Last updated: 24 August, 2011

Iraq investment chief: Housing top priority

New housing is Iraq’s top priority in terms of attracting foreign investment, the country’s investment chief told AFP on Wednesday, as authorities seek to alleviate major residential shortfalls.

Iraq is looking to build one million new houses nationwide in the coming years to help reduce overcrowding and homelessness and boost employment, National Investment Commission Chairman Sami al-Araji said in an interview.

“We would like to do two things,” he said. “One, to prepare decent living (conditions) for the citizens of Iraq and at the same time get the economy moving because it is a very job-oriented project.”

Asked if housing was Iraq’s top priority in terms of attracting investment from overseas, Araji said: “Exactly, at the present moment.”

Araji noted that Baghdad was finalising a master plan to build 100,000 homes in the Besmaya area, east of Baghdad, in a $7.25 billion deal with South Korea’s Hanwha Engineering and Construction, as part of a deal announced in May.

He said other agreements were in the pipeline as part of efforts to reach the one-million housing unit goal.

After decades of war, sanctions and under-investment, Iraq is experiencing a major housing shortfall, and the difficulty in finding a home was one of the reasons protesters demonstrated nationwide earlier this year.

Around 57 percent of Iraq’s urban population lives in “slum-like conditions”, according to a report published this year by the United Nations.

The report noted that 13 percent of houses in urban areas have more than 10 people living in them, with 37 percent holding three or more people per room.

“Overcrowding will only increase as the population continues to expand due to high fertility rates and a growing youth population,” the report said. “A range of housing solutions will need to be provided at different price levels.”