ISLAMABAD   -   Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that government will construct five million housing units in the next five years to cater the housing needs of low income and salaried class.

He stated this while addressing the ceremony of signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Pakistan and United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and Sustainable Housing Solutions (SHS) for financial assistance in Naya Pakistan Housing Programme here on Wednesday.

The MoU signed by UNOPS, Sustainable Housing Solutions (SHS) and the Government of Pakistan to build 500,000 new homes is a part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s plans to build five million housing units in the country. The MoU will be the latest in UNOPS Social Impact Investment Initiative (S3I), which had also been working on similar projects in Ghana, Kenya, the Caribbean Island and India. The Prime Minister said that there was a shortage of 12.5 million housing units in the country and Naya Pakistan Housing Programme will provide an opportunity to low income people to own their houses.

He said signing of MoU with UNOPS will not only provide financial assistance but it will bring expertise to Pakistan. He said that in order to promote mortgage, the government had enacted foreclosure laws in the country.

He said that the UNOPS decision to start the programme from Gwadar for fishermen was a landmark development. He said 40 industries were directly related to construction industry and the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme will boost all these industries.

He said local material and labour will be used in construction of these houses to boost economy. The administrative and legislative issues were being overcome and to facilitate the investors and construction companies, one window operation was being introduced by the Naya Pakistan Housing Authority, he added. The prime minister said that mega construction project of half a million houses would kickstart from Gwadar to benefit the poor fishermen and later commence in Peshawar and other parts of the country to provide affordable housing units to the low income people.

The prime mister termed the financial and technical assistance from the UNOPS and SHS as a landmark event to accelerate the wheels of economy by overcoming the shortage of housing units in the country, besides creating job opportunities.

He noted that the government was making efforts to bring about an economic turnaround, which had suffered due to the plunder in the last one decade.

He said the agreement with the UNOPS and the SHS would enable the government to kickstart its most ambitious project on large scale with construction of half a million houses with that assistance by overcoming shortage housing units in the country.

He said the accomplishment of housing units with the assistance of UNOPS and SHS would bolster the economy, bring expertise in the construction sector, besides encouraging the educated youth, new small and big companies, and entrepreneurs to enter the sector.

The prime minister also appealed to the Lahore High Court chief justice to immediately fix the case regarding foreclosure laws pending since long.

He observed that an early decision over the issue would enable the banking sector to extend loaning facilities and easing the mortgage process. He said efforts were afoot to minimise the mark-up rates. The prime minister said taking new initiatives by the government had always been difficult especially when the country had been facing financial issues, and expressed the confidence to deliver upon his promise of providing 5 million affordable houses to the people within five years.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman, Minister for Housing and Works Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan and high officials were also present.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Housing and Works Tariq Bashir Cheema said housing project will not only build houses but it will also create jobs for public.

Secretary Housing Dr Imran Zeb Khan said as part of the agreement, the government would provide land and basic infrastructure, including sewerage, electricity and water connections, he added.

The UNOPS and SHS would establish a framework to manage financial aspects, and ensure project activities were timely, efficient and maintain relevant quality standards, he said.

He said with consultation of all stakeholders, efforts were being made to ensure availability of bank loans at the lowest interest rates for construction of units.

Assistant Secretary-General and UNOPS Deputy Executive Director, Chief Operating Officer Vitaly Vanshelboim, on the occasion, said the construction of five million houses in Pakistan was the most ambitious and lucrative initiative, possessing huge market opportunities.

He said the UNOPS would ensure quality construction involving local labour.