What are your thoughts on the UAE’s real estate sector over the last year?
It’s no secret that the property market here in the UAE and in other parts of the Gulf has had a testing last 12 months or so. There are a number of reasons behind the softer market, including the after-effects of the oil price drop, a slowdown in government spending, the supply-and-demand situation, and lower consumer sentiment. However, the Sharjah market is a unique one and has seen fewer price fluctuations over the course of the last decade or so than some of its neighbouring markets. Demand from Sharjah property has remained strong, and much of that credit has to go to the Government, which took a landmark decision to allow all nationalities to purchase real estate in the Emirate in 2014, and to allow all nationalities to buy property without a residency visa last year.
In July, the Sharjah Real Estate Registration Department announced that AED14.7 billion had been invested in local property in the first half of 2019. This figure is already 65% of the total value of transactions for the whole of 2018.
What new residential trends are we seeing emerge and how is Arada embracing this?
For any developer, flexibility is crucial. Any company in this industry that doesn’t listen to what its customers are saying, or which isn’t constantly reviewing trends from other parts of the world to see what best practices can be brought to the Middle East, will face trouble in the future.
At Arada, we have made no secret of our embrace of a number of key trends, which can be broadly broken down into two key areas.
- The first of these is the trend towards co-living and co-working spaces. This has been driven globally by a number of factors, including the demand for smaller and more efficient spaces during softer economic times, a desire for greater efficiency and the steady shift in populations from rural areas towards the cities. The trend has already found its way to the Middle East in the form of a number of projects in Dubai, and two parts of our Aljada community, East Village and student housing district Nest, are both linked to this trend.
- The second area is linked to technology and sustainability. Again, how developers utilise these two key areas are going to be critical to their success in the coming years.
How are your architectural projects supporting in government’s smart city agenda and sustainability efforts?
We see the issues of smart technology and sustainability as being entirely complementary. Smart city solutions tend to be sustainable by nature, and sustainable elements in our projects are often improved immeasurably through the addition of smart technology.
This is especially true when it comes to Aljada, where the size (24 million square feet) and the greenfield nature of the plot make this an ideal location to create a smart city that can be a model for the rest of the region. Our own research, conducted before the launch of Aljada, showed us that there was clear and consistent interest in the concept of smart homes and smart communities.
For Aljada to function as a true city of the future, we need to be able to attract not just the current generation but future generations as well. Smart technology infused through every aspect of Aljada will make residents lives easier, save them money, and boost their wellbeing.
The first step is to ensure that we can implement next-generation and ultra-secure 5G digital infrastructure, which we see as the backbone of Aljada.
Once that is in place, we can then focus on the other four key areas that we have earmarked at Aljada: mobility, utilities, the ‘circular economy’ and waste management. So, in each of these areas, technology implemented throughout the project will make life more convenient for residents, while saving time and also supporting the environment.