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Do Emiratis get free houses?

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has an extensive social welfare system that provides many benefits to Emirati citizens, including assistance with housing. However, it would not be accurate to say that Emiratis get “free” houses from the government.

Housing Assistance Programs in the UAE

There are several housing programs and forms of housing assistance available to Emiratis in the UAE:

  • Sheikh Zayed Housing Program – Provides interest-free loans to UAE nationals to help them build or purchase a home. The loans cover up to 80% of the value of the property.
  • Mohammed bin Rashid Housing Establishment – Offers housing grants, loans with low interest rates, and other assistance to limited income citizens in Dubai.
  • Federal Lands Grants – The government allocates free land plots to Emirati citizens which they can then build on or sell.
  • Other emirate-level housing programs – Each emirate has its own housing initiatives to support citizens, such as Abu Dhabi’s Citizens Housing Program.

So while housing assistance is available, Emiratis still need to contribute some of their own funds and take on debt to purchase or build a home even with these programs.

Eligibility Requirements

There are also eligibility requirements and conditions citizens must meet to qualify for the housing benefits:

  • Applicants for the Sheikh Zayed Housing Program loans must be employed and have a minimum monthly salary of AED 4,000.
  • Unmarried applicants cannot get housing assistance until the age of 30.
  • Federal land grants are only provided one time to each Emirati national.
  • Priority for housing aid is given to low-income citizens, families with many dependents, widows, and divorcees.

So free housing is not universally guaranteed to all Emiratis. Those with higher incomes may not qualify for the housing programs or grants.

Obligation to Repay Loans

Another key point is that the housing loans provided by the government are not free money that does not have to be repaid. While the loans have favorable terms, they still have to be paid back over time. A few key terms:

  • Sheikh Zayed Housing Program loans have a tenure of 25 years.
  • Interest rates on these loans are between 0-2% depending on income level.
  • The Mohammed bin Rashid Housing Establishment loans can be repaid over 20 years.
  • Recipients begin repaying the loans once the house is built and move-in ready.

So ultimately the beneficiaries bear responsibility for repayment, even if the loans make housing more affordable.

Are Houses Ever Provided for Free?

In some exceptional cases, completely free housing units have been gifted by the government of the UAE:

  • In 2013, the late President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan gifted 400 free homes to citizens in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi.
  • For his Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2021, Sheikh Khalifa gave another batch of 378 free homes to widows, orphans, low-income earners, and divorcees in Abu Dhabi.
  • Following disasters like floods or fires, emergency housing has been provided to displaced Emiratis free of cost.

However, these instances of free homes being given are not the norm and are only done by the government’s discretion for certain cases. Most Emiratis go through standard housing programs.

Are Houses Cheaper for UAE Nationals?

While not directly linked to government housing benefits, one notable factor that can reduce housing costs for Emiratis is that they are legally allowed to purchase property in specific areas designated only for UAE nationals. These zones are typically newly developed areas.

For example, when Dubai’s Emaar began selling units in Arabian Ranches in 2004, only UAE citizens could buy property there initially. Prices in these exclusive zones are often lower than the general real estate market, so Emiratis get a discount on property just through this channel.

What Percentage of Citizens Receive Housing Assistance?

Official data indicates that a significant portion of Emirati families have benefitted from federal and local housing programs:

  • As of 2018, the Sheikh Zayed Housing Program had provided housing loans to over 66,000 Emiratis since its inception in 1999.
  • In Abu Dhabi, the Citizens Housing Program had assisted over 34,000 nationals by 2014.
  • Reports estimate that 50-60% of Emirati households have received some form of housing assistance from the government.

So while not universal, housing aid is widespread and has helped a majority of citizens directly or indirectly.

Housing Assistance Recipients by Emirate

Emirate Estimated Recipients
Abu Dhabi 34,000
Dubai 25,000
Sharjah 18,000
Ajman 8,000
Umm Al Quwain 4,500
Ras Al Khaimah 12,000
Fujairah 5,000


In summary, while the government of the UAE provides extensive housing support to citizens through grants, loans, and land allocations, Emiratis still have personal financial obligations and responsibility when it comes to home ownership. Free housing is only occasionally granted in special welfare cases or as one-time relief. But the housing programs make purchasing or building a home much more affordable over the long-term for UAE nationals compared to expats living in the country.