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ABU DHABI, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Foreigners can own property in Abu Dhabi on a freehold basis in designated investment zones, the emirate announced on Tuesday, seeking to attract more investors to its real estate sector.
Residential units in the zones will be registered under Abu Dhabi's freehold law, with property ownership deeds issued to investors, a statement from the Abu Dhabi Municipality said.
Previously, foreign investors in Abu Dhabi property were generally limited to leasehold arrangements with 99-year leases.
The brief statement did not give details of the freehold arrangement or explain exactly how it differed from other property rights in Abu Dhabi, or from freehold rights abroad. Officials could not be contacted on Tuesday to elaborate on the statement.
Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, has designated areas for property investment by foreigners. Some of the zones are being developed by majority state-owned Aldar Properties, the largest developer in the emirate.
"This marks the launch of a very important phase in the development of the real estate market in Abu Dhabi, a phase which presents us with new opportunities for growth and development offered by Abu Dhabi's economy," Abubaker Seddiq al Khoori, chairman of Aldar, said in the statement.
"We believe in Aldar Properties that attracting long-term foreign investors will bring great benefits to Abu Dhabi in particular and to the UAE in general so that we can continue our path of construction and development."
Abu Dhabi has been trying to boost its residential property market through regulation and other steps for the past couple of years, after its property sector was hit hard during the global economic slump of 2008-09.
In 2012, Abu Dhabi pressed public sector employees living outside the emirate to relocate within its borders. Last November, Abu Dhabi scrapped a 5 percent cap on annual rent increases. (Reporting by Stanley Carvalho, editing by Andrew Torchia)