11,000 confirmation letters issued for 7,000 flats: Ministry

The Housing Ministry has revealed that the former government issued 11,000 letters of confirmation for the 7,000 social housing flats constructed under the 'Hiyaa' housing program.

The public has been expressing concern on delays in handing over the Hiyaa flats to its recipients even after 1.5 years into the new administration. While the Housing Minister Aminath Athifa last week told a Parliament committee that the flats will be ready for handover by next month, the ministry later retracted the minister's announcement, and passed off the minister's remarks as a 'mix-up'. The latest development in turn increased the criticism aimed at the government over the issue.

Deputy Minister at the Housing Ministry, Ali Shamin said although it was previously announced that 7,000 flats will be issued under the Hiyaa housing scheme, the actual number of flats is 6,860. The 6,860 were promised to 11,000 individuals by the previous government, said Shamin. The issue is currently being investigated by the presidential committee investigating public housing schemes, and a new list of recipients are being prepared.

The minister further revealed that the flats were constructed at inflated prices and that US$ 82,398 were spent on each two bedroom apartment of 550 square feet. The figure, which adds up to MVR 2300 per square foot, does not include finishing works, said the minister. The current delays in handing over the apartments to its recipients are due to incomplete finishing works, said the minister.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has previously stated that the rent of Hiyaa flats are around MVR 11,000 and said that the government is trying to bring down the rent to MVR 6,000 per month with the introduction of additional government subsidies.

While the government initially planned to bring changes to the design of the apartments, the president later revealed to the media that the calculated renovation cost for a two bedroom apartment was MVR 13,000 and MVR 23,000 for a three bedroom apartment.

Housing Minister during President Yameen's tenure, Dr. Mohamed Muizzu had previously stated that the former government had intended to charge MVR 5,600 as monthly rental for each apartment, and said even if MVR 7,000 is charged as rent, revenue will be generated within 15 years.

Muizzu shared details of his calculations, noting that USD 434 million was spent on the construction of the flats, and that an additional USD 563 million was incurred as project management and administration cost. If a monthly rent of MVR 7000 is charged, Hulhumale Development Corporation (HDC) will receive MVR 572 million over 15 years.

Muizzu further said the former president on October 17, 2018 had informed both the Housing Ministry and HDC of his decision to set the rent of the Hiyaa flats at MVR 5600. The information was revealed by the former Housing Minister after the new administration replaced the President Yameen's administration and before the current government announced its decision on the rent that would be charged for the apartments.