Despite living in one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, affordable housing is still beyond the reach of some low-income and even middle-income earners in Algeria. It is a pressing problem for the government, and one it is seeking to address with a national housing program that aims to build 2.4 million homes by 2017.
However, much progress has been made: more than 2 million homes have been constructed during the past decade, and thousands of families have been relocated to better accommodation. Citizens whose monthly income is less than 24,000 dinars (about $320) are entitled to free state-provided homes.
The Ministry of Housing will be represented at the fair celebrating the nation’s 50th anniversary celebrations, which runs from July 5-20 in Algiers. A special documentary and magazine have been produced describing how the sector has moved forward during the past five decades, and the Ministry will conduct seminars on new housing techniques at various locations over the coming year.
Noureddine Moussa, Minister of Housing and Town Planning, is confident the current shortfall of 1.2 million housing units will be met by 2014, with 674,000 homes of all types to be delivered this year, to be followed by a further 265,000 units in each of the coming two years.
“Alongside construction, renovation and rehabilitation, we also have a substantial program to upgrade sustainable infrastructure in cities. This operation has cost us something like $5 billion over five years, and for the next phase of the program we are looking at something like $4 billion.”
Demand for social and subsidized housing in Algeria has risen with the size of the population and an exodus from the rural areas to the cities. The public housing schemes introduced since President Abdelaziz Bouteflika came to power in 1999 followed decades of under-investment.
“After 15 years with almost no building activity there was a huge shortage to address,” says Mr. Moussa. In addition to building new homes the government is spending money on rehabilitating and renovating old buildings, particularly in Algiers.
“Some of the buildings are in a dismal state, and we have had to allocate a lot of money to their rehabilitation,” says the Minister. “In Oran, for example, we got to work on virtually the entire city center. These are very large-scale programs that cost the state a lot of money.”
The Minister points out that in addition to improving the lives of citizens, the government’s home-building programs have other benefits in terms of the creation of jobs and contribution to GDP.
“Housing has a social dimension that has the potential to improve the lives of our citizens. But there is also an economic dimension, because when we see trucks all over the place, servicing the needs of the housing market, this has created a lot of synergy and stimulation in the economy.
“Experts say that a housing unit creates an additional 1.5 to two jobs for every worker directly employed during the construction period. So if a program is creating 2 million homes the sector is employing a lot of people.”