A move to ban expats from owning property in areas not designated tourism or investment zones was approved by MPs yesterday.
The amendment to the 2001 Non-Bahrainis Ownership of Property and Plots Law was passed following claims that Bahrainis were being priced out of the property market.
According to the law, foreigners are able to buy property and land anywhere in Bahrain.
However, in 2003 the government imposed restrictions that limit this right to certain locations – such as Hoora, Abu Ghazal in Manama, Al Fateh District in Juffair, the Diplomatic Area, Reef Island and Seef.
Expats can also buy properties at designated investment projects such as Amwaj Islands.
The original amendments were tabled in October 2017 by members of the previous parliament, who claimed foreigners were inflating property prices because of their higher spending power.
However, the government said at the time that expatriate ownership of property did not exceed seven per cent of the market and was mainly in apartments, not houses.
The law grants GCC nationals the same rights as Bahrainis.
Parliament’s amendment will now be debated by the Shura Council.
“Due to a drop in the real estate market, prices of plots have reduced and Bahrainis are getting their hands on plots at reasonable prices,” said MP Dr Hisham Al Asheeri.
“But things will recover in future due to demand, as the cycle moves on.
“We want to protect villages and towns from expatriates who buy plots in bulk and, at a time of recovery, will sell them at higher rates to Bahrainis.”
MP Abdulla Al Dossary claimed many foreigners owned large amounts of land in the Northern Governorate, mainly in villages off Budaiya Highway.
“There are several expats who control the real estate market in our governorate inside Budaiya Highway villages,” he said.
“There is a tycoon expatriate who owns a huge land that, if divided, can equal 20 residential plots.
“Those are not designated plots for investment. They are in residential areas. Yet the government has allowed ownership for expats there.”
Parliament financial and economic affairs committee chairman Ali Ishaqi said the amendment was long overdue.
“Prices have gone up 2,000 per cent in the past 20 years and many are unable to get their hands on land for a home,” he said.
“We need to stabilise prices for Bahrainis, as only expats could afford higher prices.”
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