A critical evaluation of housing affordability for middle-income groups in Saudi Arabia
Abed, Ahmad Mohammed A
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The aim of this study is to develop a conceptual framework that can help investigate middle-income housing affordability policies in Saudi Arabia. It also strives to collect data on existing affordability policies to evaluate their effectiveness and inform future research and decisions. This will be achieved by identifying critical drivers that have influenced the development of affordable housing solutions from both a planning policy and socio-cultural perspective in the city of Jeddah. The literature review reveals that support for the Saudi Arabian housing sector has been limited by government budget allocations and the lack of a strong public policy. In addition, there is no clear standardised system which supports affordable housing. Consequently, initiatives to promote the provision of affordable housing have been inadequate since local housing policies need to constantly change and adapt as the housing market matures. Therefore, a conceptual framework was developed to guide this research by identifying major stakeholders and key influencing factors and this was used to inform a mixed method approach for this study involving both questionnaires and in depth interviews with major stakeholders. The research showsthat a large proportion of middle-income participantsin Jeddah, while willing to spend 30% of their monthly income on housing costs, struggle to own their home because of the long waiting time associated with government real estate loans and the fact that housing needs are not being met. Other findings identified various challenges to middle-income affordable housing including the price of land, the culture of not opting for long-term loans, and the disapproval of new Government housing policies in support of bank loans. This suggests that a change in housing policies on its own may not be sufficient to encourage end-users to take out loans. The findings suggest that middle-income participants are more likely to be affected by economic factors than by socio-cultural ones, a clear shift from the past. In addition, policy and regulations were shown to be interdependent with newly introduced complex socio-cultural and economic preferences. Furthermore, education was also shown to be an important factor that contributes to this complex relationship. Overall, the study indicates that affordable housing is a multifaceted issue with interaction between different stakeholders across several domains. The research has shown that while the new Saudi Ministry of Housing and other governmental authorities have ambitions to resolve the affordable housing crisis in the country and to bridge the gap between different stakeholder groups, there is still a clear gap between policy and implementation in this highly evolving society. Effort must be placed on developing a more holistic solution to middle-income housing that is proactive rather than reactive.