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Poor residents forced to continue living in dilapidated buildings

Poor residents in old Jeddah districts say they have to live in dangerous dilapidated buildings because they cannot afford higher rents in other areas.
Most of the people living in these buildings are from Sudan, Yemen and Pakistan.
“I know I’m living in an old, dangerous building. However, I cannot leave it and look for another apartment. Rents are very high elsewhere. I’m currently paying SR 12,000 a year. Most of my neighbors also have the same problem with money,” said Ali Al-Hajj, a Sudanese resident living in a dilapidated building in south Jeddah.
“If the government asks us to leave our apartments, we will have a big problem finding other cheap housing. We have been living here for 35 years. All my neighbors know their buildings will be demolished one day but there is no another solution for us. We can’t leave our apartments,” said Abdul Aziz Al-Ahdal, a Yemeni resident living in an old building in Al-Nuslah district.
According to construction experts, 10 percent of all buildings in Jeddah’s old areas are a danger to their residents. These buildings need to be renovated, said Abdullah Bakr Radwan, a member of the national committee for construction at the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
There are dilapidated buildings in various downtown areas including Baghdadiyah, Nuzla, Hendawiyah and Sabeel districts.
Tala Samrqandi, a member of the real estate committee of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), said: “There are many real estate companies that want to develop old districts in Jeddah. These districts include many old buildings but the main problem is how to offer compensation that will convince them to move.”
He said many building owners are rejecting current offers from buyers because they argue there is not enough money to obtain good housing elsewhere.
“They also know their houses will be five times their current worth if these areas are redeveloped,” he said. Many housing developers have failed to get their projects off the ground because residents are refusing to move, he added.
The Jeddah Municipality revealed recently that it has identified 1,000 sites where there is a threat of imminent collapse.
In 2010, the Jeddah Municipality and the Civil Defense in Makkah region announced that about 2,500 buildings might collapse in an area that was developed 50 years ago.
Brig. Turki Al-Harthi, director of the Civil Defense in Jeddah, said: “There is a special government committee working to check on the safety of old buildings in the Kingdom. We also inform residents of dilapidated buildings to leave so that the buildings can be restored or demolished.”
“Most old buildings in Jeddah were built without considering the nature of the city’s soil and its geography. The lifespan of any building depends on its infrastructure and quality of building materials,” Al-Harthi said.
Heavy rain can also destroy old buildings. Many old buildings in southern Jeddah were destroyed during the massive floods in 2009. These buildings cannot withstand environmental disasters.
Dr. Zohair A. Nawab, president of the Jeddah-based Saudi Geological Survey, said: “Most old buildings in Jeddah were built without taking into account earthquakes or natural disasters. These old buildings were constructed 50 years ago.”
“Engineering offices should check these buildings to see how many can withstand minor earthquakes,” Nawab said.

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