Saudi Arabia's Affordable Housing Shortage

Undeveloped urban plots and royal generosity end in scarcity
Construction in Riyadh. Some 40 percent of the city consists of empty lots Photograph by Waseem Obaidi/Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is paying a price for his own generosity. In 2011, as the Arab Spring swept across the region, the 89-year-old monarch earmarked 250 billion riyals ($66.7 billion) to build homes across the kingdom. A growing housing shortage was a potential source of unrest: Analysts estimate the existing shortfall at 500,000 homes. The government also vowed to expand the availability of mortgages.

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