GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Public Housing Traditions and Myths in Kuwait from 1961-2015
Paper Proposal Text :
This paper will examine the nature of pubic housing in the State of Kuwait from 1961 to the present, and the ways in which the detached single-family house became the “tradition” when allocating homes to Kuwaiti Families (exclusively through its newly established welfare polices). These housing policies were used by the government as an apparatus for wealth distribution and for gaining political legitimacy to its ruling family. Overtime, this form of housing was taken as part of the ‘Kuwaiti identity’ i.e. a basic right for all.

This detached house prototype was first imported by the British to house the employees of The Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) in Al-Ahmadi town in 1946. Later in 1957, after demolishing the fortification wall of old Kuwait, a small number of detached family houses sprung up in the new empty suburbs attached to the old town. Consequently, the Kuwaiti Suburbanization Project was partaking in moving residents from the old town to the new suburbs as part of the city’s modernization project. Most of those detached single-family homes were private villas built on plots in exchange for the “traditional” extended family courthouse.

After independence in 1961, the government of Kuwait led by Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah was undertaking a national project of constructing the new modern welfare State. As part of its welfare polices, one of the first governmental agendas was to provide public housing to low-income families. By the 1970’s, the policy of public housing provision extended to include middle-income families. Soon after becoming a unanimous right for all Kuwaiti families.

The state construction of only one housing model, detached single-family house, in exclusively segregated only Kuwaiti family suburbs started to construct a cultural phenomenon that identifies the statues and standers for the “Modern Kuwaiti family’s” way of living. This increased the Kuwaiti demand for single plots/ the detached single-family house as a prototype for public housing.

Since the late 1970’s to the present, the government has been facing a housing crisis due to the high demand and shortage in the provision of public housing. In 1977 the government responded to the crisis by implementing an alternative housing model- a high-density apartment buildings- Al-Sawaber Project. This project did not ensue in substituting the desired model of the “Kuwaiti” detached-single family house- instead it remained the ideal and “traditional” exemplar of housing for most Kuwaiti families.

Today, the government of Kuwait is facing public criticism from its citizens whom demand the right for public housing. In a milieu of unsustainable wealth distribution, welfare polices and a “mythical” archetype of public housing necessitates a reexamination of the historical and contemporary practices that are fundamental for unconventional solutions. This paper will thus unfold the political and social promises that this governmental house form deployed, and the ways in which this dream is no longer sustainable even by the rich oil producing country of Kuwait.