Bahrain - New ministerial regulations governing bachelor housing and labour accommodation within residential neighbourhoods were reviewed by the Northern Municipal Council yesterday.

Amendments to the 2014 Rents Law were added by councillors yesterday although concern over the presence of expatriate labourers and bachelors in residential neighbourhoods was noted.

A war of words erupted over the plans which one angry councillor feared would encourage more low paid workers to move into the area. However, officials believe the new rules would better serve local communities.

“This is unacceptable, we have spent years as municipal councillors trying our best to protect our neighbourhoods from labour accommodation and now the ministry wants to put regulations in place to allow this,” said councillor Abdullah Al Qubaisi yesterday. “Asking us to approve it is like asking us to pierce our own eyes.

“This is a ticking time-bomb that the ministry is dropping in our laps and I clear myself of the responsibility and I don’t want to take part in it.”

Despite the claims and reservations voiced by Mr Al Qubaisi, his fellow councillors approved the proposed amendments, leaving him as a lone voice of opposition.

Northern Municipality director general Lamya Al Fadhala reassured councillors that the new amendments – which include various safety conditions – were being put in place to protect neighbourhoods.

The GDN previously reported that authorities in the past had blamed workers for putting their own lives at risk by living in ‘rogue’ labour accommodation – often dilapidated structures registered as residential buildings.

The amendments include property owners having to renew engineering approval every year – as opposed to every three years – while also ensuring adequate electricity connections were in place, Different colour systems and signage to differentiate residential homes from those use as labour accommodation would also be implemented.

“This isn’t labour accommodation like it is being imagined, with 100 workers packed in a single property, but a proper mechanism to regulate the process,” explained Ms Al Fadhala yesterday.

“These amendments simply allow certain homes in residential areas to be rented to labourers or expatriate workers – which could be workers in the same neighbourhood, such as cold store employees, laundry workers and other necessary service providers.

“It’s not realistic to have them working in Hamad Town, for example, while living in accommodation in Sitra.”

Meanwhile, the council’s vice-chairwoman Zaina Jassim stressed that the amendments will ensure proper implementation and eradicate randomness in housing arrangements for workers.

She said that ‘the more conditions that are in place, the safer residential neighbourhoods become’.

“We need to make one thing clear – these new clauses will eradicate the randomness,” said Ms Jassim.

“It’s not about inviting expatriates into our neighbourhoods and making matters easier for them. It’s about making regulations stricter within efforts to protect our residential neighbourhoods.

“We have reached a situation that necessitates the intervention of this law to remove violators from neighbourhoods.

“There are some situations that can’t be rectified at present but these properties will be cleared immediately once the law is enforced because they cannot comply with the strict new conditions.”

According to Ms Jassim, once amendments are reviewed by the other municipal councils and the Capital Trustees Board, the government will implement the law and its amendments within three months.

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