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UAE's new expat retirement visa may not curb property oversupply

Laing O'Rourke Middle East's Mark Andrews told CW there won't be huge immediate impact on the demand side for residential property following the latest visa announcement

The announced retiree expat visa will span for a period of five years with the possibility of renewal, provided required criteria are met [representational image].
The announced retiree expat visa will span for a period of five years with the possibility of renewal, provided required criteria are met [representational image].

The managing director of UK-based contractor Laing O’Rourke's Middle East business said a new law that will allow some expats to retire in the UAE may help to address the large supply and demand imbalance in the UAE’s residential property market, but it “certainly won’t fix it”.

Speaking to Construction Week, Mark Andrews said “any action that helps to redress the significant imbalance between residential property supply and demand can only be a positive thing”, when asked about his thoughts on a new long-term visa. The system is set to take effect in 2019 and is aimed at expat retirees aged 55 or older.

Announced earlier this week, the visa will span a period of five years with the possibility of renewal. It was approved by the country's cabinet, chaired by Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. 

READ: New law to allow expats to retire in the UAE

Andrews added: “While this announcement is a step in the right direction, as the Dubai government looks to maintain its population and fill up more of the unoccupied villas and apartments that continue to sit empty, it won’t have a huge immediate impact on the demand side for residential property.

“The imbalance is still large and I don’t see that changing any time soon.”

To qualify for the new visa, applicants will have to own an investment in property worth $544,510 (AED2m); have financial savings worth no less than $272,255 (AED1m); or have an active income no less than $5,445 (AED20,000) per month.

READ: Laing O’Rourke urges elimination of bonds in Middle East construction

With this in mind, Andrews said people who are approaching 55 years old, “may consider staying now”.

He added: “Keeping that capital, and those with purchasing power here in Dubai, will help – particularly as the emirate relies on maintaining its population at a level to sustain itself.”

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Construction Week - Issue 749
Sep 15, 2019