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Abu Dhabi: The high rents in the capital have always been a matter of great concern for residents, and the recent removal of the federal rent cap has exacerbated their worries even further.
Residents are reporting that housing expenses have gone up all over the city, including in areas that have so far been considered as affordable neighbourhoods.
Nilesh Ujjainkar, 37, a plant manager from India, said that he is worried now, even though his rental contract is due for renewal only in October.
“Nearly half of the families I know whose rental contracts have been renewed after the rent cap removal have moved out of Mussaffah. They have relocated to other suburbs, such as Mohammad Bin Zayed City, despite many inconveniences,” Ujjainkar told Gulf News. He is currently living in a two-bedroom apartment with a rent of Dh60,000 per year.
“I have heard that rents have gone up by at least Dh10,000 for two-bedroom apartments, and even by up to Dh20,000,” Ujjainkar said.
Moving out of Mussaffah means that families are further away from children’s schools. In addition, areas like Mohammad Bin Zayed City are still greatly under-serviced in terms of access to amenities. “I have lived in this building for four years, and really do not wish to move. But if rents increase so much, I will have to relocate. And this will be difficult for my children as well, who attend schools in Mussaffah and who will have to travel longer distances every day,” Ujjainkar said.
Localities in the central business district have also seen notable increases in housing prices.
K. Hoque, a long-term resident and automotive executive from Bangladesh, said the rent in his two-bedroom apartment is set to increase by about Dh30,000 when he renews his rental contract this summer.
“I have lived with my family in this particular apartment since 1999, and we are very happy with its maintenance and location. But such a massive increase in rent is unaffordable, and we are now forced to look for alternative accommodation,” Hoque said.
“With the general cost of living on the rise, and negligible increases in pay, how are families expected to sustain their standards of living?” he added.
Other residents say that rent increases are obvious even when they contact property brokers.
“I have been looking for a one-bedroom apartment in the central business district, and found some properties listed at about Dh60,000. But when I contacted the brokers, they told me that the rent had increased to Dh70,000 because the rental cap had been removed,” said M.M., 29, an engineer in the capital.
“Landlords are using this new decree unfairly, and it doesn’t help stabilise rents in any way,” he added.
Rents peaked in the capital in 2008, and although market reports suggest that they fell in subsequent years, residents say this reduction was not very noticeable.
Some fortunate residents however said that their rent had increased by just five per cent this year, as was common under the rent cap.
“I am paying about Dh65,000 for a studio apartment on Khalifa Street, and I believe this is a comparatively high rent for a studio. Even after the removal of the cap, the rent has increased by only five per cent. Perhaps this is because the amount that I am paying is actually quite high,” said one resident who declined to be named.
For families welcoming a new member and therefore wanting to upgrade their place of residence, looking for a new apartment has been unfruitful. Mohammad Al Daqqaq, a Palestinian communications officer and recent father said that his search might mean that he will remain in the same one-bedroom apartment despite the need for extra space.
“I kept looking and everything I found was unreasonable. My landlord is about to raise the rent from Dh65,000 for a one-bedroom apartment to Dh70,000 and I am still in the process of negotiating this increase with him and trying to appeal to him in any way possible. I have looked elsewhere and with the current prices, moving just doesn’t seem to be an option,” Al Daqqaq said.
“I will have to just see how it goes for my wife and child this year, and hope for better luck next year,” he added.
Because of high rents, sharing apartments is a common practice among working individuals and middle-income families. Despite this, residents are anxious that the rent cap removal will mean that they must pay much more even for shared apartments.
Some companies have even provided sharing accommodation for their employees in buildings that are 15 years and older because of the affordability of newer structures. In one flat near Abu Dhabi’s Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre, as many as 12 individuals are living in two-bedroom apartments that their place of employment assigned them to in a 20 year-old building.
At the same time, Gulf News found that buildings older than 20 years that provide negligible maintenance and minimal security for their tenants are fully occupied as residents cannot find affordable rents in newer structures.
For comprehensive updates on Abu Dhabi market trends, please click here.
Source: Samihah and Nada Al Taher/Staff Reporters, gulfnews.com