Interview: Talal Al Dhiyebi
What opportunities will be unlocked by the joint venture between Aldar and Emaar?
TALAL AL DHIYEBI: Our partnership allows us to diversify our location and product portfolio with unique projects in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We are proactive in understanding our customers and the trends that drive their consumption, which in turn helps us to better define the products that we offer.
There are pockets of demand for different types of products and detailed analysis of these markets is therefore required. Historically, developers have built projects to sell without trying to match what consumers want. This applies not only to residential projects but also to the retail and hospitality segments as well. Developers need to be smarter and more careful when it comes to making their products more functional and user friendly in order to meet customer requirements. The art of the game is in creating markets rather than reacting to them.
How are mixed-use projects being developed in accordance with sustainability principles?
AL DHIYEBI: Sustainability needs to be built into every aspect of real estate, from design to delivery. This does not only entail using environmentally friendly or locally sourced materials, or incorporating intelligent building-management systems, but it also involves a lifestyle component, the objective of which is to make people more satisfied. Examples of this include the ability to walk to work from home; proximity to green spaces such as Alghadeer’s farming amenities, HARVEST; or places of entertainment. The incorporation of these elements is necessary to build attractive communities, and the lifestyle components of Yas Island attest to this. It is one of the best examples of mixed use, combining residential, retail, entertainment attractions, hospitality and office space, and a number of public parks. Infrastructure is another major aspect of sustainability, and we dedicate a great deal of time and energy to designing and building infrastructure prior to starting any real estate development. Whether this is hard infrastructure, like roads and utilities, or soft infrastructure, such as health care provision and education services, these are all part of building a sustainable housing environment. On a broader level, economic conditions are in place to support the sustainable development of our communities. We are in close proximity to major centres of investment such as Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi and Masdar City, along with large-scale infrastructure projects such as the Midfield Terminal Building project at Abu Dhabi International Airport, and this helps to generate employment and activate plots of land.
What balance is being made between high-end developments and affordable housing?
AL DHIYEBI: While most developers have traditionally focused on the high-end segment due to the higher profit margins, they have largely overlooked the fact that between 70% and 80% of the UAE’s working population is in the middle-income bracket, earning a salary of between Dh20,000 ($5440) and Dh30,000 ($8170) per month. Given that 30-40% of one’s income is spent on housing, you can see that many of the existing products on the market are not suitable for households in this income bracket. This segment would be able to purchase a two- or three-bedroom unit and still have enough money for recreational facilities in the event that these properties were available at the appropriate price.
Likewise, affordable housing has traditionally been built in isolated areas where land costs are lower, which makes the units less attractive to consumers. To address this, we have built them in the middle of our existing communities, integrating them into premium destinations. This allows us to diversify our products in order to tap into a larger market.
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