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Everything you need to know about Morocco’s affordable housing policies

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As soon as the Moroccan government announced it will be dispensing direct financial aid to citizens wanting to buy a home, many Moroccans rejoiced and were anticipating the operation’s launch, now open since January this year. 

The scheme, which will run for five years from January 1, 2024, will enable Moroccans living in Morocco and abroad who have no property of their own and have never benefited from any form of housing assistance to access a government contribution to buy their own apartment.

The subsidy amount will depend on the value of the property purchased. The subsidy is MAD 100,000 for the acquisition of a home with a sale price of MAD 300,000 or less and MAD 70,000 for the acquisition of a home with a sale price of between MAD 300,000 and MAD 700,000.

In terms of procedure, buyers choose their own apartment. They then obtain a certificate of completion and submit the building permit together with a copy of the national identity card on a digital platform to be set up for this purpose by the Ministry of Housing. 

As of February 27, the number of applications submitted on the dedicated platform had reached 51,900. 

75% of registered applications concern the purchase of a home costing less than MAD 300,000, and 25% concern the acquisition of a home costing between MAD 300,000 and MAD 700,000 dirhams. 

81% of applications were registered nationwide, and 19% were submitted by MREs. Despite this interest on the part of buyers, developers have many reservations about the program. 

Upon strolling through the city of Kenitra, or scrolling through real estate content on social media and specialized websites, many promoters and real estate agents are heavily marketing apartments with the “aid eligible” banner, after public interest shot up. 

And so far, organizational problems have been at the center of the aid discourse. Maha and Salim, two recently married young Moroccans have been eagerly following the news surrounding the aid, as they dream of buying their first home. Shortly after settling on a property, they registered on the government platform and initiated buying procedures. 

The notary then alerted the couple that the financial support authorized by competent authorities have been sent back to the government institution in charge of disbursing the aid. 

“She told us that the certificate issued to us by the competent authorities had expired,” says Maha, adding ”there was little indication of this timeframe from the government, and even if we had known, the time allowed for procedures is not realistic, especially when buying on a bank loan.”

Real estate bank loans take 2 to 3 months on average before validation in Morocco, whereas the state allows buyers one month of validity on the aid approval certificate. 

Fatima Zahra Mansouri, Minister of Urbanization, Housing, and City Policy, told Hespress that the expiration of the eligibility certificate does not require the applicant to reapply.

“Anyone whose file arrives at the notary benefits from the subsidy,” she said, adding that the one-month validity period of the certificate “is to preserve public money so that the beneficiary does not benefit from the subsidy and has time to buy another property.”

Maha and Salim’s dream of a home still awaits the bank’s green light, but they continue to rave about the aid. 

“We did not want to have to settle for the traditional social housing,” Salim says, “but when we started looking for homes, we realized that if we don’t lower our standards, we will have to sacrifice buying a car, which is essential to us since we both work in a far industrial zone.”

“Thanks to the aid, we can now buy both a house that meets our expectations and invest in a vehicle to commute to work.”

This year’s direct housing aid is not the first time the Government has decided to subsidize the acquisition of real estate. 

Prior to this initiative, Morocco had established an indirect housing aid program, where state funds would go to promoters and real estate developers, who were required to provide adequate housing for Moroccans across the country. 

This “social housing” model had to meet several components set by the state, such as the area of the apartments should not be less than 50 square meters and not more than 80, and the apartment price is set at MAD 250,000, not including value-added tax.

The state’s subsidy helped citizens by paying developers MAD 40,000 for each buyer, so the total value of apartments is around MAD 290,000.

Through this aid, many developers and real estate companies became famous for their housing, as they fed the strong popular demand. 

Their names, however, also started carrying derogatory qualifications and insinuations due to the poor quality of the social housing they provided. 

Amina B, a 62-year-old part-time teacher living in Kenitra, put her life savings into a small apartment on the city’s outskirts, near Mehdia, back in 2010. The area was empty and deserted, with many buildings, including her own, still under construction at the time. 

Through this major investment, she hoped she would move out of her parent’s home, where she and her siblings all grew and which, despite the years, remained a rental property. 

The then 47-year-old was promised a booming suburb with cutting-edge amenities and a durable build, but most importantly, she was promised calm. 

Upon moving into her apartment a little over a year after buying it, she immediately started having problems with her sanitary equipment. Soon after, she finds out that she’s not alone and that her neighbors and building all have defects in their drainage system and appliances. 

“It took the walls 4 weeks of winter to start showing mold at the top and bottom,” she recounts to Hespress EN, saying: “I had never had respiratory problems until moving there.”

In addition to the poor quality of Amina’s building, a much more delicate matter arose: What lack of safety, crime, and chaos she thought she escaped by leaving her Medina home had followed her all the way to the coastal town. 

“In fact, I felt even less safe there than I ever did in the Medina; at least there, people knew our family, and we were surrounded by old neighbors,” she recounts. 

Numerous reports of crime, assault, and civil disobedience in Mehdia make headlines regularly, as the area, especially around the vast social housing project sector, has become dangerous and treacherous. 

Many like Amina moved from Medina and its rough daily life for a quieter, safer new beginning. But as the Mehdia social housing grew, and its population formed, it became obvious that crime was festering away from authorities’ watchful eyes.

After two years in her brand new apartment, Amina packed a few suitcases and headed back to her family home, where she still resides till this day.

The state had set several conditions for social housing buyers, such as the necessity they commit to living in the property for at least four years before selling it or offering it for rent. 

Otherwise, the state requires the property owner to pay back the amount it contributed in the first instance, which is set at MAD 40,000.

For two years, Amina left her home shut and deserted, only to rent it on the fifth anniversary of her purchase, as time consistently shows how poorly the property was built.

Because of this, demand for social housing has witnessed a significant decline in recent times. Citizens lost their confidence in these projects, and some chose to rent apartments in the heart of the city instead of worn-out social housing projects outside the urban area of their city.

Today, the number of new apartments built as part of social housing projects has declined to approximately 135,000 units out of the 294,000 previously planned.

The number of people seeking new housing is estimated to be around 180,000 families per year, which is less than the available housing units, which were estimated at 270,000 last year, leading Moroccan real estate companies to incur significant losses.

But in the end, social housing remains the only solution for low-income families to buy a home, and despite the decline in demand for these, there is no other way out.

Unless, according to the Moroccan government, the aid goes directly to buyers, who now have both the luxury and responsibility of choice. 

The National Federation of Property Developers (FNPI) has not yet commented on the new aid scheme.

However, a few statements by FNPI officials suggest that they are not enthusiastic about the offer, as they expressed as soon as the project was announced late last year.

For their part, small developers have high hopes for this new program. They were virtually excluded from the previous social housing aid system, since many of them could not invest and commit to the state’s unit requirement.

Hassan H, a small hopeful promoter in Kenitra, is optimistic about the aid. He says it can make his high-standing projects more accessible to some hopeful buyers. 

Hassan tells Hespress EN that the government has not outlined any specific conditions for promoters, which could entail a new wave of bad quality social housing, “but what this new form does is absolve the state of that responsibility, and allows for the buyers to bear the fruits of their own attention to detail and research.”

Many potential buyers are inquiring about the aid at Hassan’s sale offices across the city, some have even applied and have initiated the buying process. 

However, the promoter still sees a number of issues that could threaten the success of this project. 

“The Ministry should help us as well, by dealing with the problem of rising land prices, or reducing registration fees, land registry fees, bank interest rates or even, easing legislative procedures and norms.”

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