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Saudi king tells ministries to facilitate huge housing program

Published: Updated:

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has ordered government ministries to facilitate a 250 billion riyal ($66.7 billion) housing construction program that he originally announced in 2011, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs was instructed to immediately hand over municipal lands to the Ministry of Housing, which was told to build infrastructure on them before distributing them to citizens, who would build homes on them with loans granted by the housing ministry.

The Ministry of Finance was ordered to approve funds for the infrastructure construction, while other ministries and departments were told to provide the housing ministry with the data it needed to decide which citizens were eligible for the land grants and loans.

King Abdullah announced in 2011 a 250 billion riyal scheme to build 500,000 housing units over several years, to help address a housing shortage among lower-income Saudis.

The program was part of $93 billion in government handouts and welfare schemes that the monarch ordered to stave off possible unrest following the outbreak of Arab Spring political protests in the Middle East.

Progress in building the housing has been slower than some businessmen hoped, however, partly because of difficulties in making land available to the public.