On Saturday, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi inaugurated several housing projects in Badr city. The new housing developments range from social housing complexes designed to accommodate relocated slum residents to residential units intended for government employees whose offices will be transferred to the nearby New Administrative Capital.
Long gone are the days when houses were constructed without first consulting with future residents, says May Abdel-Hamid. New housing projects are now carefully planned, and furnished with the amenities and services requested by those who will live there.
Since the law on social housing was passed in 2014, regular advertisements have appeared asking the public to submit their housing requirements in terms of size and location. Based on citizens’ requests the government, say Abdel-Hamid, embarks on constructing houses, funding a limited number of units. Members of the public can then apply for units and, on receipt of a down-payment, construction continues.
The most recent advertisements posted concerned the Housing for All Egyptians 2 initiative. In the ads, the government said land had been allocated in eight new cities and funds earmarked to build 125,000 housing units ranging from 70 to 120 square metres. Members of the public were invited to apply for units based on the cities in which they reside or work. Applicants state the size of the apartment they want, the instalments they can afford, and the number of family members.
Rahma Hassan, a researcher with the Egyptian Centre for Strategic Studies, says government housing projects are an integral part of Egypt’s 2030 sustainable development plan. Launched in 2016, the plan encompasses social, environmental, and economic components.
In the study Human Resource Development: A Priority in Al-Sisi’s Strategy, Hassan itemises the ways housing policy is being used to improve citizens’ living conditions and consolidate equality and social integration.
Social protection programmes and subsidies, says Abdel-Hamid, are being developed based on citizens’ needs. During the first four years of Al-Sisi’s rule, the fund was concentrating on building 70-90 square metre housing units for those on limited incomes, with income cut off levels that excluded public sector employees on higher salaries. The problem, Abdel-Hamid adds, was that given increases in the incomes of state employees, more and more people were excluded from housing projects. In response, President Al-Sisi launched the Housing for All Egyptians initiative, backed by the Central Bank of Egypt to the tune of LE100 billion.
This year, the government has posted two ads for 70-90 square metre housing units as part of the initiative. Homes are offered at cost price, and loans are provided at a gradually decreasing interest rate. Instalments are paid over 30 years.
Units ranging from 100-120 square metres are available to those with monthly incomes between LE6,000 to LE14,000. The price of the unit includes utilities but not the cost of land.
“The social protection programmes were designed to alleviate the impact of the economic reforms that began in 2014. The state struck a balance between development and preserving 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] by launching initiatives that include Decent Life, 100 Million Health, Solidarity and Dignity, Slum Development and Social Housing,” Hassan wrote in the report.
The state’s housing projects take into consideration the UN’s SDGs, says Abdel-Hamid. Adequate housing is not just about providing an apartment and access to clean water and sanitation, it also requires that housing be close to essential facilities and services.
Social housing specifications now ensure developments are adjacent to main roads or a bus station, and each bloc of six residential buildings is provided with commercial outlets that must include a pharmacy, bakery, a supermarket, and a fruit and vegetable vendor.
Commercial outlets are offered via public tender, while administrative units in governorates and new cities coordinate with central government over the provision of healthcare units, schools, and post offices, determined by the number of residents in each area.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 August, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly