Minister of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure Mohamed Aslam guaranteed on Monday that the monthly rent of the flats developed under the 'Hiyaa Project' would not be higher than MVR 7,000.
The minister's statement came amidst the conflict between the present and former administrations over the 'Hiyaa Project', regarding the flats' rent and project costs.
A social housing initiative of the government of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, the Hiyaa Project comprised the development of 7,000 flats in reclaimed suburb Hulhumale's second phase. The then-administration had stated that a monthly rent of MVR 5,600 amounting to MVR 1.3 million over a period of 20 years, along with MVR 1,000 for maintenance and MVR 25,000 as down payment, would cover the project's costs as well as profit.
However, the present government places the monthly rent at MVR 11,000 due to the USD 437 million loan taken by Yameen's administration from China's EXIM bank, which the government has slammed as a "debt trap".
On June 25, the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) also asserted that the amount of MVR 5,600 stated by the previous administration was incorrect. However, HDC stated that MVR 11,000 was too high for social housing and that the government would seek to set the rent at no higher than MVR 7,500 per month instead.
On Monday, responding to a reporter's question regarding the Hiyaa flats' rent during a press conference on social housing programmes, Minister Aslam assured that the government will adhere to the rent cap as stated.
"As I recall, that amount is [to maintain the rent] below MVR 7,000", he said.
"I do not recollect President Solih stating that tenants [at Hiyaa flats] would have to pay MVR 11,000".
During the conference, the minister added that it would take another eight months to complete flat development. However, he assured that the government will begin issuing the list of flat recipients by the end of July.
The Hiyaa Project comprised the development of 7,000 flats, in the form of 16 towers of 25-storeys each, in reclaimed suburb Hulhumale's second phase. It was awarded to China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) and undertaken with a USD 437 million loan from the EXIM bank of China along with a sovereign guarantee from the government, at an interest of six percent. A period of five years to repay 15 percent of the loan, and 15 years to settle the remaining amount was granted to the Maldivian government.
The project had drawn harsh criticism from the present administration, which was the main opposition during Yameen's tenure, over the project's costs, design, and move towards further centralisation of the Maldivian population.