Invest in Dubai's Affordable Housing Sector

Posted on: 13th December 2017

It is impossible to drive around Dubai these autumn days and not see a construction crane, reminding me of the heady days before 2008 when 24/7 construction across the city often meant Dubai seemed to enjoy 24 hours of light.

Defying economic headwinds induced in part by an oil price drop, Dubai continues to push ahead with massive housing and construction projects such as Dubai Hills, Mohammed bin Rashid (MBR) City, and Dubai South.  The World Expo 2020 exhibition site is quickly emerging from the desert, connected by new roads and a Metro line.

The Dubai Canal area is being intensively developed, massive theme parks such as Legoland, Legoland Water Park, IMG, Motiongate, Bollywood Parks, Riverland, and La Mer have all opened to public acclaim, and the world’s highest Ferris wheel is nearing completion.

The city is on the move.

Of course, all of this activity is driving interest in Dubai not only from tourists or drop-ins on the way to somewhere else but also from serious professionals seeking an alternative career and lifestyle path away from home.  Global interest in Dubai’s brand has continued to go from strength to strength, despite the ebb and flow of regional and global economies.

Deloitte’s 2017 economic review forecasts that real GDP growth in the UAE will rebound in 2018, averaging 3.2% per year between 2018 and 2020, outperforming the world economy in each year.

According to Dubai Statistics Centre, the population of residents in Dubai as of January 2017 was 2.8 million – it is projected to rise to 5.2 million residents by 2030.  Much of Dubai Municipality’s focus right now is building a sustainable city to comfortably cater for up to 10 million residents.

Much of this growth is expected to come from the school education sector which has seen spectacular growth, both internally within the country and internationally across the region, over the past decade. Many forecasts paint a very rosy picture indeed. Colliers announced last week that Dubai would need approximately 134 new schools to accommodate 200,600 new student seats in time for the 2027/2028 school year.

This means that well over 6,000 new teachers and their families could be arriving in Dubai over the next ten years.

The impact of this upon the local economy will be considerable. In economics, this can be measured using the ‘multiplier effect’. Every time there is an injection of new demand into the economy, there is likely to be a multiplier effect. This is because an injection of extra income leads to more spending, which creates more income, and so on.

Even before the teachers arrive, the local and regional economies will be boosted by construction and fit-out projects followed by school furniture and supplies.  Labour requirements will increase leading to further effects down the line.

Where will these new teachers live?  Most schools face a logistical and financial challenge in providing affordable rental housing to staff.  Given there are few surplus housing units in the city (most are either bought, owner-occupied or rented), demand will certainly produce an upward effect upon rents.

The teachers will then begin to spend salaries within the local economy, further increasing the multiplier effect – expenditure on cars, mobile phones, home help, white-ware, furniture, soft furnishings, and weekly groceries will all positively influence the overall effect.

As a potential investor in Dubai’s affordable housing market, it may be time to review the forecasts – the overall alignment of key economic and demographic indicators suggest that the time to buy into Dubai is at hand.