(MENAFN - Arab News) In tackling the essential role of governments in delivering housing, a speakers' panel at the Jeddah Economic Forum (JEF) yesterday emphasized the need for government intervention and monitoring.
However, experts cautioned that governments are not solely responsible for the daunting task of providing affordable housing and require the cooperation of both the private and banking sectors.
Conveying the Irish experience and lessons learned, Jan O'Sullivan, minister of housing and planning, said the Irish government has established regulatory bodies for planning, implementing and monitoring public housing.
"Governments have an essential role in resolving the housing crisis and pushing the private sector to provide low-cost housing," she said.
O'Sullivan shed light on the concept of collective housing in Ireland, which is one of the best models of public housing in Europe, as underprivileged citizens pay 25 percent of the cost, while the remaining costs are shouldered by the government and private investors as part of their social responsibility programs.
Mohammad Besbas of Tunisia, elaborated on the points raised by O'Sullivan, noting that the success of the Tunisian experience stems from institutionalizing the housing sector.
"We have developed three real-estate bodies in the north, south and center of the country in order to eliminate bureaucracy and centralization and to be able to provide effective local solutions suitable to each region. The government's role is restricted to monitoring and overseeing the work of these real-estate bodies," he said.
Abdullah Al-Nuaim, chairman, board of trustees and president of the Arab Urban Development Institute, highlighted some of the challenges facing the Kingdom in housing, reminding the attendees that despite the abundant natural resources in the country, Saudi Arabia remains a developing nation.
He said the housing sector began creating 60,000 housing units in the past few years, but the major shift came about with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah's decision to construct 500,000 new accommodation units.
Moreover, 2.5 million land grants have been given to citizens over the past years to ease the housing crisis.