I have been an expat in Kuwait for over 10 years. Recently, I started searching for somewhere to rent for my five-person family. I was horrified to discover the prices for renting villas, or the more chic word, duplexes. Ten years ago, villas could be found for about KD 750, and whilst yes, it is normal to expect an increase, it’s not normal to see an increase of more than 50 percent. Had everything else in Kuwait increased in price, I wouldn’t have a problem with it, but the fact that salaries still average for many at around KD 850 (yes, that’s the starting salary for most teachers in many schools in Kuwait). It saddens me to see the increase in rent without an increase in salary.
It worries me that a four-bedroom villa here now costs the same as a four-bedroom apartment overlooking Central Park in NY or a two-bed penthouse over the Thames. It begs the question – who is profiting from these dramatic increases? Is it the real estate agents who are marking up 50 percent of the rent for a fee? Or is it that the owners have no choice but to increase the rent because their neighbors have done the same?
If Kuwait isn’t careful, it will end up with zero expats, and let’s be honest, who runs your coffee shops, restaurants and malls? It certainly isn’t Kuwaiti apprentices or undergraduates making some pocket money. Teachers will no longer come here; why would they? At most they can save around KD 100 a month. A three-bedroom floor that you couldn’t swing a cat in is now going for anywhere between KD 850-1,200 (yes, for a floor!) An entire villa costs around KD 1,500-2,000, and if you choose the smaller option of a duplex with no garden, you may be able to grab a bargain at KD 1,200, but most are starting off at KD 1,500. For the expats reading this, convert that into sterling and ask yourself – would you rent a threebedroom council style house without a garden for almost £2,500?
Gas prices are going up in September by almost 80 percent. Is the government going to increase salaries? Are they going to reduce rent prices? We got promised several months ago that house prices would drop, and if anything, they have increased further. It’s time for expats to say ‘No, that’s too much’. It’s time for expats to refuse to be robbed of hard-earned money. It’s time for Kuwait to wake up and realize nobody in their right mind is going to pay KD 2,500 (£5,000) a month for a ‘luxurious villa’ when their house back home is being rented out for 1/3 of that and it has an extra garage, a 30-m long garden and five parking spaces.