BEIRUT REAL ESTATEBILITY – A METROPOLITAN EXODUS
Built, destroyed, and re-built again. The cycle seems perpetual. The “Phoenix” of Beirut rose from the ashes countless times. With destruction and reconstruction comes financial, demographic, and social challenges.
After the end of the civil war in the early 1990s, the social structure of the city drastically altered. Middle income families started a metropolitan exodus by moving to the suburbs, where a local economy started developing during times of conflict. In the late 1990s to the early 2000s, Beirut Central District’s urban planning project dissuaded locals to come back to the city. It gentrified Downtown Beirut rapidly in order to attract high-income families, tourists, and high-end investors.
However, expensive living units and high maintenance costs made the city center unaffordable to most, and turned it into an empty and soulless space. Its’ history, traditions, and dynamic middle income households are what constitute Beirut’s charm.
Solidere’s vision disregarded them. For that, it is a total social urban failure.
Moreover, the August 4th 2020 blasts at the Port of Beirut left thousands of locals without a home and several businesses destroyed. This will inevitably lead to more people leaving the city.
This global trend is called suburbanization. One can call it a metropolitan exodus. It is noticeable in every major city: middle income families are leaving the city to move to nearby suburbs. This can be explained by different factors. First of all, the rising rental cost and cost of living in major cities have squeezed lower to middle-income families out of the city. New York, Wash DC, Paris, and Beirut people are looking for more affordable options outside of metropolitan areas. Secondly, they can be exposed to wars and political unrest, which leads to locals relocating to safer areas. Thirdly, the lack of strategic social and urban planning can also cause a metropolitan exodus. Fourthly, disasters and tragic events, such as the August 4 blasts in Beirut, can destroy major cities and force locals out of their environment.
Most working people will move from the economic hub of Beirut to its Eastern and Northern suburbs in Aley, Baabda, Matn, and Keserwen. Families will enjoy a wider living space in a quieter, more convenient, and less congested community. This suburban exodus can stimulate the local urban economy and community development.
Executives and higher-ranking officers need to stay in close proximity to the capital. As they work longer hours, it would be more convenient for them to stay near their office. They need housing options that fit their lifestyles. We can predict a higher demand of smaller-sized, luxury apartments in the key residential districts of Beirut.
In order to respond to this demand, Hayek Group is partnering with Mena City Lawyers and Springsfield Development to launch KLEOS. It is a high-end residential project in close proximity to ABC Achrafieh that complies with Energy Efficiency Standards including a gated community, high-end amenities, and 24/7 public utilities. It is composed of affordable pied-à-terre living units less than a kilometer away from the Beirut Central District. The project is designed to host professionals, executives, and foreign representatives.
The real estate sales transactions (Table 1) show a mildly decreasing trend for the past 10 years in Beirut, Baabda, Matn, and Keserwan by >0.15%, 0.63%, 0.28%, and 0.4% respectively, representing the average change per month over the stated period.
However, for the last 22 months, ending in October 2020, the real estate sales transactions increased in Beirut Baabda, Matn, and Keserwen by 6.44%, 5.58%, 5.6%, and 7.56% respectively.
For the past 10 years, real estate collected taxes (Table 2) mildly increased in Beirut by 0.32% and mildly decreased in Baabda, Matn, and Keserwan by 0.32%, 0.2%, and 0.8%, respectively. Meanwhile, for the last two years, real estate collected taxes increased in Beirut, Baabda, Matn, and Keserwen by 10.16%, 5.97%, 6.86%, and 10.43% respectively.
From the statistics provided by the General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadastre (GDLRC) at the Ministry of Finance, we conclude that, throughout the past 10 years, the real estate activities in Beirut, Baabda, Matn and Keserwan declined by almost the same proportion as shown in Tables 1 and 2, depriving the market from prospering from its economic fundamentals, attractive growth opportunities, and overall “real estatebility”. This is due to the political turmoil and the economy’s instability. If we want to compare the same results only for the past 22 months (until October 2020), we notice a major uptrend in the real estate activities of Beirut, Baabda, Matn, and Keserwan, despite the economy deterioration, Covid-19, and Beirut blast.
This result illustrates our concept of metropolitan exodus from Beirut to the suburbs. The increase in Beirut figures is due to the Banking crisis and the tendency of depositors to purchase properties and vacate from the banks.
The new government needs to immediately tackle the reconstruction of devastated areas in Beirut and help displaced families to return to the city.
It should also work towards facilitating access to reliable public data, a must for comprehensive urban analysis.
It must also lay out a strategy to avoid a price crash, and provide reasonable economic guidelines for investors.
We must also acknowledge the roles of NGOs, professional orders, and unions in the development of this new era.
Action is meaningless without proper, comprehensive planning. Everyone should contribute. Everyone, meaning everyone!
With the family relocation from the devastated areas of Beirut, as well as the instability of the market, a new real estatebility is needed to strategically plan a proper metropolitan exodus.