There has been a tremendous move since 2005, for the government to build public housing for the homeless and the less fortunate, under the directives of HM King Abdullah. The fruition of those directives are only now beginning to emerge as some of the projects are in the processes of being finished. The first phase of the 1,400 homes being built in Karak and Maan has already finished, with 600 homes being currently distributed free of charge. Meanwhile, 70% of construction on housing projects in Jerash has already completed, with facilities like a youth center, college and a road leading to tourism sites, to follow.
Last week, the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDC) distributed about 100,000 forms (at 1JD each) for low-income citizens wanting to receive such housing under the mega project: the National Housing Initiative (known as “A Decent Home For A Decent Living” campaign), which will see over 120,000 houses built across Jordan, with 20,500 beginning construction this year and 20,000 each year starting in 2009.
Eligibility is basically, someone over 18 who does not own a house and has a monthly salary less than 1,000JD, which is about 97% of the country (if you think about it). Under this mega project, the new homeowners won’t have to provide a down payment and the monthly installment will not exceed one-third of a beneficiary’s salary. The initiative, a Royal Makruma (which means it comes from the treasury, which means it comes from taxes), is likely to cost $7 billion.
Even Palestinian refugees living in the camps (and carrying a Jordanian passport), are eligible. The applications ran out within 24 hours and ended up selling for 15JDs on the black market.
When it comes to housing, it is a tough time in Jordan.
Prices for apartments and homes, whether buying or renting, have gone through the roof. Even building materials for homes have increased dramatically, with a recent cut off of Egyptian cement to likely slow down the market for a while.
So these initiatives couldn’t have come at a better time for many, many, many Jordanians. Even under the projects that do require monthly payments, beneficiaries will end up paying a lot less for a new home than what they pay on rent in an old, fungi-ridden home. And with the tenants law coming into effect in a matter of months, rent prices are likely to reach new heights as well.
While the initiatives are pretty great in my opinion, there is, once again, the question of sustainability. What I mean by that, in this context, is based on wondering what happens after these people live in more suitable homes? Will there be more employment opportunities?
The way I see it, without a battle against unemployment, the battle for a decent living is pretty futile. These people, and their new communities, need to be sustained and that’s something that should be kept in mind. You can have a “Decent Home”, but a “Decent Living” takes a lot more than just a new house.
If the experiences of first world nations who have gone down this road before, has taught us anything, it’s that if both battles are not fought in tandem, then people will be right back where they started from, and we’ll see how quickly these housing projects turn into ghetto-like neighborhoods.
(but let’s hope that doesn’t happen)