More than 40,000 application forms have been taken for the government’s Hiyaa scheme, Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu said Monday.
Hiyaa was launched at a groundbreaking ceremony last November and will consist of 36 towers, with apartments to house 80,000 people in Hulhumalé.
Muizzu said 40,096 forms have been taken from a ministry booth at the Dharubaaruge Convention Centre since May 6. Applications are still available for download.
Around 15,000 forms ran out in 30 minutes and the website crashed due to demand when the application process launched earlier this month.
Queues were seen outside the convention centre, despite the ministry’s pledge to make the process as easy as possible for the 7,000 housing units.
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 capital island of Malé.
Thousands of people from the atolls have migrated to the capital in the past few decades searching for jobs, better education and healthcare, making it one of the world’s most densely populated cities.
In a separate development the ministry changed some categories for awarding the flats, local media reported. It cancelled a requirement for doctors, nurses and teachers to be married to be eligible for the social housing scheme.
But the ministry said priority will be given to professionals with families when selecting the flat-winners for these categories. The government has allotted 475 flats for doctors and nurses, and 625 flats for teachers.
The categories for Malé residents and married couples between the ages of 18 to 40 were also reviewed to cancel a requirement for the husband or wife of the applicant to be employed in Malé, Hulhumalé or Villimalé.
With the amendment, married couples with one partner working in an island or resort in Kaafu atoll will also be eligible for the flats. Some 1,000 flats have been allotted for both these categories.
A man who took a form for the category of married couples spoke to the Maldives Independent on condition of anonymity.
“You know how these things work,” the 31-year-old said. “They [government] must have hand-picked the winners before even announcing for these flats. But we don’t have a choice, do we? We have to try every possible option to get decent housing even if there is no hope.”
Former housing minister Mohamed Aslam was not responding to calls, but previously told the Maldives Independent the government was “creating youth slums” with the new flats aimed at married couples.
“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, referring to the 14-storey residential Hiyaa blocks comprising 322 one-bedroom 400 sq ft apartments with 23 apartments on each floor.
Applications for all Hiyaa flats can be submitted from June 3 to July 31 and successful applicants are expected to be announced in August.
Developing the reclaimed artificial island suburb of Hulhumalé is a key campaign pledge of President Abdulla Yameen, whose administration plans to relocate and settle 70 percent of the Maldives population there.
Photos: Shamau Shareef