KUWAIT FOR RENT by Dr. Yousef Al-Haroun
I couldn’t help notice something is different in Kuwait. However, this kind of different is not easy to recognize. Some people may not think of it as different, for them it is part of the place. For others it’s all they grew up in and feel normal around. Yet for the few who have noticed it grow over the years know its changing and maybe not all for the better.  

As I drive by a neighbourhood, I pass by a sign, it reads ‘for rent’ with a number to call. Interesting. As I continue in the overcrowded street, I notice another sign for a two-bedroom apartment. Very interesting. Suddenly, I stop just to give way for a group of cars leaving basement parking of a huge multi storey structure. I think to my self, what has come to this place? I remember it being a quite neighbourhood filled with single-family houses and children playing in the street. It has been transformed in to a place of houses that are not really houses and more like apartment complexes and rare is the sight of a single-family house.  

In the past, the Kuwaiti house was a place where the entire family would gather, socialize and live. Parent’s encouraged their children who got married to live with them; it was part of Kuwaiti culture. It was not until after the Iraqi occupation, that the baladia adopted a law to have 1 or 2 apartments in the second floor of a house to provide space for the homeowner’s children. However, in time due to Kuwait’s housing crisis with around one hundred thousand waiting for government housing welfare and of the high cost of living, many homeowners started to rent out their houses to strangers. Houses transformed into an investment, where people would use all the allowable space by law to improve their income. Eventually, investors took advantage of high demand for apartments and started to build apartment complexes in once model low-density residential areas.   

As a result of this phenomenon, emerged the ‘box house’, an ugly, boring prototype dominating the urban landscape of today’s neighbourhoods. This situation also brought increased road traffic, not enough parking, and over burdened water, electricity, and public infrastructure. Why is the government turning a blind eye? Is it to fill demand caused by the tens of thousands who are waiting for housing welfare? Or is that to simply maintain high demand on property to benefit certain sectors of the populations. 

Either way, it is not acceptable to have a large part of model residential units for rent. Every citizen has the right to live in their own home and to not rent an apartment regardless of income level. Thank God, we are one of the wealthiest nations in the world with the highest GDP per capita. Therefore, it is unfortunate, for one reason or another this does not translate into a higher quality of life and built space for its citizens. What happened to our houses? What happened to our neighbourhoods? What happened to our Kuwait?!