Private players await market upturn and directions from Higher Committee for next steps

Dubai: Private developers in Dubai are holding back on new launches and “waiting for the right time” for the property market to bounce back. They are also awaiting directions from the newly created Higher Committee in Dubai that will oversee and advise on the real estate sector’s future priorities.

Nshama, which is building the 21,000-home Town Square community, says it has put off offplan sales. Its name carries considerable clout because of the scale of its ongoing project and the fact that Nshama was the sole private developer named at the time of the Higher Committee’s launch last month.

“As a private developer, we offered our views to the Committee at that first meeting,” said Fred Durie, CEO. “But it was only that single meeting. The Committee will only have public sector developers and other agencies.

“We are hopeful the measures the Committee will take can revive the market at the earliest.”

Wide mandate

One of the priorities for the Higher Committee will be to come up with a formula that balances future demand and supply. All through the last 24 months, the industry has voiced concerns about newly completed homes overwhelming actual demand, and further force property prices and rents down.

Apart from demand-supply, the Higher Committee will also weigh in on what government-owned developers should focus on and come up with ways whereby private and public sector developers do not have to compete head on.

This year, between 25,000-300,000 new units will be completed, against the 15,000 plus units last year.

Lots still happening without launches

At Nshama, Durie says only the sales part will be missing for now. “We have new designs ready for townhouses and apartment buildings, and should tender shortly,” the CEO said. “But will not launch sales immediately, but wait until near completion. In the current market, the demand is for units that are ready or near-ready.

“And even with the new apartment buildings, we are keeping it about 100-140 units each. Launching buildings with 500-600 units will be quite difficult in a challenging market.”

Just over 3,000 units have been handed over out of the 21,000, and the tally will reach 5,000 units completed by year-end.

More importantly, “In the secondary market, Town Square prices and rents are relatively stable compared to the surrounding areas,” said Durie. “They have gone down only a little bit.” (Currently, there are listings for a two-bed unit at Town Square for Dh650,000, while a townhouse has a Dh1.3 million tag. On rents, a three-bedroom there has listings from Dh75,000 onwards.)

A park can help

This Friday, Town Square will lift the curtain on the park that forms such a focal point of its masterplan. “It will not be the full park, but slightly less than half of it,” the CEO added.

Definitely, green is a big theme at Town Square. When all of them are ready, the parks would cover about 1.5 million square feet plus 16 community gardens.

Many of the retail elements are also now falling into place, with a Carrefour now all set to open.

“Not just the buildings, the retail and parks also show investors the scale of our intent,” said Durie. “Despite the nature of today’s market, we will be ready to move very quickly when it picks up.

“That’s where having 50 per cent of our infrastructure already complete works to our advantage. So is the fact that we have to date launched 35 per cent of the GFA (gross floor area) in the community. We are keeping things moving. We have to.”

Saying it with Parks

Dubai developers are going big with parks.

Nshama is opening up its Town Square parks in phases, with the first one welcoming visitors from Friday. But that’s only a taster – when all of the green areas open up at the community, they would be “double the size of what opened Friday,” said Fred Durie of Nshama.

Indeed, the developer has a lot of green areas to play around with – 1.5 million square feet has been marked out for parks.

Then there’s Meraas, which earlier this year, unveiled plans for a New York style Central Park at its City Walk development in Al Wasl. The total area for its private park – 40,000 square metres.

The MBR (Mohammad Bin Rashid) City – now attracting quite a fair bit of investor interest for its premium properties – also has extensive green plans. There’s even a lagoon thrown into the mix.

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