It seems that Saudi Arabia is having its own kind of Barbed Wire Wars. Rather than keeping cattle in or out of a place, in Saudi Arabia, it’s used to keep people from claiming land upon which to build homes. Too much land has been granted to individuals by the government, a writer for the Arabic daily Okaz argues. They hold the land but do not develop it. They just wait until its value gets high enough for them to sell onward. The result is very high prices for real estate across Saudi Arabia.
The writer calls for undeveloped land to be taxed and the barbed wire torn down.
There’s a bit of a populist tinge to the article, but it does reflect that fact that there’s too little land that’s being developed for housing in the Kingdom. That has myriad run-on effects, including pushing housing out of the reach of young people and so delaying (or preventing) marriage.
Restrain land grabbers
Khaled Al-Sulaiman | Okaz
The housing problem in our country does not need experts from France, Ireland, Brazil, Tunisia or other countries to analyze and suggest solutions. We know the problem, its causes and the solution very well.
The solution lies in a bold decision to liberate the land from the restraints of monopoly. Liberate the large pieces of land given out as grants to some citizens and you will solve the housing problem forever.
In other words, the problem lies with us and its solution is in our own hands but nobody is willing to go for this logical solution lest the land sharks will be offended. It is only fair to anger the few for the happiness and joy of the majority. It is unfair to deprive the majority of citizens of the right to have their own homes just because most of the land is in the hands of very few Saudis.
We should impose high taxes on empty and undeveloped land and demolish the barbed wires surrounding them. When we do this, the high prices of land will automatically come down and every citizen will be able to accomplish his dream of owning a house.
Relatedly, Arab News reports on 110,000 new houses for Jeddah. While these new homes are certainly going to be welcomed, they do not meet the desires of most Saudis. The majority prefer to live in houses, not apartments. But with so little land being developed for housing, people will take what’s available.