President Al Sisi’s government has recognized that investment in affordable housing is a low-hanging fruit to address the country’s ongoing social woes, and plans to ramp up development are already on the horizon. “The Ministry of Housing has started to take steps forward to develop local housing projects,” says Darwish Hassanein, CEO of the Saudi Egyptian Construction Company (SECON), a foreign-owned developer based in Cairo. “They [the government] have put forward a schedule to build one million units within the next three to four years,” he adds.
An Egyptian developer, Hassanein believes that plans for these additional one million units should be closely watched, as they offer the most instrumental indicator to judge long-term economic and social stability. “How the government prioritizes public housing projects is my greatest concern in 2016,” Hassanein observes. “We have a huge number of Egyptians, especially young people, who are really in need of these types of houses.”
Egypt’s dearth of affordable housing is currently a major source of unrest among the country’s youth, who are forced to share cramped quarters until marriage. According to a report by Egyptian online news site Ahram Online, an estimated 18 percent of Egyptian families live in single-room dwellings.
Yet, the necessity to play catch-up should not blind development planners, says Hassanein, because Egypt needs to strike a balance. “You have to recover what was missed in the past,” he says, “but you also have to build for the future. These two missions have to happen at the same time. You can’t wait to first recover the past before preparing for the future.”