The Villages is one of the residential projects in Residential City. While certain areas will cater to the luxury market, up to 80 per cent of housing projects will target the affordable segment

It is billed the world’s first aerotropolis, but more than the catchphrase, Dubai South is all about building a community for the people. The master developer has doubled down on this commitment by keeping the development “very human scale, very user friendly”, according to Mohammad Al Awadhi, CEO of Dubai South Properties. Among other things, this means keeping the residences and lifestyle amenities comfortably within reach of the very people who will work and live in Dubai South.

Pricing is one of the biggest hurdles to achieving this goal, and Al Awadhi says this is an area the master developer is keenly monitoring. Average prices at The Pulse, for instance, were deliberately kept at a competitive level when it was launched in 2016, according to Al Awadhi.

“We had the price average at almost Dh750 a square foot. It was very competitive when we launched it and even till date it is a competitive price,” he says. “[There was] not so much profit from this kind of project, but the demand that we created was huge. We even had university students coming to buy.”

Pricing strategy

Developed at a cost of Dh1 billion and now 90 per cent sold, The Pulse will have 1,200 apartments and town houses, along with a mall, mosque, hotels and other amenities, with the first housing units to be delivered this year. These will be the first freehold residences to be completed by the master developer in Dubai South.

The developer’s policy of keeping prices competitive apply to its other projects in Residential City, such as Parklane and The Villages, although other areas have been earmarked for more niche projects catering to the luxury market. The vast majority of housing developments, nonetheless, will be branded as “affordable”.

“In the Residential City, a minimum of 80 per cent [of housing projects] is for the affordable segment,” Al Awadhi tells Property Weekly. “We are master planning it for that purpose actually.”

Al Awadhi says Dubai South has taken a much broader definition of what affordable housing means. “We think of all income brackets,” he says. “And we think of the minimum that we can go to, which in my opinion is the Dh8,000 income bracket.”

What about the tenants?

Catering to the lower rung of the housing ladder, however, entails more than freehold development. For Dubai South, this means adding an affordable leasehold component to the housing mix. In fact, Dubai South Properties’ first housing development was a leasehold staff accommodation called Sakany.

Located in the Logistics City of Dubai South, the first phase of Sakany is already fully occupied with 6,000 people living in 1,140 units across 10 buildings. Phase two, expected to be completed in the third quarter, will add 12 buildings, including one dedicated to female staff, and accommodate around 11,000 people. Two more phases are in the drawing board, along with parks and a retail project called Sakany One.

Apart from staff accommodation, the residential complex will also have leasehold residences under Sakany One, which will ultimately bring the total number of residents in the community to 50,000. Sakany One, which will have studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, will start construction in 2020.

The residential options at Dubai South are currently located in Residential City and Golf City, which are both freehold zones, and Logistics City, which is a leasehold zone. Emaar is developing half of Golf City with its Emaar South project. Overall, there are now around 6,000 housing units in Residential City and some 8,000, including those in Golf and Logistics City. Al Awadhi says Dubai South is responsible for around 40 per cent of homes within Residential City, while the rest are by developers such as Mag Group and Damac.

Trains and buses

Public transport is another area that will make Dubai South more appealing to house-hunters. According to its master plan, Dubai South will have its own train, bus and shuttle network. It has already developed its own electric-powered buses, says Al Awadhi. “It’s fully green, fully electric. This kind of bus you will see more and more within Dubai South. The bigger picture here and the goal is how we can connect these buses with the other parts of Dubai.”

The train network, which will serve all districts of the 145-sq-km Dubai South and is planned to connect to the Dubai Metro, has been “approved in terms of planning and designing,” says Al Awadhi, but he declined to specify an exact date for its construction. However, work is already ongoing for the Dubai Metro’s Route 2020 extension connecting the Red line to the Expo 2020 site, which is part of Dubai South.

Creating more housing options and getting Dubai South’s population to reach a critical mass are key requisites before wide-scale public transit projects are rolled out. “The current population does not allow us to kick off that project,” says Ayman Bou Khzam, head of development management at Dubai South. “Definitely the mass transit will be part of our planning, but it will be in the form of buses for the time being.”

To complete the push for affordability, Al Awadhi says Dubai South has partnered with schools and health care providers to offer more competitive rates to residents. “[We want] to limit the tuition fees at Dh28,000 average,” he says.

Surprises in 2019

Built around Al Maktoum International Airport, which will be the largest international airport once all elements are in place, Dubai South will take several years to complete its numerous components, but Al Awadhi promises significant progress during the lead-up to the World Expo. In particular, he says the Residential City will see big changes this year.

“After many years of designing, of urban planning, of master planning the city, 2019 will showcase what this whole community is all about,” he says. “For many years, our investors come and knock on our doors and say, ‘What’s happening, why is the place empty?’ So this is going to be the surprise that everybody is going to see this year.”