District restructuring has been discussed many times in Saudi Arabia. Apparently, the city of Jeddah is going to tackle a long and widely neglected issue.
This week, the mayor of Jeddah, Saleh Al Turki, announced that the Al Ruwais random district in Jeddah will be the first such district to be restructured and developed.
Al Turki spoke at the Makkah Economic Forum saying all 60 random districts in Jeddah and Makkah will be restructured and developed, based on plans developed by the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs.
Generally, there are two types of random districts. The first is random districts that have been built on other people’s land without permission. In these cases, the first step will be to return these properties to their original owners. People who have lived in these districts have the chance to either get relocated to housing complexes provided by the government or find themselves a new place to live in. The other type is random districts, built on land owned by the government. These districts will be rebuilt and developed, providing for all basic needs of the community, with one basic condition that the beneficiary is part of the Iskan (Housing) programme.
Hopefully, Jeddah is just a beginning for random districts that exist in many Saudi cities. They are areas in which big communities have built houses creating their own district. These districts have no legal existence as over time people just built houses on vacant land. Mostly, the people living there are Saudi Bedouins or immigrants. No one can tell exactly when these districts were built, but everyone will tell you that they saw them growing over the years. The conditions are poor for the people who live there. The government and non-governmental organizations have been trying for decades to empty these districts by providing new homes in housing complexes or offering families shares in companies that build housing complexes as financial security but without success. One can imagine them as the favelas in Rio de Janeiro, where hundreds of thousand people live in very narrow spaces in unhealthy conditions. Electricity and water are tapped illegally, and sewage is disposed of randomly. These districts impose huge environmental, safety and health risks to the cities. People living there are usually with no jobs, support each other financially, but are not interested in a different way of life.
Over the years there have been many attempts to find proper suitable solutions for this issue, with little concrete results. Therefore, the development of one of Jeddah’s random is likely to to be a win-win situation for the district’s inhabitants as well as the city’s residents in general.
Let’s hope it works.