|09 December, 2017

Bahrain's MPs push for new social housing law

MPs are refusing to back down from a proposed bill that would force private developers to give up 25% of their reclaimed land for social housing projects.

MPs are refusing to back down from a proposed bill that would force private developers to give up 25 per cent of their reclaimed land for social housing projects.

Parliament’s public utilities and environment affairs committee has recommended that MPs stand by their decision to approve the Twenty Five Percent of Reclaimed Projects Law, which was drawn up by the government based on a parliament proposal, despite the Shura Council vetoing it in May.

MPs argued that the law was essential – adding that it was difficult to find plots of land for housing projects amidst rapid growth in population and claims that the government prioritised reclaimed land for private developers.

The committee has also requested MPs to prepare for a joint National Assembly session in which both parliament and Shura take an 80-member vote should Shura also insist on its decision.

There has never been a joint session since the introduction of the bicameral system of two chambers in 2002, with several projects shelved as a result.

The law will be debated in parliament for the second time on Tuesday after which it will be referred to the Shura.

However, Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Minister Ghanim Al Buainain warned that forcing private developers to hand over parts of their land constituted theft because the bill did not stipulate any mechanism for compensating landowners.

“The Housing Ministry is already reclaiming available government land from the sea and dedicating it for government homes,” said Mr Al Buainain in writing to MPs, which was made public yesterday.

“The Northern Town, the Eastern Hidd Town and plots of land in the north of Muharraq are evidence of this.

“We have a commitment for 40,000 homes in the Government Action Plan, which has to be completed by the end of next year.”

He said the law could also result in government homes being located on sites of industrial projects.

“Infrastructure is different in industrial, investment and residential areas,” explained the minister.

“Putting homes next to private developments that are non-residential will create a huge mix-up, confusion and chaos.

“Legislators should come up with different ideas to support more homes for people – the current proposed bill is not in the right direction.”

Government officials told the Shura Council in May that private developers were already required to allocate half of their coastal investment for public use.

Meanwhile, Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Minister Essam Khalaf will appear at Tuesday’s parliament session to respond to questions on the progress of road works on the Alba roundabout intersection and infrastructure projects in the Northern Governorate’s constituency four, which covers Salmabad, Sehla, Abu Guwah and Jablaat Habshi.

A vote on an urgent proposal to protect a lake opposite to Bahrain International Airport will also be taken on Tuesday following feedback from Mr Khalaf.

Debate on the findings of a probe committee on free visas is also scheduled for debate in the presence of Labour and Social Development Minister Jameel Humaidan.

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