(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi Arabia needs SR 1.4 trillion in the next 10 years to catch up with housing development demands said Abullah Dahlan, member of the organizing committee of Jeddah Economic Forum (JEF) 2013.
Dahlan said studies confirmed that 60 percent of Saudis don't own their houses and the number is on the rise, if decision makers don't find effective solutions.
Dahlan, along with Saleh Kamel, Chairman of Jeddah Chamber for Commerce and Industry (JCCI) held a press conference to reveal the JEF 2013 themes and topics. Most pertinent amongst the topics to be discussed during this year's forum are the issues of housing and population growth.
JEF will host for the first time speakers from China and India to discuss the global issue of population growth, especially since these two countries are on the forefront of the battle to contain rising population growth, said Kamel. He also added that speakers from Germany might participate, as they have had many success stories with regards to housing development.
"There is no doubt that poor planning in Saudi cities is part of the problem. If you look at Jeddah or Riyadh, you would see huge gaps between districts. No matter where you decide to build your house, the services will follow in the middle of nowhere and this is costing the county too much. In every place in the world, cities have boundaries, except here," said Kamel.
Moreover, Kamel explained "the Ministries of Commerce and Housing are mainly targeted, because we need to engage them directly in this discussion and involve them in listening to the suggestions made at the forum".
The housing issue in Saudi Arabia has been a hot topic for many years.
Activists and experts dedicated hash tags, pages and even movies on social networking websites to this issue.
Some people have suggested imposing taxes on land to reduce the exorbitant prices, while others proposed allowing cheaper Chinese building materials to enter the market. However there is a general and wide consensus amongst the public that the most pressing issue is land availability.
The local press has often highlighted the issue of overcrowding especially in the Kingdom's three largest cities. For instance, Khalid Shaker, a columnist in Riyadh newspaper wrote about how houses in Riyadh, Jeddah and Khobar are unsuitable for low-income earners, due to the lack of availability of small and moderate sized housing units. Shaker suggested there should be more housing projects in the city suburbs, to avoid the high prices of land inside the cities.
According to a report published in Al-Eqtisaddiyah, the mortgage law issued by the Cabinet can solve 60% of the Kingdom's housing problem within three years. However, the Kingdom still doesn't have a governing entity or authority to control real estate, despite frequent calls from local businessmen to have one established.