Interview: Abdelmadjid Tebboune
What is currently being done to help reduce the housing deficit in Algeria?
ABDELMADJID TEBBOUNE: In 1999 the housing deficit in the country was 3m units in total. In the 10 years that followed, that number was significantly reduced to the point that in 2014, according to a census that measured housing needs across all 1541 communes in Algeria, the deficit only measured 720,000 units (as measured by units needed for more than five years).
There is room for reducing this further, which is why the government rolled out a new initiative that looks to dedicate publicly owned land in the south and the Hauts Plateaux region for public housing projects, including self-build construction. Currently, roughly 320,000 citizens have signed up and the programme will soon be extended into the north of Algeria, helping to provide units for the remaining 400,000 house-hunters in the country.
What role can the private sector play in the construction of public housing?
TEBBOUNE: The jump in construction has been hugely beneficial for Algeria’s economy in a number of ways. The increase in construction activity domestically has had a notable impact on everything from the quality of new building standards, to improved management of project delivery, to an increase in the number of jobs – particularly for skilled positions, which has a notable impact on youth employment.
Domestic firms have played an especially prominent role here; roughly 60% of activity in the public housing construction programmes is carried out by domestic companies, only 8% of which are public companies. Perhaps equally encouragingly, foreign companies have also shown significant interest.
In fact, we believe that public-private partnerships offer an excellent tool for meeting the housing deficit, having yielded excellent results so far. While this approach has not been without its challenges due to differences in business cultures between the public and private sectors, we will continue to push for the use of this model. We expect the current level of activity and cooperation to continue over the near future – including with foreign firms – given that the housing sector’s budget is not subject to the reductions or freezes in expenditures seen in other sectors.
How can building standards be further improved?
TEBBOUNE: While there are some non-compliant construction projects under way, that is not the case for the vast majority of current builds. In fact, it is worth noting that the government has established a framework, with Law 08-15, to allow for any non-compliant and unfinished residential construction to be brought up to the proper specifications.
The law creates a process for the case-by-case assessment of both the feasibility and the means needed to bring a given domicile into conformity with the law, and thus far it has been relatively successful – as of the end of 2015, 70% of the identified cases were being actively addressed.
What are the primary challenges currently for urban planning in Algeria?
TEBBOUNE: Like many dense urban areas around the world, Algeria’s cities have looked to build upwards in order to save land. This concept must be reconciled with the need to provide the necessary amenities – such as cultural and recreation spaces, as well as health and education services – in a reasonable proximity. That said, until now urban planning has traditionally received less attention than housing. However, given that housing demand will be decreasing in the near future, the ministry hopes to make 2016 the year of urban planning, rolling out a new legal framework that will help to enforce urban planning regulations. These efforts are visible in the creation of planned cities like Sidi Abdellah and Bouinan.
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