A NEW government watchdog that will regulate the real estate sector will start accepting complaints from homeowners, who invested in stalled projects, by next year.
The Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) will be in charge of protecting the interests of all stakeholders in the real estate market including hundreds of homeowners who invested in stalled projects like Marina West, Amwaj Gateway and Sunset Hills.
It will also develop a national strategy, which will be issued in March, to address issues facing the sector such as licensing procedures and escrow accounts.
“RERA is set up with a purpose to regulate the real estate sector,” said RERA chief executive Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa.
“We are working on a national strategy that will be out in March that will deal with licence process, escrow accounts and protect investors in the real estate sector.”
He said the watchdog was keen to “close the files” of stalled developments and further enhance the sector to boost the economy.
“We want a transparent, robust and secure environment in the real estate sector,” he added.
“Let me reiterate that all those who have invested in this sector will be protected by this authority.
“The real estate sector is booming and we are now here to further enhance it.”
The watchdog was formed in October as part of a Royal decree with a board of directors, chaired by the Survey and Land Registration Bureau (SLRB) president.
Board members, who are on four-year terms, include the ministers of Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning, and Industry, Commerce and Tourism, along with representatives from the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Central Bank of Bahrain, the Bahrain Property Development Association and the Bahrain Real Estate Association.
Shaikh Mohammed was speaking yesterday at a Press conference held at the SLRB to sign an agreement with International Development Ireland (IDI) to provide consultancy services to RERA for the next three years at a cost of BD1.2 million annually.
“Our role is to share our expertise to help the authority implement the law regulating the real estate sector, work on the organisation structure and help authority in its operational phase,” said IDI executive director Ted Bowe.
“There will be training and workshops to share those skills here, but the challenge remains to kick start the process by March 2018.”
According to the EDB, real estate developments totalling $26 billion are planned or under construction in Bahrain.
The GDN reported last month that no bidders showed up for a second auction of the stalled Amwaj Gateway.
The project first went under the hammer on October 31 with a reserve price of BD36 million, but failed to attract any bids.
It went up for auction again on November 29 with a reduced reserve price of BD30.5m, but no interested parties showed up.
The project now faces the prospect of being sold off in individual plots in the absence of any interest in the project as a whole.
Amwaj Gateway was launched in 2007 as a $183m beachfront project scheduled for completion in 2010.
The development was supposed to include 384 apartments, 93 town houses and a hotel tower with 143 rooms.
However, work stalled in 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis and in 2015 it was among projects referred to the Committee for the Settlement of Real Estate Projects, which is also working on Marina West and Sunset Hills.
Work first started on the $750m Marina West in 2007 with developers promising 10 residential towers offering more than 1,000 apartments alongside a five-star hotel.
Nearly 400 homeowners who pumped money into the project, located on the Janabiya Highway, are still waiting for their homes.
Sunset Hills, at Al Areen Development, is a joint venture between Abu Dhabi Investment House and Sorouh Investments, a Kuwaiti investment firm.
The $100m project was launched in 2007 and included 300 real estate units, including villas, deluxe villas and luxury apartments which were supposed to be completed in 2009.
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