As the 2022 FIFA World Cup approaches in Qatar, local residents speak to Doha News about the impact of rising rental prices on their lives.
Haniya, a resident of Qatar, has already moved nearly three times in the past 8 months, compromising her safety by living with foreigners in order to pay Doha’s rising rents.
The high-achieving international student graduated from Georgetown University in Qatar in 2020 and was excited to return to Doha after landing a job in December 2021. Nothing, however, prepared her for the fact that she would have to consider to leave town during the most anticipated event of the year.
“I have nowhere to go after my current lease ends in October because the landlord has already said he will raise the rent drastically and I can’t afford it,” the 25-year-old said. who lives in a three-bedroom apartment shared with two roommates. found on Qatar Living.
“I couldn’t find a female-only apartment, so I had to choose to live with a man and a woman, even though I’m not really comfortable with men. I sleep with my doors locked, and even though he seems nice, I just don’t trust men,” she added.
Haniya’s story is not an isolated incident. Doha residents across the country are reportedly struggling to afford a rise in rent prices, which many have attributed to the World Cup.
In some cases, landlords seek to capitalize on the benefits that visitors will bring to the country, making living conditions for long-term residents a hardship.
With the World Cup approaching in less than three months, residents of the Gulf state have reportedly received eviction notices, been asked to sign short-term leases or 24-month leases, or would have even seen their rent increase considerably.
Even though high rent prices affect many people across the country, the situation is worse for low-income residents like Haniya, who cannot afford to move immediately after being evicted.
Adopt new lifestyles
Some residents have been forced to think about downsizing to smaller places, finding roommates, sharing family villas or even working multiple jobs in order to survive in Doha without being homeless.
When rent prices started to rise in October 2021, Dana, a Moroccan living in Doha working in a research institute, had to move to a new apartment. Going from a less expensive apartment that included utilities to a more expensive apartment with extra bills took a toll on his wallet.
“My rent went from QAR 4000 to QAR 9500, so I had to undertake additional consultancy projects alongside and outside of my normal working hours (weekends and evenings), so that I could maintain the same style of life. I’m worried now, with my lease renewing in November, that the landlord is asking for even higher rent. I don’t know what to do then,” Dana said. Doha News.
Dana moved to Doha in 2016 for work. She was especially looking forward to welcoming her siblings for the first time during the World Cup and now fears that high rent prices will prevent her from doing so.
On average, landlords can raise rental prices by up to 10% a year, according to Shahzad Ali, a Doha-based strategy manager. To attract more revenue during the World Cup, the government removed the cap on rent prices in 2022, allowing landlords to charge up to “QAR 15,000 to 20,000 per night”, he claimed.
“They [landlords] are trying to take advantage of the World Cup period when a cap on price increases was removed by the authorities. It’s a cost-benefit analysis and for small landlords it makes sense to ask tenants to leave,” Ali said. Doha News.
Under Qatari tenancy law, landlords are prohibited from abruptly evicting residents without formal written notice of termination, at least one month in advance. However, sources said Doha News that some landlords abused their power, terminated rental contracts unexpectedly and increased prices without notice.
“It was alarming when my landlord announced that the rent was reduced from QAR 8,000 to QAR 8,750 via WhatsApp, without an official letter,” said Aiza, a 22-year-old graduate from Doha. “My roommates and I weren’t sure if the rest of the tenants in the building were going to get the same immediate increase.”
Initially, Aiza’s landlord increased the rent in the same month from QAR7,500 to QAR8,000, with the landlord explaining that this was due to an increase in gas and water prices. The next spike however, which was announced on Whatsapp, was made without explanation. This lack of transparency caused Aiza and her roommates to abruptly leave and find cheaper alternative accommodation.
Residents in similar situations are permitted to sue landlords by filing a formal complaint with the Tenant Dispute Resolution Committee.
Even though landlords are allowed to increase rents before the FIFA World Cup, it is still illegal to evict residents suddenly or raise prices before the end of the lease.
Large families struggle to find a solution
While compromising on comfort might be a solution for some, it’s not a feasible option for large families and single parents.
When Hamza went to renew his lease for the past few months, he was suddenly told that the rent would go from QAR6,500 per month to QAR10,200, with no viable explanation from the landlord.
He and his family of eleven have lived in Doha for two generations. Hamza’s father came to Doha when he was 20 years old, calling the Gulf country his home until his last breath. Now Hamza and her family are expected to move from the house they grew up in to a cheaper villa, which also extends her commute to and from work.
“As we are a big family, it would not be possible to share a house with other people,” Hamza said. Doha News. “We now have to budget every expense we have and think twice before buying our necessities.”
With less than 80 days to go until the big tournament, stories like Hamza’s are becoming increasingly mainstream, revealing the impact of mega-events on accommodation availability in host countries.
Budget cuts and pay cuts in the event of a pandemic
Some residents are struggling to pay high rents, mostly due to pay cuts attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abdulrahman, a Pakistani resident in Qatar working in the government sector, was born and raised in Doha, and his family has lived here for decades. His grandparents moved to Doha 50 years ago and have lived in Qatar ever since.
They are now planning to settle permanently in Pakistan as their living conditions in Doha are becoming intolerable due to high rents mixed with lower wages.
“Before the pandemic, I had a salary of 8500 QAR per month and I rented a house for 5000 QAR with my family here. So the salary was reduced by 30%. What can you do with a salary of 6000 QAR with a family to support and rent to pay?” he says Doha News.
In June 2020, the Ministry of Finance announced that all government entities were cutting their budgets for non-Qatari salaries by 30%. The reason given at the time behind the decline was budget cuts related to COVID-19, but sources said Doha News that these salaries have not been increased after the pandemic, which makes it even more difficult to increase rental prices.
Falling wages have drained the savings of families like Abdulrahman’s, with the salary he now earns mostly spent on rent and other basic needs.
“I’m afraid if this continues we have to leave and go back to Pakistan and try to do something in our countries,” Abdulrahman added.
“For those of us who have lived here since childhood, this situation is very unfair. Our grandparents moved here, but now we can’t even afford our basic needs. The government would have to increase salaries again to make everything good.
Need for accountability
The upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup will continue to drive prices up nationwide in the coming weeks, according to a report from Oxford Economics.
Apartment rentals are expected to increase further as supply becomes more constrained, and landlords are more likely to insist on 2-year leases in order to capitalize on rent inflation and mitigate the effects of the recession. decline in demand in 2023, the report adds.
Residents who have been affected by illegal evictions and rising rents believe the government should step in to help those struggling.
“Officials need to prioritize housing for residents and impose price cap regulations because it doesn’t make sense [my family and I] should be pushed away for a month-long tournament as I was born and raised here,” a resident said. Doha Newspointing out that Qatar is his second home even though he does not have Qatari nationality.
Other residents suggested that Qatar could provide unemployment assistance and stimulus checks to non-Qatari residents for a limited period, which would help struggling low-income residents.
Current rent increases in the country are expected to decline in 2023 after the World Cup, due to lower demand, according to a recent Cityscape Intelligence Report.
In the past year alone, rental prices in Qatar have increased significantly, with some exceeding more than 50%.
*The names of all sources have been changed to protect their identities.