President Abdulla Yameen announced Thursday plans to develop “a second city” near the capital to house a population of 315,000.
“The Vilimalé 2 project, for which studies have now been completed, is the total solution for the housing problem that my team is proposing to the Maldivian people,” he declared at a ceremony held to mark the 53rd anniversary of independence.
All adult Maldivians without housing, as well as those who turn 18 before Independence Day 2030, would be guaranteed an apartment or a 1,000 square feet plot, he pledged.
The new city will be connected via a bridge to the capital, he added, but offered no further details.
Vilimalé, administratively considered the fifth district of the capital, is a small island suburb about 1.2 miles west of Malé.
Dubbed ‘Hiyaa Accomplished,’ the Vilimalé 2 project is Yameen’s first major pledge ahead of the September 23 presidential election.
Housing is a hot-button issue in the Maldives, where 39 percent of the country’s 341,256 population lives on the 2.2 square mile island of Malé. Thousands continue to migrate to the capital in search of jobs, better education and healthcare, making Malé one of the world’s most densely populated cities with families crammed into small apartments for exorbitant rents.
Last November, an ambitious housing scheme was launched to build more than 17,000 flats in Hulhumalé, a reclaimed landmass east of the capital under development as a ‘Youth City.’
A Chinese-funded bridge connecting the capital with the artificial island is expected to be complete in September.
While more than 100,000 people would be resettled in the Hulhumalé phase two landmass, Yameen said it would not resolve overcrowding and attendant social ills in the capital.
Twenty people on average applied for every flat built in the Malé region during the past five years, he said.
The president’s announcement has drawn criticism on social media with many opposing the consolidation of the entire population in the Greater Malé region.
The Maldivian population is presently dispersed in more than 180 islands across the archipelago.