Interview: Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, Group CEO, Arada

How are sustainable building practices influencing urban development and enhancing the attractiveness of real estate investment?

AHMED ALKHOSHAIBI: Developers and other companies involved in construction and real estate are starting to understand that a sustainable approach is not just good for the environment, but also for customers and business outcomes. With the COP28 UN Conference on Climate Change hosted by the UAE in November 2023, it is a particularly relevant time to recognise that sustainable building practices and community management using the latest technology both make residents’ and visitors’ lives more convenient and save them money.

Living spaces with built-in smart home solutions are an important contribution to urban development standards. At a community level this extends to the provision of smart traffic management, smart solar power solutions and smart waste management. Green landscaping is a core feature of sustainable communities, and resource management helps to nurture the variety of flora present in green spaces and ensures effective water conservation. Master developers are also investing in new water technologies with an aim to make Sharjah a global leader in this industry. All these developments are not only beneficial to the environment, but also help to create lasting value for investors and end users alike.

In what ways are real estate developers adjusting to demographic shifts in the emirate?

ALKHOSAIBI: Sharjah boasts a fast-growing population and a dynamic real estate market. It is the role of master developers to make sure that the products available on the market match the preferences and requirements of buyers and residents, regardless of their age or background.

When designing large planned communities, it is important to ensure that a selection of offerings and amenities are available to all potential residents. For example, in line with Sharjah’s focus on education, the provision of high-quality schooling in communities can be an important anchor for the development of certain social aspects of the community, drawing families and young adults. Student housing complexes can cater to university students, and structures developed in collaboration with universities have the potential to give architecture and design students hands-on experience with contemporary design principles. This approach can be complemented by additional features that attract the younger generation, such as sports facilities, a wide range of shops, cafes and restaurants, and high-speed internet infrastructure.

Lastly, it is important to provide products that are accessible to most budgets. In providing mixed-use, liveable spaces, developers have a responsibility to build a range of unit sizes and types that are suitable for younger people – particularly those who are still studying or have recently entered the job market – and price those homes accordingly.

What has been done to expand homeownership, especially for first-time buyers?

ALKHOSHAIBI: The government of Sharjah has already taken a number of steps to encourage homeownership for residents, including allowing all nationalities to own property in the emirate on a freehold basis, an important decision that was announced in 2022. That move has had a huge impact on the local property market, with a significantly elevated numbers of buyers from various nationalities choosing to invest in their first property in Sharjah. Recent data shows that many buyers have decided to relocate to Sharjah from neighbouring emirates as a result of the quality and amenities of the communities on offer, as well as the improvements to public and community infrastructure.