(MENAFN - Arab News) Experts attending a real estate forum and exhibition, RestaTex14, in Riyadh have called for the establishment of a higher authority to speed up implementation of real estate projects and solve the country's housing problem.
"Investors dealing with a single authority, instead of several departments, would reduce the time for obtaining licenses to carry out real estate projects," a prominent realtor said.
The experts also hoped the formation of a new authority would help remove the obstacles facing investors. They feared that any delay in getting licenses would force investors to abandon their projects in the Kingdom and look for opportunities abroad.
Zaki Muhammad Farsi, chairman of Zaki Farsi Group, said Saudi Arabia has been losing billions of dollars in investment due to the absence of an investment-friendly climate and regulations.
"The delay in issuing licenses for a single real estate project for a year will lead to losses of at least SR100 million," Al-Eqtisadiah business daily quoted Farsi as saying.
Farsi said the formation of an authority would help avoid foul play and corruption in the real estate market and contribute to increasing investor confidence in the Saudi market.
"I am confident that the presence of a higher authority would help solve many problems facing the industry and protect the interests of both investors and beneficiaries," he said.
Players in the market are also awaiting the issuance of the mortgage law, Farsi said, adding that the proposed authority could monitor implementation of the law.
Farsi expected big demand for real estate and housing projects in the coming years due to increasing population and rising number of youths in the country. About 60 percent of the Saudi population is under the age of 25.
Muhammad Al-Naqadi, chairman of the Shoura committee for housing and infrastructure, commended the formation of a Housing Ministry, saying it would boost the real estate market.
"The formation of the ministry reflects the desire of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to find a drastic solution to the Kingdom's housing problem," he said.
Al-Naqadi said decisions taken by the king, such as increasing the amount of loan given by the real estate fund from SR300,000 to SR500,000 and construction of 500,000 housing units, would have a great impact on the real estate market.
At least 50 companies specialized in real estate development, marketing, financing and consultancy took part in the four-day event, which was held at the Riyadh Conference and Exhibition Center.
The majority of participants displayed housing projects while others presented tourism-related projects as well as commercial building projects to attract potential investors and buyers.
Many banks and financing firms were present displaying their products. At least seven deals were signed between them and real estate developers. Agreements were also signed between real estate companies and marketing and consultancy firms.
Hussain Al-Farraj, general manager of Ramtan, the organizer of the event, said an average of 9,000 people visited the exhibition every day, adding that it helped many participating banks win new clients.
"The forum also helped real estate developers get wide media publicity for their projects," Al-Farraj said. The next real estate exhibition would be held from April 29 to May 1, 2012.
By P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR