KUWAIT CITY: The wealthy Gulf state of Kuwait plans to build around 174,000 houses by 2020, the housing minister told parliament on Thursday, in projects that will cost billions of dollars.
"Currently, we have more than 100,000 applications for houses from citizens. The number grows by over 8,000 a year and we expect to require around 174,000 units by 2020," Salem al-Othaina said in a special parliament debate.
"By 2020, we plan to build three new cities with a capacity of 108,000 units... In addition, we plan to create several new residential areas with around 66,000 units," he said.
One of the three cities is planned on the Saudi border while the other two will be built close to the frontier with Iraq, Othaina said.
He gave no estimates for the total cost of the eight-year plan, but one lawmaker said the infrastructure alone for the planned projects would cost more than $5 billion (3.8 billion euros).
Othaina said the ministry plans to invite companies in the private sector to take part in the project.
The special debate was called by MPs wanting to know why the government was lagging far behind in meeting housing applications despite having more than $400 billion of surpluses generated from oil sales.
Under Kuwait's generous welfare system, all Kuwaitis, estimated at just 1.2 million, have the right to apply for a government house after getting married, but the waiting time has recently soared to around 15 years.
Once they receive the house, they pay it off in easy instalments over around 30 years.
Othaina and several MPs said the reasons for the delay in building homes include the scarcity of land available for housing, as most is reserved for oil projects, and the high price of land and houses.
"No one in this country can buy his own house from the open market because of the high price of real estate," said independent MP Yussef al-Zalzalah. "Some influential people want these prices to remain high."
A square metre of housing land can cost $1,000 in remote areas and much more close to Kuwait City. More than 95 percent of the land is state-owned.