The Saudi housing ministry has launched a new scheme to provide housing aid to its citizens, in the hope of ending a shortage of homes which has depressed living standards and is politically sensitive for the government, Reuters has reported. In 2011, King Abdullah announced a $67bn plan to build 500,000 homes in the kingdom over several years, but the programme has been slow to get underway because of sluggish bureaucracies, difficulties in obtaining suitable land and the complexity of allocating aid. The new scheme, named Eskan, the Arabic word for housing, aims to break through bottlenecks. Saudi families seeking assistance, in the form of state-subsidised home loans or subsidised sales of land or housing units, are being given two months to register on a website. The applications will be considered for three months and the ministry will then announce who is eligible for aid.