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02 October 2023

Expatriates vacate affordable Awqaf flats as jobs tumble

Expatriates leaving the UAE have affected the house rental market in Sharjah. (CHANDRA BALAN) 

By Mohammed Elsidafy

Many occupants of flats rented out by the Sharjah Awqaf have had to vacate their properties after their jobs fell victim to the on-going global economic crisis, and more are expected to leave with the onset of summer when the school holidays start, said a senior functionary of the body.

Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Secretary-General of the Awqaf General Trust, was addressing a session of the Sharjah Consultative Council which discussed the policies of the Awqaf and efforts towards the best investment of funds, real estate and land.

Al Qasimi said the Awqaf Secretariat General is receiving between four and five notifications from expatriate tenants who desire to terminate their rent contracts for reasons related to their employment status. He said a committee has been formed to re-rent the vacant flats by checking the existing rents in 10 buildings nearby and setting an average rate.

Al Qasimi said the Awqaf General Trust's assets have risen to some Dh350 million, which is invested in several real estate, commercial and banking projects. The secretariat general started in 1996 with just two buildings but investments grew thanks to the support it receives from His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. During the session, Director General of Awqaf General Trust, Jamal Salem Al Turaifi, reviewed efforts made to invest the Waqf assets and preserve the rights of Waqf donors. He said that investments have been done in risk-free areas.

Al Turaifi put the amount of donations collected from boxes in mosques and shopping malls at some Dh2m a year. In some months, such as that of Ramadan, donations go up to about half a million, he said.

Asked about the possibility of using Awqaf funds to purchase new real estate property since prices are down, Al Turaifi said there are two points of view – either to buy ready built property or construct new buildings in the light of the drop in building material prices.

Al Turaifi said the trust has a group of consultants, 80 per cent of whom are UAE nationals. They have been carefully selected for their commitment to quality. And their performance is reviewed every six months to ensure they comply with quality standards, he said.

The Awqaf official said there are several programmes for Waqf funds, including the Mosque Fund, allocated for the building and maintenance of mosques; Poor Fund, used for spending on the poor in co-ordination with the Red Crescent and others; Pilgrim Fund for helping pilgrims to perform the Hajj and Umrah; and Education Fund, which covers education expenses for the poor.


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