Capital residents hunt for affordable and legal housing

Top Stories

Capital residents hunt for affordable and legal housing

Abu Dhabi Municipality issues fresh warning against illegally shared accommodation.


Silvia Radan

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Wed 16 Apr 2014, 1:03 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:47 AM

One year has passed since the Abu Dhabi City Municipality began its hunt for illegal rented properties, but to this day people live in overcrowded shared accommodation or illegally partitioned villas. On Sunday, the civic body issued a fresh warning to tenants, landlords and property investors to follow the rules and regulations meant to protect public health and safety.

A villa with its partitions removed by the Abu Dhabi Municipality in Khalifa City. — KT photo by Silvia Radan

“The municipality is working to promote social and corporate interaction to curb congested residential neighbourhoods, be it amongst tenants themselves or at the level of investors and lessors, by briefing them on the adverse social impacts and serious health implications resulting from large numbers of bachelors and families thronging residential neighbourhoods,” Ahmed Fadel Al Mazrouei, Director of External Centres at Abu Dhabi City Municipality, told news agency Wam.

For many residents, though, legally renting housing units is not a viable financial option. “How can we afford it? My salary is only Dh3,000 per month and it doesn’t include accommodation. My room in a shared flat in downtown Abu Dhabi is one of the cheapest you could find at Dh2,500 per month and I still can’t afford it, so I’m sharing it with two other people. It is the only way I can make a living,” said M.M, a Filipina beautician who wished to remain anonymous.

Most of Abu Dhabi’s low income working class have similar problems. Some companies offer accommodation to its staff, but a “substantial amount” is cut from their salaries and the “free” accommodation is far from desirable. “I have a friend who works as a security guard at a hospital in Abu Dhabi. He lives in the accommodation provided by his company, but he is desperate to get out. It is a shared accommodation for bachelors and the condition there is terrible; the place is dirty, smelly and noisy,” said M.M.

Unless tenants can afford the skyrocketing rents — with rents starting from Dh60,000 for a small studio — finding a decent place to live in the capital is next to impossible. With the five per cent rent cap removed, more and more families find themselves in the position of having to relocate far outside the city, downsize or simply leave the country.

“We were lucky! Our landlord increased the rent by only five per cent. Last month, I saw my neighbours, a British couple with two teenaged children, leave their four-bedroom villa because they could not afford their rent hike,” said Yvette Venus, who lives in Al Raha Gardens.

Desperate tenants land in the offices of dubious real estate agencies. Most of them operate in Khalifa City and the nearby Mohammed bin Zayed City. Through various advertising channels, these investors manage to rent out one-bedroom apartments for as low as Dh40,000. These flats are carved out of illegally partitioned villas. When questioned, the real estate agents claim that they have acquired the necessary municipality approval. They will even show potential tenants the approval, but a closer look will reveal that the municipality stamp was for the villa before it was partitioned.

As a result, after a municipality raid — which happens regularly in these locations — the partitions are removed and residents lose their homes and the rents they paid.

“This is what happened to me a few months ago. I was renting a really nice room in a villa in Khalifa City. One day the municipality came, marked the place and told me that I have one month to get another place. Along with my neighbours, I went to different authorities: The municipality, the court for rent disputes and the police. No one was able to help us. We all lost our money,” said Silvia Cristina, who moved to a unit some 70km from the Capital to find affordable rent.

More news from