GIVEN a mandate to meet the country’s social housing requirements “within the shortest possible time”, Bahrain’s Ministry of Housing (MoH) is pressing ahead with ambitious plans to build some 40,000 homes on a fast-track basis.
This has involved building entirely new cities such as the new Northern Town, which is well in progress, as well as turning to private-public partnerships to meet these urgent needs.
According to the Minister of Housing Bassem bin Yacoub Al Hamar, the year 2020 will witness the completion of the five residential towns – namely, Northern Town, East Hidd, East Sitra, Ramli and Southern Governorate Housing – each provided with health, educational, social and economic services, and featuring a distinctive architectural style.
Work on the new cities was launched in early 2012.
According to a MoH spokesman, currently 6,679 housing units are under construction, with some 5,706 of these being in the cities. The Eskan (Housing) Bank has 506 housing units under construction, and a further 3,422 units under study.
Over the past four years (2010 to 2014), the MoH has made significant progress in the implementation of housing projects in the country, having provided 8,395 housing units, 1,257 residential plots and 9,424 housing loans, bringing the total housing services provided between 1960-2014 to 108,576, costing the country BD3.3 billion ($8.75 billion), says the spokesman.
“Additionally, some 9,424 citizens have benefited from housing loans from 2011 until August 2014. These include 1,775 loans in 2011, 1,810 in 2012 and 1,757 in 2013, with the number of loans reaching 1,900 in 2014,” he adds.
Last year, the ministry spent 90 per cent of its budgetary allocation of than BD147 million ($390 million) on housing projects, the spokesman says. In addition, some 402 tenders worth BD400 million ($1.061 billion) were awarded.
The ministry’s efforts are supported by the financial aid provided through the GCC Fund. As such, the Saudi Fund for Development has provided BD75 million ($199 million) for 1,560 housing units in the Southern Governorate; the Kuwait Fund For Arab Economic Development has allocated BD336 million ($891 million) for the construction of 5,327 housing units in East Hidd (4,023) and Northern Town (1,304); and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development has set aside BD443 million ($1.175 billion) for the Northern Town and reclamation work in East Sitra.
Northern Town is one of the largest of the projects to provide housing to the citizens of the Northern Governorate. Spanning a total area of 740 hectares, it will provide a total of 15,000 units, with a 31-km stretch of waterfront providing 3.2 km of public beaches.
The Southern Governorate Housing project will feature 5,560 residential units over an area of 750 hectares.
The East Hidd housing project spans an area of 240 hectares in the Muharraq Governorate and includes 4,000 housing units.
The East Sitra housing project, which will occupy an area of 225 hectares, includes 5,020 housing while the Al Ramli housing scheme in the south-west of the kingdom spans 100 hectares and contains 3,720 housing units.
“All these housing projects include various features and facilities such as mosques, schools, health centres, public parks, a university, retail outlets, government offices, community centres, function halls, and sports facilities,” says the MoH spokesman.
Meanwhile following Bahrain’s National Day last month, the ministry has initiated the distribution and allocation of 6,166 housing units at Jaw, Askar, Arad, Bilad Al Qadeem, Dair, Samaheej, Hamala, Bouri, East Riffa, Al Hunainiya, Salmabad, Tubli, Hamad Town, Sitra, and Ramli project, in addition to those in the first phases of projects of Northern Town and East Sitra.