Govt policies help promote saving, housing

Haider Al Lawati – haiderdawood@hotmail.com – The Ministry of Housing is preparing housing plans and defining land use across towns and villages in an attempt to “provide citizens with stability” at their places of residence.
The social housing programmes aim at providing houses for families with a monthly income of less than RO 400 in addition to aid and housing loans to other categories.
According to a recent speech by the Minister of Housing (MoH) in Ash’shura Council, the number of land applications that the ministry has received since 2008 has reached nearly 500,000. MoH is speeding up the distribution process.
The number of land plans during 2012-16 reached 273,918 plots for various uses across governorates. A total of 682,662 applications were received for residential use from December 20, 2008 until the end of 2016. In addition, 277,030 plots were distributed to citizens. This, in itself, is a way of savings for citizens.
A total of 16,246 households benefited from housing aid programme (a sum of RO 362.6 million) and 454.5 households from the housing loan programme (a sum of RO 107 million). The total number of applications for the housing aid programme reached 59,660 by the end of 2016.
To promote housing among citizens and maintain their savings, MoH is in the process of expanding these programmes through private sector contribution in community development and partnership with the real estate developers.
The ministry is currently conducting a study to evaluate and regulate the sector in coordination with the government agencies and private sector, and through legislations.
Results of questionnaires on Omanis’ savings in real estate show that a majority of Omanis are property owners. The Sultanate’s first census on population, housing and establishments conducted in 1993 revealed that three quarter of Oman’s population (61.6 per cent) lived in own homes, whereas only 21.7 per cent lived in rented accommodation.
The increase in Omanis’ savings in the real estate sector has been attributed to Oman’s policy of providing free land to every citizen above the age of 21 years in exchange for a small registration fee of RO 1 per square metre. In the past few years, MoH has given away thousands of plots for different purposes.
Statistics of the first census on population, housing and establishments show the number of residences of different types in Oman reached 344,846 in 1993. The total number of housing units reached 546,215, according to 2010 census, and 430,996 residences as per the 2003 census.
On the other hand, Oman Housing Bank, a state-owned bank set up in 1977, has been granting Omanis long-term and soft housing loans through a network of branches to finance housing purchase, construction or completion for up to 25 years.
The bank has been established by six local pension funds with a capital of RO 100 million. From the date of its establishment in 1977 until the end of 2015, Oman Housing Bank has granted subsidised loans to 39,386 citizens to the tune of RO 864.2 million through its branches.
This means thousands of Omani employees in the public and private sectors participate in the “compulsory savings process” along with paying monthly instalments to Oman Housing Bank or other commercial banks to own property.
Thanks to such facilities, many Omanis are turning to savings by building their own houses.
Some Omanis have saved up their money in real estate since the early 1970s when the first construction company launched a modern housing programme (villas) at cheap prices. Today, these villas have immensely increased in value, bringing good fortune to those who later sold them and invested their money again in similar projects and other economic sectors.