A five-pronged parliamentary probe is set to be launched into one of the country’s hottest topics of conversation – the fair allocation of social housing and related topics.
The issue, often consuming much of the debate time in the chambers of legislators, followed by endless social media comments, may now be investigated by MPs in a bid to find the ‘correct path’ forward.
Eight MPs, led by foreign affairs, defence and national security committee vice-chairman Jameel Hassan, have submitted an official request for the investigation.
The five fields are:
The fairness of the distribution and waiting period
The property evaluation mechanism
Calculations of instalments
Remodelling or repair rules and conditions.
Parliament Speaker Ahmed Al Musallam is obliged to list the order of debate in advance of the sessions set to resume after the summer recess next month.
Housing and Urban Planning Minister Amna Al Romaihi earlier this year told Parliament that there were more than 57,000 Bahraini families on the property waiting list.
New financing schemes for government housing announced last year include raising the loan ceiling to a maximum of BD70,000 while also increasing the age of beneficiaries from the current 35 to 40.
Submission of new requests for government housing also includes the option of raising the deduction ceiling to up to 35 per cent of an individual’s salary.
Around 500 more citizens are set to benefit this year from additional options added to the Mazaya Financing Scheme, it also recently emerged. Details of the programme – Tas’heel – were announced last month by the Ministry and Eskan Bank.
The new initiatives had been put in place, said Ms Al Romaihi, in a bid to seek innovative solutions, in partnership with the private sector, to accelerate the pace of housing provision.
Mr Hassan told the GDN that he conceded that there had been some ‘breakthrough’ initiatives and schemes introduced by the government to resolve social housing challenges but, in his opinion, much more needed to be done.
“The evidence is simple, there are still 57,000 Bahraini families on waiting lists, the number could have increased as many newly-weds have probably applied for homes since early this year,” he added.
“Many of our constituents would prefer spaces used to build their future homes rather than an influx of investment projects.
“We want to put things on a better track, study the operations and policies currently in place, and perhaps suggest policy improvements or a path correction.”
Last year, the Cabinet backed a parliamentary amendment to the 1976 Housing Law that would give the ministry more freedom to adjust, alter, change and modify existing services, and introduce new schemes.
It would also allow the ministry to enter into joint ventures with the private sector, while using plots allocated for social housing for investment and development projects.
Mr Hassan believes the distribution process of public housing often appears baffling with families not able to expand in their home communities but finding themselves being offered properties in new developments away from their loved ones.
“Hamad Town residents, especially newly-weds, for example, are moved towards projects in Khalifa Town, Askar, East Sitra Town, Eker or Ma’ameer. Where is the logic in this?”
“Out of necessity, people feel forced to sign for anything, rather than risk losing a home,” he claimed.
“And, increasing instalments whenever a pay rise is achieved becomes a punishment rather than a blessing.
“Also, people are being punished for knocking through walls or adding more rooms, under strict ministry policies, conditions and rules, when they are simply trying to make more space for their growing families.”
The GDN reported earlier that up to 90 per cent of Bahraini families pay subsidised instalments for government social homes.
In response to MPs call for interest-free loans, the Cabinet revealed that only between 10pc and 15pc of beneficiaries pay the full cost of their housing unit.
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