By Mohamed Darwish
The Ministry of Housing froze all standing housing projects, including the second phase of a plan to build one million units and another Central Agency for Construction plan for 50,000 units in the provinces. The decision came amidst a state of anticipation that has filled the Ministry in expectation of the incoming government.
The Ministry had undertaken a large number of building projects since Dr. Fathy El-Baradei was assigned the housing portfolio during the Ahmed Shafiq led government formed during the revolution.
Following the resignation of the Minister of Housing, the Urban Communities Authority postponed its Administrative Council meeting.
The Minister of Housing is the Chairman of the Urban Communities Authority’s Administrative Council, which also includes a large number of ministers involved in the use of land.
Daily News Egypt learned that Major General Kamal El-Din Hussein, Deputy Chairman of the Urban Communities Authority, arrived at his office in the morning, only to leave quickly to meet El-Baradei at the Ministry of Housing. He was followed by a number of other officials in order to assess the status of the Ministry’s current projects.
Both the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the dissolved parliament’s Housing Commission, chaired by FJP member Ibrahim Abu Ouf, had heavily criticised the Ministry of Housing’s performance during El-Baradei’s term, frequently requesting briefings and running inquiries into the Ministry’s activities. FJP officials opposed the Ministry’s policy in allocating lots of land for housing projects. The party demanded that the Ministry postpone submitting its third land drawing, saying that land brokers were the only ones benefiting from the state subsidised land.
The Ministry, however, ran the third land drawing in the middle of the current month at branches of the Housing and Development Bank. The Ministry was subjected to criticism because winners in the first two land drawings were offering land authorisations to other buyers and real estate brokers despite such practices being illegal due to the potential for kickbacks and corruption. The Ministry spoke with real estate offices and urged them to investigate manipulators.
Sources within the Ministry said that the dissolution of parliament saved El-Baradei from having to testify before the Housing ommission in their investigation into the Ministry’s policies.
The project to build one million housing units also received criticism from the Housing Commission. The Committee’s repeated requests for information about the sources of the 5-year project’s funding as well as how the Ministry would distribute the units in Egypt were met with silence from the Ministry, which continued to implement the project.
Major General Mahmoud Maghawry, President of the Central Agency for Construction, told Daily News Egypt that the Ministry’s projects are proceeding in an organised way, noting that several projects, such as the regional ring road as well as plans to develop north Giza, were going smoothly.
He added, however, that the Ministry decided to postpone a plan to build 50,000 housing units on state land until the new budget is approved, which has been delayed several times because of the dissolution of parliament and the resignation of the Ganzouri government.
The investment costs of the project are approximately EGP 5bn.
Amin Abdel Monem, deputy chairman for of the Urban Communities Authority, said that the Authority is still reviewing the terms of the second phase of the million-unit project. Amin added that the Authority had not been officially informed to cease submitting the project for bidding, and it had need been confirmed whether or not the Minister of Housing in a caretaker government has the right to sign off on new decisions affecting current projects. He mentioned that the Urban Communities Authority postponed a meeting of its Administrative Council because of the current political situation despite the presence of a large number of pending project files that need to be resolved.