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One Villa, One Family in Dubai

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One Villa, One Family Dubai Municipality campaign

The short version of the "One Villa, One Family" campaign by the Dubai Municipality (DM) is that the DM during 2008 handed out eviction notices (sometimes) where more than one family was sharing a villa in Dubai, or unrelated people were sharing villas. If tenants didn't leave, the power and water was disconnected, and the tenants or landlord fined 50,000 dhs, or 100,000 dhs if it was a repeat offence. In early 2009 there appeared to be a revision of that policy with the DM saying that more than one family could share a villa if they applied for a villa sharing licence, but unrelated singles could not share villas. However, reports in May 2009 indicated that was either not correct, or had been changed again to a one family per villa rule. With explanations that don't make sense or are contradictory, people tend to default to believing something that does, for example conspiracy theories about the Municipality's campaign intended to encourage people to move into empty apartments belonging to starving landlords as a result of a crash in property prices in 2008 and 2009.

There are Dubai press reports on 08 February 2009 that the Dubai Municipality is going to restart their One Villa, One Family (or One Villa, Maybe One Family Depending On Random Things That Aren't Clear But It's Important For Your Safety) campaign again within days or weeks.

One Villa, One Family (the long story)

As far back as 2005, the Dubai Municipality (DM) has been attempting to tidy up villas in Dubai with various campaigns to throw bachelors out of villas in "family areas", or thin out the overcrowded villas. In 2008, the "One Villa, One Family" campaign (which, if it wasn't obvious, means only one family per villa is allowed) gained more momentum with Dubai residents taking the news a little more seriously and causing several singletons to splutter into their Starbucks coffee in Jumeirah as they read the latest reports in 7 Days. Sharing villas was unhygenic and unsafe according to many comments from the Dubai Municipality, apparently thinking it was safer and cleaner for homeless residents to wander the streets of Dubai.

Villas in Dubai freehold property areas don't come under the "One Villa, One Family" rule as far as we know, and residents are free to share their villas as they please (within the constraints of any federal laws, other Dubai laws, developer rules, and landlord rules).

To encourage residents of the merits of the campaign, the Municipality threatened to disconnect utilities of villas where tenants had refused to follow eviction orders (some residents later reported darkness even though no eviction notices had been issued). Tenants and landlords would be fined 50,000 dhs for violating the "One Villa, One Family" rule, and have their power and water disconnected. After paying the fine, they'd be reconnected but if the violation was repeated then they'd be fined 100,000 dhs.

Partitioning of apartments and villas is also illegal according to Omar Abdul Rahman, the head of the building inspection section at Dubai Municipality, and a name that became familiar to anyone sharing a villa in Dubai during 2008. He is obviously concerned for the health of Dubai's residents, telling 7 Days "It's a dangerous activity. Asbestos used in the partitions could cause cancer." (reported 20 November 2008). But the DM weren't cracking down on apartment shares until they'd sorted out the villas which meant all those bachelors could then find an apartment to share and turn them into ghettos. Anyway, saying "One Villa or Apartment, One Family" isn't nearly as catchy.

In May 2008 the Dubai Municipality (DM) started serving eviction notices to families sharing villas in Rashidiya as part of the new "One Villa, One Family" campaign. The campaign spread to Jumeirah, and Umm Suqueim and residents pleaded for more time to find somewhere else to live, with some toing and froing as residents tried to hold out until the Dubai Municipality found something else to do. But in August 2008, a 2-storey townhouse in the Naif area of Deira caught fire and 11 people died. The house reportedly had several rooms, each with 20 to 25 inhabitants, and an entire second floor built without permission from the Dubai Municipality (DM). The number of people living there increased from about 100 to as many as 500 depending on which press report you read. This prompted the DM to become more serious about getting people safely and cleanly onto the streets and a final one month grace period was issued in September 2008, with a 21 October 2008 deadline.

The deadline expired 21 October 2008. Within the first two weeks it was reported that 100 villas had power and water disconnected and another 4000+ were in the queue for disconnection. By mid November, villas were getting disconnected at the rate of 200 per week and many families were feeling much safer thank you very much. After all, it was for the best. As Mr AbdulRahman said to the Khaleej Times 06 November 2008, "We don't want to lose them in fire. We are protecting them. Multiple families sharing villas pose hazards,". Some residents were reported as resorting to sleeping in cars after being thrown out due to the shortage of affordable accommodation in Dubai. They would have been reassured to hear that at least they were safe from potential villa fires.

The 7 Days headline on 22 September 2008 was "Pack Your Bags Now". That turned out to be an unexpectedly accurate forecast as the Dubai Municipality a month later began to switch off villa lights, the credit crunch took hold around the world, Dubai property prices started to plummet as sales dried up, construction projects were put on hold or cancelled, and reports emerged at the beginning of 2009 of cars being abandoned at Dubai airport as hordes of Dubai residents allegedly fled the city. All in all an unexpectedly dramatic response to the "One Villa, One Family" campaign. Even Iceland (the country, not the supermarket) went bust a few months later despite no Icelanders being thrown out of Jumeirah villas as far as we know. Had Mr Abdul Rahman known what the global repercussions of the "One Villa, One Family" policy would be, perhaps he mightn't have been quite so hasty to pull out those fuses in Rashidiya.

One Villa, One Family? Sorry, what was that?

In February 2009, the "One Villa, One Family" rule appeared to be some sort of misunderstanding. "The main issue is overcrowding. As long as they are within the building regulations, we don't mind for more than one family to share a villa." was what the Dubai Municipality head, Director-General Hussain Nasser Lootah, told the Khaleej Times on 02 February 2009.

So that clears things up nicely for all those confused families sitting on sidewalks after having been tossed out of shared villas. What the situation really is, according to Omar Abdul Rahman, the head of the building inspection section at Dubai Municipality, is that "There are various types of villas licensed in Dubai, ... Most of them are meant for use by just one family. However, in some areas, for example, but not limited to, Mirdif and Al Barsha, there are multiple villas in a single compound that are designed for varying number of families with enough partition and segregation licensed by the municipality. Only in such cases will we allow more than one family." as reported in The National 03 February 2009. So some villas are for more than one family after all? And those cancer causing illegal partitions in November 2008 are no longer illegal or cancer causing?

That wasn't quite the end of it. What the DM really meant to say was that more than one family could share a villa if the villa was designated as a multiple family villa, and/or if they applied for a villa sharing license. There would, of course, be a fee (unknown how much until the DM thinks of a number) and a procedure to follow (unknown how many passport photos are needed until the DM thinks of a number). Any residents who had had power and water disconnected could ask for reconnection. There was no mention in newspaper reports of fines being refunded. Singles sharing villas in Dubai are still not supposed to though, even if they ask for a licence.

Dubai villa residents will be pleased that those perplexing comments about "One Villa, One Family" resulting in disconnected water and electricity supplies and disrupted families in 2008, have been clarified.

Abu Dhabi "One Villa, One Family" rule doesn't apply

The Gulf News said on 29 October 2008 that "He clarified that ongoing campaign against illegal partitioning does not insist that only one family should stay in one villa.", referring to Salem Al Maamari, the Executive Director of Municipal Services at Abu Dhabi Municipality.

Last update Monday 08-Feb-2010
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