Bahrain to build five new towns

TradeArabia News Service informed early this week, that Housing Minister Bassem Al Hamer told the Shura Council that Bahrain is pushing ahead with plans to build five new towns.

There are currently 47,000 families on social housing waiting lists, which authorities have pledged to tackle within a decade, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN).

The GDN reported last May that the target was to build more than 40,000 government homes in eight years, with new urban population centres planned for Hidd, Sitra, the Southern Governorate, Salmabad and Muharraq.

“Bahrain has been keen to find solutions in past decades with Isa Town in the 1960’s, Hamad Town in the 1980’s, the Northern Town now – and five new towns in future,” said Al Hamer.

“There is a keenness to resolve the housing issue in Bahrain and, through my guidance, a lot of work has been sped up and done,” he told the council.

Shura Council members yesterday postponed a vote on amendments to Bahrain’s 38-year-old Housing Law, which have been pending for the past four years, based on a request by the minister.

The amendments included providing social housing for single women and mothers, offering only one government housing service to men who take multiple wives and raising the salary cap for applicants – so that more people would qualify for public housing.

However, Al Hamer said the Housing Ministry had come up with 25 recommendations of its own.

“Since we discussed the amendments with members in 2011, many advances have been made and the separation of couples’ net income during the application process that was implemented on January 1,” he stressed.

“Our new criteria match most of the (Shura Council’s) amendments and need to be stressed in the law, but there are other benefits we have in mind.”

The ministry’s recommendations will be presented to the Shura Council once they have been revised by the Cabinet’s ministerial committee for legal affairs.

The current law, introduced in 1976, includes seven articles that grant the housing minister the right to determine criteria for social housing, without them being set down in law.

Meanwhile, Bahrain Institute for Human Rights president and Shura Council financial and economic affairs committee vice-chairman Dr Abdulaziz Abul described delays in social housing as a major source of public frustration.

“The 2011 unrest was partially caused by delayed housing services and, until now, nothing substantial has been done in this regard to resolve or tackle applications on the waiting lists,” he claimed.

Speaking in a similar tone, Shura Council member Shaikh Adel Al Maawda claimed the homes being provided by the government were too small.

“Families today are forced to cram into government homes (so small) that they need to move in sideways due to limited space,” he highlighted.