By Fatma Khaled
In efforts to expand the reach of urban landscape, moving away from the congested banks of the Nile, the government has launched numerous new cities, including New Obour City.
The land on which the city was planned was originally designated for agriculture purposes, with 16,672 acres falling under the jurisdiction of the Public Authority for Reconstruction Projects and Agriculture Development, in addition to 16,649 acres of agricultural land that were set under the jurisdiction of New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA). However, a presidential decree issued earlier this year redefines the borders of the city in efforts to transform it from agriculture activity to an urban community, due to what Housing Minister Mostafa Madbouly described as “the scarcity of water in such areas that makes it unreliable for agriculture.”
The move has stirred quite some drama, between proof of ownership, required documentation, and removal of illegal encroachments.
New Obour City
The total area of the New Obour City is 58,914.4 acres, as the new borders of the city will include borders of a gate that is located at east of 10th of Ramadan City. The city’s entrances are set to be from the Ismailia Desert Road and west of Nahda Road, and south of the Ismailia/Cairo Desert Road.
The decision was followed by the Housing Ministry assigning the Obour City Authority to take over the lands, confirming state ownership over them based on the issued presidential decree for 2016, which also stipulates that the Egyptian Armed Forces owns six plots within the city, measuring a total of 13,770 acres, while the NUCA owns the remaining 45,145 acres.
As a result of the decision, original land owners were uncertain on how to act upon the lands following the declaration that is was state-owned land. Madbouly released statements later assuring land owners that the government would not seize any lands from owners, however noting that owners had to validate their ownership through procedures that were set by the ministry, whereas the application deadline ends at the end of September.
“We will not seize any land from any of the current owners, but we will not allow any informal settlements. We are currently in the process of regulating land activity in the region, to transform it from agriculture activity into urban activity,” said Minister of Housing, Utilities, and Urban Communities, Mostafa Madbouly, in a meeting with representatives of the entities and associations with properties in the new city. The meeting was held in response to mounting uncertainty among land owners, in fear of losing ownership to their properties.
Owners were requested to prove ownership of land within the areas that fall inside the borders of the city by submitting documentation proving ownership. 62,000 applicants –to date- have submitted their ownership documents for validation, according to Amin Ghonim Head of Obour City Authority, and the person responsible for arranging matters related to the new city.
The procedures for land validation also included owners preparing and submitting only documents detailing any activity that was previously undertaken on the land plots by owners and prove that they are the original owners, added Ghonim.
NUCA previously held several meetings with the Ministry of Housing and other housing associations to decide on the conditions for reconciling land ownership amid the announcement of the presidential decree that outlined borders. The authority will also be deciding on the fees that will be paid in order to proceed with land’s activity after the deadline for applications.
One of the strategic plans for the new city is that it will have a separate administrative body from the current Obour City, where all privately owned lands within the new borders will abide by the new authority, according to Ragaa Fouad, Vice President of NUCA.
The Ministry of Housing has announced that any building violations will be fined and removed, encouraging land owners to validate their lands. Meanwhile, Ghoneim, has confirmed that there are campaigns for the closure and removals of building violations, including some shops located on the main road of the first district, which is considered one of the first neighborhoods in the city. Additionally, NUCA has ordered the removal of residential buildings that turned their ground floors into unauthorized commercial shops and administrative units and has deviated from serving residential purposes.
Around 123 removal orders have been implemented against violators, according to Ghoneim, who also confirmed that the removal orders came as a result of building without a license in the fourth district, increasing the heights of some buildings, and store owners who built walls, which is considered a construction violation.
The Housing Ministry has taken over the vacant lands in efforts to develop projects in various sectors. Around 12,240 residential units are currently being constructed and 15,000 residential units are being implemented by the Armed Forces, according to Kamal Fahmy, Vice Chairman of the NUCA.
Future plans in New Obour City have not been announced to date, nor has the head of the newly established authority for the city bee appointed.
The city’s proximity to Cairo is believed to increase land value sharply in the coming years, especially as further commercial and residential expansions take place.