Demands for bigger homes for Bahraini families have been struck down by the Shura Council, which said the proposal would negatively impact the country’s housing schemes.

The council yesterday rejected amendments to the 1976 Housing Law, asserting that it would drain state coffers and delay the allotment of homes to beneficiaries.

Currently, government homes average between 160sqm and 200sqm in area and MPs had asked for more spacious units, measuring up to 250sqm, to be allotted to citizens.“If the move is sanctioned, we will immediately need to pump BD90 million into our alloted budget just for this year and the same amount annually, if not more,” Housing Minister Bassem Al Hamer said during Shura’s weekly session.

“It’s not financially feasible at the moment.“We have a commitment to build 25,000 homes by the end of this year, but if we increase the size of each unit, the total number of houses would have to be cut down by 7,000 or more.“There are currently five housing towns across the country. Each have units of varying sizes that could be easily expanded by 37pc to 50pc to accommodate six to seven rooms instead of the present four.“Again, it is not just about homes, there are other infrastructure services that need space within a housing project. “There are limited plots and we have to think about future applicants too.”The amendments would also allow homeowners to make changes to the buildings, provided they don’t affect the structure or encroach into public properties.The minister added that new innovative services were being planned to fast-track delivery of units.Shura’s public utilities and environment affairs committee chairman Dr Mohammed Hassan said there were 57,000 Bahrainis on waiting lists.“On an average, citizens have to wait for 15 to 18 years to move into new homes while its 10 years for those seeking apartments,” he explained.“If the demand for bigger homes is approved, citizens may have to wait longer.”

He added that people who need bigger homes can expand their units at a later date.The Housing Ministry had also raised objections explaining that government had limited land for housing projects and the substantial increase proposed would hinder the development plans.

“We are obliged by law to provide homes that range between 160sqm and 200sqm in area, with the latter costing up to BD100,000,” the ministry said during a meeting with the committee.

The new proposal, if approved, will affect the implementation of 25,000 units in accordance with the Government Action Programme as it will reduce the number of houses by 6,430 and raise the infrastructure cost to BD135,000 from BD100,000, officials added.

“This will result in an additional expenditure of BD86.5 million for housing units stipulated in the programme,” they added.“Remodelling permits come under the Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Ministry and we are working with them and Bahrain’s three municipal councils and the Capital Trustees Board to differentiate construction rules for government homes from others.”


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