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Focus on affordable housing

2015-09-05 08:10:15

A wave of attractive new housing options will be unveiled during the 14th edition of Cityscape Global next week. According to Wouter Molman, Director of Cityscape Group, the World Expo 2020 win caused a sharp rise in property prices last year. But steps taken by the government helped regulate the market and the establishment of a rent index created more clarity for investors. Here are excerpts from the interview:

- What is Cityscape Global's key focus for 2015?

The spotlight will be on middle-income housing at the Cityscape Global Conference on September 7. Cityscape Global being a reflection of the market offering, we will also see middle-income housing on showcase at the exhibition as well. Damac, MAG Group, Danube and GGICO are just some of the exhibitors we have this year focusing on the more affordable sector. Given the demand, there are likely to be several others announcing and promoting projects in this field over the next few weeks.

- How has the exhibition grown this year?

For the fourth consecutive year, Cityscape Global has grown by double-digit numbers, this year boasting a 30 per cent larger exhibition space of more than 40,000 sq m (as against 31,000 sq m last year). Taking place September 8-10 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, the exhibition will host more than 300 exhibitors (as against 282 last year) from 30 countries.

- Facilities Management has a special focus at Cityscape Global 2015. How will this add value to the event?

Quality facilities management (FM) is key to protecting property values, lowering operational costs and improving the sustainability of our built environment. The industry is underdeveloped regionally, but options are fast improving and changing the real estate landscape of quality products. Investors and occupiers should take an interest in how the buildings they occupy are maintained, as it protects the long-term value of their assets. At Cityscape, the focus has traditionally been on construction and delivery of off-plan property, with investors, developers and brokers giving little attention to the operating life cycle of a building post-handover.

Cityscape provides a platform to highlight the importance of integrated facilities management services, as developers will be able to demonstrate to tens of thousands of real estate investors and professionals how FM has been adopted in their buildings and communities.

- Which countries other than the UAE have a big presence this year? What makes the property market in those places a good point for investors?

Apart from the UAE, which is and probably will always host the largest representation at our Dubai event, Turkey and the UK come next. The Turkish representation at the exhibition has continued to grow from strength to strength following the introduction of Turkey's new reciprocity laws in 2012, allowing foreigners to buy freehold property across the country. Istanbul and the Mediterranean coastal cities in particular have been in high demand by GCC investors due to their close links to the region both geographically and culturally.

As a result, we will welcome a record number of 50 Turkish exhibitors this year covering 4,000 sq m of exhibition space, making it the largest international pavilion at the exhibition.

The UK's large representation will come as no surprise, as London in particular has been a magnet for Gulf investors for many years. A wide range of UK investment opportunities will be promoted at the exhibition, ranging from prime area developments across London, to student housing in other cities across the country.

- What's the mood of the exhibitors?

Given the growth of the event and strong early indications of visitor preregistrations, the softening market conditions haven't affected the event so far this year. While the slowdown has obviously affected the number of sales transactions in recent months, it is worth noting that off-plan properties represent the majority of projects showcased at Cityscape Global.

These future developments, when positioned and priced right, have generated healthy interest from investors even in recent months. The strong turnout of exhibitors this year is a testament to the long-term strength of the market and a sign that the market is undergoing a healthy price correction that cannot be compared with the major price declines we witnessed in 2009 and 2010.

- This year the conferences are held one day before the event. Why was this change incorporated?

Following extensive research, we have repositioned the conferences co-located with Cityscape Global this year, so visitors will no longer need to choose between spending their time on the exhibition floor or at the conference. We are already seeing the positive impact of this change.

- What should one expect at the Dubai Market Overview and Real Estate Brokers Programme?

The Dubai Market Overview acts as an interactive discussion platform, bringing together senior decision-makers from across the industry for in-depth, unfettered debates into the biggest issues in real estate investment and development in Dubai today. The Real Estate Brokers Programme facilitates the development and growth of the real estate brokerage industry by providing a unique platform for industry professionals to communicate and deliberate with government authorities and peers. The programme provides regulatory updates from top government officials from the Dubai Land Department and the Real Estate Regulatory Agency.