White Land

Zainab Fattah reports for Bloomberg on how large plots of undeveloped land, known as “white land,” gifted by the king to influential people in the past, are now contributing to the housing crisis facing Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is paying the price for his own generosity as past land giveaways undermine his plans to build half a million homes and open up the country’s mortgage market.

State gifts of urban land complete with roads, water and power have left the government with almost no space of its own to develop within Saudi Arabia’s cities, according to Adnan Ghosheh, an adviser to the country’s Housing Ministry. That will hold back building plans as the government chooses between buying back city plots that have been inflated by years of speculation or paying a premium to build in the desert.

As the story later notes, Saudi Arabia needs to build 85,000 homes a year to keep up with a population growing at 2.5 percent annually.