Giant UAE developers introduce measures to reduce speculative ‘flipping’ of off plan homes

The National

Aldar Properties [Abu Ahbi’s largest] is to introduce strict resale restrictions on its latest launches in an attempt to curb speculation.

“Buyers must pay 50 per cent of the property value – no one is allowed to pay less – before they can sell the property,” said the Aldar chairman, Abubaker Seddiq Al Khoori. “All factors point to the fact that the market has learnt from the mistakes made last time. Buyers are now more careful, developers are more cautious and study the market carefully because of the problems of the past.”

Speculation on off-plan property sales was one of the elements blamed for fuelling the UAE property bubble that burst dramatically in 2008.

As property prices rocketed, speculators turned to “flipping” off-plan homes by putting down small deposits on them and then selling the contract on for a quick profit, inflating prices even further.

The practice has prompted companies such as Emaar to attempt to curb speculation by saying it would refuse to transfer the names on purchase agreements until buyers had paid up to 40 per cent of the value of the home.

Nonetheless brokers say that speculators have been getting around the new restrictions by drawing up their own agreements to sell, regardless of the required contractual milestones. Properties sold by Emaar under similar rules have appeared for sale on property website Dubizzle just hours after they were purchased off-plan, often at much higher prices.

They also warn that relaxed payment plans for off-plan properties are making it easier for buyers to make risky purchases.

Aldar said that its new flats would be sold to off-plan investors through a payment plan where investors pay 50 per cent of the value of the property during construction and the other 50 per cent after the properties have been built.

The new off-plan sales launches are Aldar’s first aimed at the mass market since the company was hit by the global financial crisis, prompting it to sell some of its major assets to the Abu Dhabi Government and to merge with its rival Sorouh last summer. Since then, the company says it has turned itself around by cutting debt and costs.


Garden Cities Need not Contain a Single Affordable Home – Boles


A Tory planning minister has admitted that the coalition’s new wave of garden cities would not have to contain a single affordable home, despiteNick Clegg‘s claims that they would offer low-cost accommodation andhelp solve the UK’s housing crisis.

As the government unveiled plans for new garden cities containing 15,000 homes each, it emerged that developers would not need to reserve a certain proportion of the properties for those struggling most with the cost of living.

Asked by Labour whether the first garden city in Ebbsfleet would contain low-cost homes, Nick Boles, a Conservative minister, said the government would “not impose a particular level of affordable housing for housing schemes”.

“Unrealistic Section 106 agreements [which specify how many affordable homes should be built] result in no development, no regeneration and no community benefits,” he added.

Under changes brought in by the coalition, developers can challenge requirements for affordable housing imposed by councils, with some firms arguing that they depress the prices they can get for properties in the rest of the development.

Clegg said a new wave of garden cities would “provide affordable homes, good schools, and jobs for the next generation, whilst at the same time preserving the countryside” as he invited communities to bid for funding from a £2.4bn pot to host the new developments by 2020.

However, the prospectus launched by the government only said that local areas “may wish to consider” mixed-tenure homes which were “affordable for ordinary people”. It added: “The government does not wish to impose any definition of what garden cities are, but instead intends to work with localities to support them in developing and delivering their own vision.”

Clegg said he hoped that a new set of cities would help create an “ark of prosperity” in the south-east, where people wanted to live but were currently unable to find houses.

Labour accused the government of failing to tackle the housing crisis early enough and of ignoring the issue of whether any new homes would actually help those struggling to find affordable accommodation.

Roberta Blackman-Woods, a shadow communities and local government minister, said: “The government is failing to tackle the housing crisis and as a result, home ownership remains out of reach for too many low and middle-income earners. It is vital that the government takes affordable housing seriously in any plans for new development, but so far they have avoided such a commitment. We would expect that any proposals brought forward for new garden cities to address the growing need for affordable housing.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government confirmed there were no Whitehall targets for the number of affordable homes in garden cities.

MK Conservatives – Developers treated like ‘Poor Lambs’ who ‘Squeel’ by Government


A government decision to let housing developers scrap affordable homes to maintain profits is “storing up trouble for the future” and fuelling nimbyism, a leading Tory council has warned.

The leadership of Milton Keynes has complained that the decision to water down the requirement for developers to include affordable homes in their plans was a reaction to “squeals” from the construction industry.

Twelve months ago ministers amended planning laws to make it easier for developers to renegotiate deals with town halls over the number of affordable homes they must supply. Now, in an act of open rebellion, Milton Keynes’s Tory leadership claims the policy has “swung the balance much too far in favour of the developers”.

If the policy persists, the town will build 500 fewer affordable homes over the next five years, according to its figures. For example, the developer of 211 homes at Bletchley that was due to include 63 affordable homes recently successfully resubmitted plans with no affordable homes at all, on profitability grounds.

The attack will be particularly embarrassing for George Osborne, who last month used Milton Keynes, earmarked for a 28,000-home expansion, as an example of how “our predecessors had the ambition to build for Britain”.

“We are trying to build a city that is sustainable and we are not being allowed to,” said David Hopkins, deputy leader of the council. “They are setting up problems not today or next year but in five years time, and there will be a shortage of affordable housing. That will lead to problems in the service sector and public sector because people won’t be able to afford to live in Milton Keynes.”

Hopkins claimed the problem has been caused by ministers treating builders as “poor lambs” after they “squealed” about the viability of developments where they were required to build 30% or more affordable homes. He has written to the planning minister, Nick Boles, demanding he drop a policy “that unfairly and inappropriately favours the interest of developers over the needs of present and future residents”.

The policy was introduced in reaction to falling property values, and councils have been told they must take account of commercial viability calculations in order to prevent schemes stalling.

But with rapidly rising house prices – up 9.5% on the same time last year, according to Nationwide – there is growing pressure to drop it.

Boles told the Guardian that planning deals negotiated during the last housing boom are “economically unrealistic, meaning no development, no regeneration and no community benefits”.

“The latest figures show that as a result of our measures, the number of stalled sites with planning permission is falling,” he said. “Since 2010, the government has helped deliver 170,000 new affordable homes, and we have a £20 billion investment programme in affordable housing up to 2015, and a further £23 billion after it.”

But since 2010 the construction of affordable homes nationwide has fallen sharply from 60,480 to 42,830 in 2012-13, well short of the equivalent of 55,000 a year the government plans to build between 2015 and 2018.

Labour’s shadow housing minister, Emma Reynolds, called for the policy to be scrapped.

“There is a massive shortage of affordable homes across the country,” she said. “Now even leading Tory councillors are attacking their own government for their failed housing policies. David Cameron is presiding over the lowest levels of house building in peacetime since the 1920s, and he has no answers to tackle the shortage of affordable homes.”

An investigation last autumn found that of the 82 biggest housing developments in 10 cities, 60% fell short of local affordable housing targets. Last week the launch of 600 flats designed by the architect Frank Gehry at Battersea Power station was engulfed in controversy after it emerged none would be “affordable”.

Milton Keynes has threatened to mount legal challenges to developers who insist they can only build homes profitably if social housing is cut.

“The development control committee is frequently confronted with applications where developers have submitted viability assessment that show a development is only viable if affordable housing is greatly reduced often to a level of less than 20%,” Hopkins said. “Why is it that those in need of affordable accomodation … should bear the cost of the difficult market conditions rather than the developers and lenders … taking a reduced profit?”

Andrew Whitaker, planning director at the Home Builders Federation which represents housebuilders, said: “Private housebuilders deliver the majority of affordable housing in this country. In a few cases, sites where planning permissions were negotiated some years ago are no longer viable to develop in the current market. Renegotiating the level of affordable housing on such sites allows the site to come forward, and much needed housing – including some affordable homes – to be built.”

Growing pot – ‘My Cat is guilty not Me’

A Man arrested for gopwing pot in Dubai has blamed his cat.  The National

I smoked the substance then threw away the seeds from the window and they fell into our garden where they grew. But since we have a cat that keeps messing the plants, my mother removed them from the garden into pots and placed them on the balcony,” said the Emirati defendant S F, 31, at the Criminal Court yesterday.

Stunning Time Lapse Film of Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Funded by BBC by . From a skyscrapers eye view.  Not taking with a movie camera but still with timed exposures.  As the camera dollies, zooms and pans I was left thinking how the **** did he do that. He must have a very clever rig to do it without camera shake.  The closing credits give the answer.


The Nobel Prize for Planning Petitions – ‘We are opposed to star architects constructing their angular spectacles of glass and steel’

Building Design – All the press reports about England having the most ‘bogged down and protracted’ planning system in the world are wrong.  Protests and JRs in Sweden often mean that major projects can take decades.   Though David Chipperfield seems to be gaining a rep for insensitivity re Heritage Assets and Settings

The Nobel Foundation has insisted that a campaign to block David Chipperfield’s Nobel Centre will not succeed in moving it to another part of Stockholm.

The site, on a promontory in the heart of the Swedish capital, was donated by the city authorities which has been saving it for just such an international cultural project, a spokeswoman told BD.

Thousands of protestors have joined a Facebook group objecting to plans for a “monumental building” in a “fragile” part of the city.

And nearly 2,000 have signed a petition against the plans, with 400 adding their names in the week since Chipperfield was named winner of the international design competition.

It declares: “We are opposed to star architects constructing their angular spectacles of glass and steel right in the middle of the protected historic environment, as monuments to themselves, at our expense and the city’s.”

They are particularly upset that construction of the Nobel Centre will result in the relocation of ferries and the demolition of a number of historic harbourside buildings in the Blasieholmen area.

These include the Customs House, dating from 1876 and designed by Axel Fredrik Nystrom, architect of the capital’s Old National Archives and the Naval Academy. Stockholm’s last two surviving wooden harbour warehouses, dating from around 1910, are also due to go.

Caroline Silfverstolpehe of the Preserve Blasieholmen network, described Chipperfield’s design as a “giant colossus – a de facto convention centre on the mediaeval quayside pillaging everything in its path”.

In a fast-developing city, buildings that speak of its past are more important than ever, she said.

“[The Nobel] is obviously an important part of Sweden and its history that absolutely deserves to get a special place,” she wrote on the website Stockholm Skyline.

“But does it make sense that this is at the expense of other important values​​, such as the city’s cultural, historic buildings and shipping? The answer is no. Stockholm has room for both these buildings, shipping and a Nobel Museum…

“It is difficult to imagine a more vacuous locus for the solemn Nobel festivities than the one currently planned. It’s time to open both eyes.”

But Annika Pontikis of the Nobel Foundation said: “This is the site that has been given to the project by the city of Stockholm. The city has been saving it for a very long time for a cultural project with international outreach and they felt the Nobel Centre would be perfect.”

She said such campaigns were a typical part of the planning process in Stockholm. The public could have its say through a consultation process that has just begun.

“It’s a city where larger projects of this kind are met with all kinds of discussion and groups of this kind are quite normal,” she added. “We wouldn’t anticipate anything but a debate.”

Chipperfield, who was not available to comment, will now work on detailed plans with a view to submitting the project for planning in the autumn.

The architect was replaced on the redevelopment of the Geffrye Museum in east London after protestors objected to his plans to demolish a Victorian pub. But its plans for Elizabeth House were approved by a planning inspector despite complaints that it would damage views from the Westminster World Heritage Site.

The Guardian – Evidence Arms Race Strangles New Housing

The Guardian – Very True.  Why not have we suggested before have a national commission such as the sadly scrapped NHPAU do it and be done with it.  LPAs should not have to be hyper housing numbers wonks like me – they should be place making experts.

The coalition’s radical shake-up of the planning system was designed to unleash a spate of new housebuilding.

But on the second anniversary of the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework, we are still more than 100,000 houses a year short of targets.

There are a number of reasons for this, including wider economic factors, but there is little doubt that one of the choke points is the slow progress of local plans.

Findings from a recent survey of more than 100 local authorities highlight how the time it takes to approve a local plan has risen by 40% to 14 months – hardly conducive to delivering the homes the nation’s future generations require. One of the reasons for this is an evidence arms race which is causing gridlock in the planning system for some areas.

There is a growing bank of findings which show that the pro- and anti-housebuilding lobbies are cranking up the pressure on planning inspectors by presenting volumes of evidence for, or against, futurehousing needs. This involves drawing on the latest data and increasingly refined assumptions on the smallest detail as ammunition for the examination process.

On one side, some councils are investing significant amounts of money on evidence to try to justify reduced estimates of housing need in their local area, presenting a vast array of figures in an attempt to show that economic changes, pension age reform, increased private renting and more sharing of houses by younger people will reduce the level of housing required in their area.

In response, many developers then invest similar amounts assembling the evidence to counter these arguments. In one recent case involving a council in the south of England, a planning inspector had to go through some 20 conflicting consultation documents to come to a decision about whether or not the plan was sound.

Because there is always new data being released, parties on both sides latch on to the latest facts to justify their position, often leading to further delays.

Our research found that just over half of all local plans have proposed fewer homes than the former regional strategy had envisaged, and half of councils have yet to publish a new local plan.

Meanwhile, areas with local plans that predate the NPPF are vulnerable because they do not accord with most recent policy requirements that local areas meet housing needs. These are likely to be overturned on appeal. This applies even for plans prepared as recently as 2011.

A revitalised economy is reinforcing the development industry’s appetite to build new homes. Given the extent of England’s housing crisis and the policy stipulations of the NPPF that local plans must positively seek opportunities to meet the need for new homes, the deep scrutiny of housing plans will not go away soon.

It is also becoming apparent that some local authorities have ambitious targets for new jobs in their areas, but do not match this with sufficient housing development in their plans to enable residents of working age to get on the housing ladder. This leads to long-distance commuting, making it difficult for local businesses to recruit.

Unless this changes, housing will continue to be a planning battleground for years, and all parties will continue to draw upon evidence to back up their position at examinations and planning appeals.

A huge amount of intellectual energy are being invested in an attritional debate over housing numbers when we would all be better off if local areas planned to meet their housing needs and made the case for housing to local residents so that all involved could then focus on good design, mixed communities and creating better places and homes.

Matthew Spry is director at planning consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners

New Cabinet Minister Privately Lobbies Boles on Housebuilding in Her Constituancy


A newly-appointed Cabinet minister has privately protested to David Cameron about plans to build thousands of homes on the English countryside.

Nicky Morgan, the new Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Minister for Women who was promoted in last week’s reshuffle, told Mr Cameron that plans to build 9,000 homes were causing “great concern” to her constituents and could overwhelm local schools and roads.

It suggests senior Tories fear they could be punished by rural voters at the next election, after moves to water-down planning regulations provoked anger.

Mrs Morgan has said she supports the government’s reforms to the planning system, which Mr Cameron hopes will lead to tens of thousands more homes being built.

However, voters in Mrs Morgan’s Loughborough constituency have been alarmed by large housing schemes proposed by Charnwood Council, including a 500-property development near the village of Shepshed and 3,000 homes near Garendon Park, a country estate.

Mrs Morgan, who in a year’s time will be defending a 3,700 majority, relayed their concerns in private meetings with David Cameron, Nick Boles, the planning minister, and Steve Quartermain, the Chief Planner who is the Whitehall official in charge of boosting house building.

Writing on her personal website in November 2013, Mrs Morgan said she had “continued to raise concerns about local planning at the highest levels of Government.”

“Concerns about planning and inappropriate/too much development is one of the most common concerns local residents talk to me about.

“This week I discussed these concerns with both the Prime Minister and the Planning Minister. I made it clear that while people often accept the need to build more affordable housing and also housing for older residents, developers must listen to the views of local residents and consider the pressure on local infrastructure such as roads and schools.”

The comments were among a series of news entries on Mrs Morgan’s website that been deleted at some point in the last month.

However, an impression of the page has been retained by Google, meaning they are still visible.

Planning reforms under the National Planning Policy Framework have been stiffly resisted by rural campaigners who say they put the countryside at risk by weakening the ability of locals to block developments.

A Treasury source said: “Ministers are constituency MPs. It’s compatible to support government policy and represent concerns on behalf of constituents.”

This is a Garden City (honest) #GardenCity

Some of My favorites for stretching the term.


Ajman Garden City.  If you want cheap and not so cheerful housing – with an conference of international urban planning expertese ‘sponsered by the University of Wolverhampton’ Ajman is your place.

Zenzou Garden City China – a real image not a joke – what not build a garden city on the roof of a mega mall.  You could fit Letchworth on top of Dubai Mall.


Westfield Garden City Perth – From the biggest mall developers in the world in the most provincial city in the world.  What could possibly go right.

Kampala Garden City – Designed by the British – landscape only plots for housing. Now the knobs/Ngos/Embassies quarter.  Miss it.


Mirny Garden City – Amazing what you can turn the worlds biggest hole in Eastern Siberia into (still at design stage)


Letchworth?  No Forest Hills Gardens in  New York State


 Village of Garden City Long island – unfair a mid 19th planned community around 5 railways stations.  Likley EH got the term, and concept of teh social city, from this development from his first states visit.  Now famous for zoining to keep out black people and losing court battle to do so.

Village Nature planned in France


Garden City Kansas – just try crossing the road.

Dresden Hellerau Garden City – better than  Letchworth even and Unwin would have agreed.


Zlin Garden City Czech Republic – very nice, especially if you are a fan of Bata shoes (who isnt).

Even Sau Paulo has one – Alto de Pinheiros

And Mexico City even Lomas de Chapultepec

Powell River Britsih Columbia – the whole town a national monument.

Another of my Favorites Tiong Bahru in Singapore. Built by the chinese  Ironically the Singaporians and from them the Chinese learned from this they medium rise housing could not scale or be built fast enough to cope with rapid urbaanisation.

There are hundreds, only England stopped building them, please send in your favorites.  I am trying to search for my favoritesovient built contructivist example in the Baltic, ill try and remember.

‘Locally Led’ Garden Cities Prospectus Published – Out goes the ‘Social City’


Seems like a clumsy number 10 red pen all over it – lots of examples:

Unlike the previous Government’s Eco-Towns programme, this is a local solution, giving communities the power to choose sites, plans and designs for Garden Cities, not (sic) rather than Whitehall imposing what it thinks best for local people.

A line also clumsily edited out of the appendix at last minute by the PM/DPM – and not proof read, and it shows.

So what do they mean by ‘Garden City’  To immunise themselves on this they quote the TCPA principles -without any editing – including the principles of land value capture and long term community stewardship of assets.  The only change is to mark down land value capture from point 1 to point 2, and deletion of the concept of social city, well Ebenezer was a libertarian socialist (great Friend of Anarchists Geddes and Kropotkin) and this hinted way to much of regional planning – afterall it was the origin of regional planning, the condemns liking.  On that small point Ol Uncle Ebenezer  would have curled slightly his mustache – but then he was always a supreme pragmatist.

Key Garden City principles include:

  • strong vision, leadership and community engagement (moved to top);

  • land value capture for the benefit of the community (moved from top);

  • community ownership of land and long-term stewardship of assets;

  • mixed-tenure homes and housing types that are affordable for ordinary people;

  • a strong local jobs offer in the Garden City itself, with a variety of employment opportunities within easy commuting distance of homes;

  • Beautifully and imaginatively designed homes with gardens, combining the very best of town and country living to create healthy homes in vibrant communities;

  • generous green space linked to the wider natural environment, including a surrounding belt of countryside to prevent sprawl, well connected and biodiversity rich public parks, and  a mix of public and private networks of well managed, high-quality gardens, tree-lined streets and open spaces;

  • opportunities for residents to grow their own food, including generous allotments;

  • strong local cultural, recreational and shopping facilities in walkable neighbourhoods; and

  • integrated and accessible transport systems – with a series of settlements linked by rapid transport providing a full range of employment opportunities (as set out in Howard’s vision of the ‘Social City’).

Very short – nothing at all about setting down a positive enabling government (including legislative) framework.

Nothing at all about testing and comparing site options as part of a ‘larger than local’ approach – including of course alternatives of releasing existing Green Belt.  The assumption presumably is that the LPAs will do this – but how can they express an interest and how can a government back these unless they are already part of a local Plan process.  Hence this prospectus will simply back those already in the system and wont bring forward any new Garden Cities, least of all where they are most needed and most suited.

The government, as at Ebbsfleet, is only offering to overcome barriers to delivery, not any other barriers, least of all those created by nimbys.

I note that the expressions of interest checklist says nothings about stating methods for capturing land value uplift, and failing to learn the key Ecotowns lesson whether or not alternatives have been considered. Nothing either about meeting wider government growth or infrastructure objectives or aligning with wider infrastructure planning (e.g. East West rail etc.).

There is no requirement that the expressions of interest have to be put forward expressions of interest, the wording is very careful on this.  Localities can only choose whether to support the scheme and design, not to lead on the scheme or design.  ‘Locally led’ is the wrong term here  they are landowner led and locally vetoed.

Well its a start.  What if the privatye sector put forward a proposal and the government likes it – will that be a material planning consideration on appeal?  Certainly localities should be given the opportunity to veto as suggested but what if there then is an appeal?  And if government backing is material then surely the submissions, like Ecotowns, would require an SEA?  If governbment backing is in no way shape or form a material considerartion, providing a framework for development consents, then what is the point of the prospectus, other than pointing out what the large scale sites programme already does.

A start of a long messy journey from a prime minister who has given a speech praising regional planning for Garden Cities but doesn’t like Labour doing it.