Pilot project involving private sector planned in social housing, says housing minister

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Manama, Dec 15 (BNA) -- Housing for the people of the Kingdom of Bahrain – all who are on the waiting list – and that at the earliest, is at the heart of the government, Deputy Prime Ministder Shaikh Khalid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa told Bahrain News Agency (BNA) after opening the housing exhibition at the Seef Mall. He expressed satisfaction at the way the private sector has joined hands with the government in building more houses. “The exhibition at Seef will show the people the housing projects coming up and how they can benefit,” he added. Minister for Housing and Chairman of the Tender Board, Basem bin Yacoub Al Hamer, told the BNA the ministry was embarking on a pilot housing project with the involvement of the private sector, which would see 500 houses built all over the Kingdom of Bahrain. The details, however, are still being worked out, he added.

The ministry is seized of the issue of providing affordable houses to all those who are on the waiting list, said Al Hamer. “We are working in cooperation with the private sector in speeding up the projects and are seeking their renewed efforts,” he added. The government, he said, was also looking at suggestions to have the private sector developers engage in social housing projects – scratch to finish – and then hand it over to the government for distribution. “We are working in conjunction with the private sector in the private public participation in the housing sector and not just welcome new suggestions from them, but also look for innovations that would help strengthen and enhance the sector,” he added. Asked about the priorities and the housing situation as of date, the minister said that primary priorities were North City, Busaiteen and the Sitra housing – phase II and I. “In phase I we are examining the challenges posed by security, the oil lines and other hurdles. In phase II the immediate need is the reclamation of land for building the houses,” he added. The target for construction of homes looks bright said the minister. “Against a target of 4,000 homes last year we were able to provide 6,000 homes. This year we plan to construct 7,000 homes between us and the private sector building for us, “ said the minister. The Sitra project is expected to be taken up in 2014, he added. Sami Juma Mandeel, Directorm Housing Projects, Construction and Maintenance Directorate, said, the primary focus was the completion of all project required to exhaust all applications till 2007. The mandate for both the ministry and the government is to make housing available on request. “Every year 8,000 new applications come up and every five years it would be 40,000, he added. The target now before the ministry and the government is to build more than target so that the waiting list is exhausted.” The second part of the strategy is dealing with the scarcity of land. “It is not possible to engage in reclamation for expansion all the time. So it was decided to target the new generation for going vertical. The tradition of families staying together will have to change a little, in that they would share the same locality, but not necessarily the same building. Newly weds would thus not share the same house where the parents live. Instead they would live in the same building or in the same locality but enjoy their privacy,” he added. The three areas in this shift are security, privacy and expandability. Families live close to each other but not necessarily as a joint family. The ministry has also decided to look at the issue of self contained clusters, with projects in Umm Al Hassam, Isa Town and Muharraq – the old towns, he said. Asked about the target for 2013, Mandeel said, applications till 2008 will be exhausted by end of the year. Towards this the outlay is about BD550 million, with BD250 million from the government and about BD300 million coming in from the GCC marshal plan. Explaining the pilot project a wee bit more, Mandeel said that the plan was still in its planning stages, but the nutshell is to create houses for the social housing sector not fancy villas. The target amount should be BD60,000 and not BD100,000 and over. The targeted customer earns only as much. This would be a part of the corporate social responsibility, he added. Asked about the housing project in Sitra Mandeel said that the project was divided into two – Sitra I and Sitra II. Sitra II would begin first because it only needed reclamation. Sitra I, however, ran into problems with oil and security issues and they are being sorted out, he said. AAM/EM