many of those who are moving away are leaving their homes in historic neighborhoods such as the districts of Shamiya, Shubaika, Harat Al-Bab, Falaq, Gazza, Jabal Kaba and Jabal Omar, in addition to parts of Misfala and Ajyad. All of these districts are located within a few hundred meters of the Grand Mosque.
Tawfeeq Maghrabi used to live in an old apartment in a district close to the Grand Mosque. “My annual house rent was SR10,000 that I had to pay in two installments. As a private sector employee, my monthly salary does not exceed SR1,300. During Ramadan, I used to rent out my apartment for SR5,500 and would move in with my parents,” he said. “This additional amount was a big relief and would help ease my financial difficulties. I was forced to leave the apartment after properties were expropriated for the expansion of the Grand Mosque. It was very difficult for me to find an alternative and affordable home in light of my meager salary.
“I’ve been shocked to see that rents of almost all residential apartments are between SR15,000 and SR35,000. This has forced me to rent out a small rooftop annex consisting of two rooms, a small hall and a kitchen for SR10,000,” he said, adding that the home is too small to accommodate all of his family.
Hassan Kawa used to own an eight-story building in the Central Area. “My family used to live on the eighth floor of the building. I used to rent out the remaining seven floors to an investor for an annual amount ranging between SR180,000 and SR200,000. My only source of income was this money. My building was demolished four years ago to make way for the new projects,” he said.
“The committee that was assessing the value of properties had fixed SR1.5 million for my building. I was extremely delighted to get such a big amount of compensation for an old building and was confident that this would be enough to buy a new house. I’ve however been unable to buy a house or even a villa.
“I couldn’t make my mind up whether to buy a residential apartment and so started living in rented accommodation. Later, I bought an apartment for SR700,000,” he said, adding that all of his money has been spent and that he has no means to support his family.
Hassan Nour used to look after a number of buildings that were part of a family endowment in the Central Area. He received over SR27 million for the buildings. “I started seeking alternative buildings in place of the demolished ones but have failed to buy anything due to the huge rise in prices. I also sought the intervention of a judge at the court in Makkah to facilitate procedures to buy buildings,” he said. “Even though experts at the court certified that the price of real estate has skyrocketed, the judge has so far not endorsed the plan to buy alterative endowment properties due to the exorbitant prices,” he said.
Abu Tala, the owner of a real estate office in Makkah, said there has been a steady increase in the price of real estate and residential apartments in the holy city over the past few years. “This phenomenon has been more evident over the last four years. Even the value of homes in the border regions of the holy city has also shot up. For instance, annual rents in Al-Sharaie, an area on the edge of the city, have soared to SR27,000. Earlier, before implementing the mega projects in the Central Area, the rent was about SR15,000.
A large number of Makkah residents now prefer to live in rented residential apartments in districts on the edge of the holy city, such as the districts of Al-Umrah, Taneem, Kaakya, Crown Prince Township, Al-Sharaie, Al-Awali and Ummul Kaddad, he added.