Rabat revises public housing strategy to meet rising demand

More than 366,000 housing units have been completed and 212,000 more are under construction.
Sunday 09/09/2018
A long way to go. A general view of buildings at Ouled Moussa district on the outskirts of Rabat. (Reuters)
A long way to go. A general view of buildings at Ouled Moussa district on the outskirts of Rabat. (Reuters)

RABAT - To meet rising demand for public housing, the Moroccan government is overhauling its housing development strategies through programmes specifically targeting the poor and middle class.

The government is trying to improve public housing in quantity and diversity to reduce the enormous gap between housing supply and demand.

Moroccan officials said they are confident they are taking the right steps in the crisis. In addition to introducing more initiatives tied to infrastructure and urban renewal, the government has started a “shantytown-free” cities project.

Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine Othmani has insisted that innovative solutions for housing that would match the financial capabilities of the poor and the middle class were required. He stressed the importance of appropriate approaches and programmes for long-lasting housing units by paying attention to their architectural quality and appropriate integration into urban or rural environments.

Othmani admitted that the country suffers from a widespread housing shortage. He acknowledged that social housing programmes face many hurdles. In March, the Moroccan government committed itself to reducing the housing deficit within five years. The government’s strategy involves close cooperation between the public and private sectors.

A report by Morocco’s High Accounts Council declared that efforts to eradicate shantytowns and crumbling buildings and offer decent housing to poor families had failed.

The council, which is the government’s general accounting and auditing office, said that only a small proportion of the families listed in social housing programmes benefited from the social housing units. Social housing unit refers to any covering 50-100 sq.metres and whose real estate value does not exceed 250,000 Moroccan dirhams ($26,600).

A study by Morocco’s Ministry of National Territory Planning, Housing and Urban Policy indicated that more than 366,000 housing units have been completed and 212,000 more are under construction. On average, 46,000 new housing units are offered every year.

During the past seven years, 1,114 construction contracts were awarded to real estate developers and the number of housing units totalled 1.66 million at the end of last year. The private sector produced 496,000 units.

Rising costs of construction materials, lack of liquidity among investors and bureaucratic complexities in obtaining loans for small and medium businesses have hampered the housing sector in Morocco, reports said. It has also become apparent that speculative moves were behind the significant drop in development projects and that has led to the bankruptcy of more than 1,000 businesses in the housing sector.

The government says it is essential to revise social housing programmes and protect them from speculators. The regulation of the programmes must be improved so they benefit only their targeted populations. The government also said new ways must be found to attract a variety of people to public housing programmes.

Al-Omrane Holding is the public agency in Morocco in charge of executing the government’s housing policies. From 2008-10, the company constructed 130,000 units in the kingdom; 22,300 of the units were in rural areas. Al-Omrane CEO, Badre Kanouni touted the group’s work over the past ten years, claiming it has contributed to reducing the housing shortage in the country.

Kanouni said Al-Omrane Holding has been working on 278,000 new housing units, of which 92,460 have been completed.

The housing sector contributes 6% of Morocco’s GDP and employs about 1 million people.