The Kabul property scene
By Khaama Press - Wed Dec 03 2014, 4:12 pm
Originally designed for half a million inhabitants, Afghanistan’s sprawling capital city of Kabul now houses more than three million people.
This story includes interviews with city officials, property dealers and builders in and around Kabul city.An in-depth look at the current property market, both rental and construction.
The Kabul property boom which took off after 2001 shows no signs of slowing, despite wobbles during the recently overcome election impasse. Despite being a benefit for the economy, extensive construction on unplanned and unapproved land is putting a strain on the infrastructure of the city.
The look at the work of the municipality’s ‘Kabul Solidarity Programme’, or KSP, which aims to provide basic services to unplanned areas and legally bring them into the government’s fold.
Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Kabul city has seen an unprecedented boom in construction, which, despite a slowdown attributed to the difficulties over the recent election, shows no signs of abating.
Mohammad Jabir, Construction manager, said “This last year during the election the industry slowed because business people did not want to invest their money due to uncertainty but now the industry is slowly growing again.
For example, some buildings are built for over US$500,000, some for US$100,000 and some for US$50,000.
On a daily basis the workers are all busy. The carpenters, electricians, bricklayers, they all have work. Everyone in the construction industry is hard at work. Business is good as the business people are investing their money.”
While this property boom has been good for the economy, the population of Kabul city has grown exponentially in the last ten years. This has proven a challenge for the municipality, as the city’s infrastructure was not designed to cope with such a large rise in the population.
Abdul Ahad Wahid, Technical Deputy Mayor of Kabul Municipality, said “55 per cent of the urban population of Afghanistan, they are residing in Kabul. In the Kabul city, previously the master plan was intended to accommodate1.2 million population, and the number of anticipated vehicles was about 30,000 vehicles. And at the moment since 2001 the population has grown, now it’s 2014, almost 12 years, it has grown to around six million population.”
Part of the reason for this rapid rise in the population has been the unplanned building of housing on tracts of land throughout the city, fuelled in part by rapid urbanisation and the return of refugees.
“We have planned areas, and we have unplanned areas. 68 to 70 per cent of population of Kabul, they are living in unplanned areas. People, wherever they found a place, you know to just accommodate themselves, they occupied the hilltops and the flat land, whatever. So this increase in the population, it makes it very difficult to deliver to them the city services,” Wahid said.
This has left the local government with a difficult decision – to destroy or embrace these illegal settlements. It was decided that they would be integrated into the city and provided with basic services.
The framework for doing this was the Kabul Solidarity Programme, or KSP – an initiative begun by the Kabul municipality with support and funding from the international community.
Ahmad Shakib Rafi, Chief expert, Kabul Solidarity Programme, said “Now we designed the KSP as an example, the Kabul Solidarity Programme, which consolidate the people of Kabul with the Kabul municipality or the government entities. And secondly we designed the land readjustment to change unplanned area to planned area with the help of the community and government entities as well.”
Kanesha Noori is a social development expert whose job it is to liaise with community members and oversee the many development projects they implement.
“This area which you see now is unplanned area. Unplanned area now change to problem for us and we are working with community to change this unplanned area to planned area,” Noori added.
Jan Mohammad Fazlie, Community leader, said “If the government make new plan for this area, the people are ready to cooperate with them.”
While new properties in Kabul continue to be built with few signs that the industry is slowing, the same cannot be said for the rental sector.
Yasin runs a letting agency and is not optimistic about the future of the market. “Right now in this market, if you have a house for rent you should rent it out sooner rather than later because the demand is decreasing all the time. At the end of the year you will have trouble renting because there were many foreigners living here but they are leaving. There are not many left,” he said.
He also added, “As you know, by the end of 2014 more foreigners will have left Afghanistan. The person who gave their house for rent for US$10,000 now is giving it for US$5,000 but no one will take it.”
While the rental bubble may have burst in Kabul, it is hoped that with continued political stability the construction sector will remain strong well into the future, providing a much needed backbone to the economy of Kabul.
This is the script of a NATOChannel story by Laurence Cameron