Government creating ‘youth slums’ in Maldives, says ex-minister

Government creating ‘youth slums’ in Maldives, says ex-minister
October 17 13:06 2017

The government is “creating youth slums” with new flats in Hulhumalé aimed at married couples, a former housing minister told the Maldives Independent on Tuesday.

The Housing Development Corporation earlier this month invited bidders to submit proposals for the construction of a 14-storey residential block comprising 322 one-bedroom apartments with 23 apartments on each floor.

“These units are to be built in [Hulhumalé] phase two, under the government’s affordable housing programmes and initiatives, ideal for a couple or a couple with a child,” an HDC spokeswoman said.

The construction of the 400 sq ft apartments should not cost more than US$38,000 (MVR585,580) per unit.

But the former housing minister from the opposition Maldives Democratic Party administration, Mohamed Aslam, blasted the government’s “unacceptable” idea of affordable housing.

“Just think about what this means. The government is creating slums for the youth. Exclude the toilet, kitchen and you have got less than some 370 sq ft for the bedroom and living room,” he said.

Aslam said the government was doing the opposite of creating a “healthy living environment for youths”.

“This is simply not acceptable. This is not how our ancestors lived. And this is not how we want to live now,” he said. “The youths of this country should ask President Abdulla Yameen himself to live like that first.”

Housing is a hot-button issue in the Maldives, where 39 percent of the 341,256 population resides in the 2.2 square mile island of Malé.

In the past few decades, thousands of people from the atolls have migrated to the capital in search of jobs, better education and healthcare, making it one of the world’s most densely populated cities with thousands of people crammed into small apartments for exorbitant rents.

Developing the reclaimed artificial island suburb of Hulhumalé is a key campaign pledge of Yameen, whose administration plans to relocate and settle 70 percent of the Maldives population there.