The Malta Independent 9 December 2019, Monday

The Mediterranean region needs to build 600.000 households annually by 2025

Thursday, 24 October 2019, 10:58 Last update: about 3 months ago

•  Almost 500 million people live in the Mediterranean, 60% of which are under the age of 30. A population that will reach 572 million by 2030.

•  The real estate sector can contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

•  The Mediterranean is the region where the real estate sector is growing the most globally.

•  Demographic growth, millennials and tourism cause housing demands to increase exponentially.

The first edition of the Mediterranean Real Estate Forum, held last Thursday 17th October in Barcelona under the framework of the Barcelona Meeting Point, concluded by putting the focus on the real estate sector as an answer to the population increase, to the new urban lifestyle, to the unemployment rates in the region and to the demands for sustainable development.

The real estate sector is, together with energy and tourism, one of the main engines for the development of the economies of the Mediterranean countries.

On this occasion, Barcelona has welcomed the first Mediterranean Real Estate Forum, a summit that has presented investment and development opportunities in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Africa and which has served as a meeting point for organisations and professionals in the sector.

The Mediterranean Real Estate Forum hosted first-rate international speakers, both from the public and the private sector, who have reflected on the general situation of the real estate sector not only regionally but also globally. The speakers highlighted investment opportunities that have resulted from economic liberalisation and diversification policies, green building, the progressive incorporation of women into the real estate industry, new social housing programmes and job creation derived from economic growth.

The real estate sector in the south of the Mediterranean, in the Middle East and in Northern Africa is one of the fastest-growing worldwide. "International real estate developers have invested billions of dollars in places like Oman, Qatar, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt and other countries in the region. In 2017, the growth in the sector was of 45% and the number of projects increased to 42, with a value of 76.1 billion dollars", stated Anwar Zibaoui, General Coordinator of ASCAME (Association of the Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce and Industry).

"The population of the Mediterranean countries grew from 281 million in 1970 to 419 million in 2000 and is expected to reach 572 million by 2030. Four countries will represent 60% of the total inhabitants of the area: Egypt, Turkey, France and Italy", said Ahmed M. El Wakil, President of ASCAME and President of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce (Egypt).

A significant population growth added to the fact that the Mediterranean area is the world's leading tourist destination, concentrating 30% of global tourism (300 million international tourists every year). These facts oblige the Mediterranean region to build 600,000 homes every year before 2025 to meet the high demand for private housing, offices and holiday accommodations.

Population growth is not the only cause influencing the development of the Mediterranean real estate sector, but the urban lifestyle of the new millennial generations also plays a decisive role. Javier Kindelan, CEO of Valuation Advisory EMEA and Vice President of CBRE Spain, stated "The construction market of rental housing is increasing because millennials have different preferences due to their new kind of lifestyles. Renting is preferred due to high rates of mobility, as people want to be able to move from one city to another."

A young generation that, in addition to mobility, advocates for sustainability in all areas of life, including construction. "Construction is not only a matter of money but also of people's health. We are trying to develop plans so that people can live in common spaces in which they can connect to each other and promote green buildings for the health and well-being of individuals. We spend 90% of our time inside buildings that, for the most part, are not green," expressed Mohammad Asfour, Head of the MENA Network of WGBC (World Green Building Council).

The construction of social housing is another priority for the countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean. Asma Alaoui, Managing Partner of Africa Key Partners, gave as an example the case of Morocco: "In Morocco, we have a very good model of affordable and social housing and the government is striving to promote the construction of this type of housing. This must be exported throughout the African continent. We have promoters and land, but we need investors to succeed."

Despite being a sector in which women still have little representation, real estate is gradually incorporating a large number of professionals, as noted by Ramon Riera, President of FIABCI Spain and Europe: "In Spain, 60 % of the professionals in the sector are women and 45% of the transactions are carried out by women".

The Mediterranean Real Estate Forum has also included presentations on major regional real estate projects, such as the construction of the new capital of Egypt. "In Egypt, we have to build a new capital. It will be an intelligent and ecological city and a hub for technology and health centres in the country, where around 20,000 residential units will be developed," said Magued Sherif, Managing Director of Sodic.

El Consorci de la Zona Franca de Barcelona, ​​with the collaboration of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, ​​ASCAME (Association of the Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce and Industry) FIABCI (International Real Estate Federation) and IHRA (International Hotels & Restaurants Association), have been the organisers of the first Mediterranean Real Estate Forum. At the Forum, FIABCI and ASCAME signed an agreement for the promotion of the real estate sector in the Mediterranean. 
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