Developers renew focus on affordability, sustainability and social interaction
Developers in the UAE are keeping a firm focus on happiness, affordability and sustainability in the UAE, announcing projects that are sustainable and incorporating elements that lead to happiness. As part of increasing investment opportunities in Sharjah’s real estate sector, Shurooq has recently announced the Sharjah Sustainable City project, which is expected to offer residents up to 100 per cent savings on electricity, 50 per cent savings on water, with zero service charges for the first five years. On Ras Al Khaimah’s southern coast on Al Marjan Island, similarly themed freehold projects are being explored to attract foreign investors and end users, conforms Manika Dhama Manika Dhama, head of strategic consulting and research at Cavendish Maxwell.
According to Ivana Vucinic, head of consulting at Chestertons Middle East and North Africa, “There have been numerous global studies undertaken to assess the key drivers that make people happy in relation to where they live. There are themes that consistently appear as most important. First is openness or how welcoming a community is to different types of people and cultures. Second is aesthetics or how visually appealing a place is to live. And the third concerns social offerings — what type of opportunities are there for people to interact with one another.”
The great outdoors
There is now the great demand for open spaces that allow residents to spend more time outside of their homes. In the new community of Arabian Ranches III, Emaar is building a massive 30,000-sq-m central park that will feature a skate park, barbecue zones and jogging tracks. The community itself will encompass man-made rivers and outdoor pools and will offer a direct connection to Al Qudra Cycling Track. According to Emaar, community projects that feature such themes, such as its newly launched Surf at Creek Beach in Dubai Creek Harbour, have seen strong response from investors and homebuyers.
A happy community also stems from the convenience of working from home and connecting with like-minded individuals, a model which developers such as Nshama, Emaar and KOA have recognised. Nshama’s Una in Town Square particularly stands out for offering studios and one-bedroom apartments that serve as licensed co-working spaces. The development’s 2,000-sq-m lobby lounge will include workstations, a music room, a games corner, TV room and a mini theatre, as well as a pool and gym to encourage socialising among residents.
Bringing people together through events is integral to the wellbeing of residents, according to Arif Mubarak, CEO of Dubai Asset Management. “Happy communities are those that come together to celebrate, be it festivals that represent the over 130 nationalities living with us or simply a movie night with friends. This year alone, we hosted over 50 events that were attended by more than 20,000 residents,” says Mubarak.
With an aim to incorporate the happiness theme for homebuyers, Lootah Real Estate Development has featured more greenery in its latest project, Living Garden. Saleh Abdullah Lootah, CEO of Lootah Real Estate Development, said, “People want to live in areas that feel alive; they want to see greenery and wood, and less solid walls and steel. “As for environmental sustainability, it has become mandatory from Trakhees [Department of Planning and Development] to have a green building [permit] before you even start construction.”
There has also been a renewed focus on affordability as per the transactional market data. “We have seen so far in the second quarter of this year that over 75 per cent of deals were transacted in studios, one- and two-bedroom units, with ticket prices mostly under Dh1.5 million, implying that investors generally continue to exhibit a strong preference for more affordable options,” said Aditi Hariharan, senior consultant at Cavendish Maxwell, citing numbers from Property Monitor.
In January the UAE revealed a national community-design policy for building happier communities.
“In its simplest form, this policy includes a list of everything communities need to support human wellbeing. The strategy identifies six urban design realms for happier communities: location, the right design format, connectivity, social spaces, cultural expression and smart systems,” explained Vucinic. “It will be those environments that are built on the notion of creating a happy place to live that will become more prevalent in the country’s residential market over the coming years.”