With the launch late last month of the first phase of East Sitra New Town – a mega housing project designed to provide more than 3,000 homes – Bahrain has once again demonstrated its determination to meet the housing requirements of its citizens.
This unique Bahraini community located east of Sitra Island will comprise 2,845 housing units and 545 plots on 244 hectares of reclaimed land. This project is the first of its kind between the Government of Bahrain and the People’s Republic of China in the residential sector, according to the Ministry of Housing (MoH). It is being implemented in three phases over 72 months at a total cost of $691 million.
“The Ministry of Housing has made great progress in implementing the Royal Decree of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The ministry has implemented the first stages of projects in the new Bahrain cities, namely the cities of Salman, Khalifa, East Hidd, and the suburb of Ramli, and has begun housing citizens in them, in addition to implementing dozens of complex projects in various governorates and villages of the kingdom,” says Basim bin Yacob Al Hamer, the inister in an interview.
More than 47,000 housing requests have been met by the Ministry of Housing over the past few years. Numerous housing projects have been launched throughout the country and new cities are being developed to meet the mandate of His Majesty King Hamad to deliver 40,000 housing units.
In line with its commitment to delivering on the mandate, the ministry has just launched the $241.2-million first phase of a mega housing project at East Sitra New Town consisting of 1,055 housing units. At Madinat Salman, construction of 1,402 apartments is expected to commence this month (January 2021) while the second phase of Khalifa Town, for 372 units, is currently in the final design stage and construction tenders are expected to be launched in the second quarter of 2021, according to the minister.
In addition, the ministry has over 5,000 housing units throughout the country in a variety of project sizes in its tendering pipeline.
Among the major housing developments under way are:
• East Sitra New Town: The project, being developed by the Housing Ministry in partnership with the China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC), will house more than 20,000 people. The first phase, launched last month (December) consists of 1,055 housing units and associated infrastructure, is expected to see completion in January 2023. This will be followed by Phase Two, featuring 1,256 houses and 549 plots with associated infrastructure at a total cost of $330.89 million. The work on this phase will begin in July 2023 and is targeted for completion in December 2025. The third phase, expected to overlap with the last six months of Phase Two, will consist of 534 housing units and associated infrastructure at a total cost of $118.66 million. Work is earmarked to begin in July 2025 and be completed in December 2026.
• Madinat Khalifa: This 734-hectare project will contain over 6,000 units to provide housing for about 40,000 people. The town is to be delivered in five phases. The first phase, completed in 2019, contains 1,595 housing units. The second phase is currently in the final design stage and the construction tender is expected to be launched in the second quarter of 2021 for 372 units. The third and fourth phases will contain about 4,255 housing units to be implemented between 2023 and 2026. Phase Five will comprise the town centre which has been designed to be a commercial and entertainment destination featuring a regional park, souq and mall.
• Madinat Salman: The largest and most advanced integrated housing project by the MoH located on the northern coast of Bahrain, this iconic 740-hectare city is set to house around 15,600 families in a variety of villas and apartments providing a resort island lifestyle on 10 islands. The overall programme is aimed to be completed in six to eight years and the MoH is currently sourcing the remaining funds to complete the project, says the minister.
To date, 3,406 housing units have been completed on Islands 13 and 14 on a 291-ha reclaimed area with full supporting infrastructure including wide pedestrian walkways, cycle tracks, children’s play area, beaches, parks and street landscaping.
Currently, 303 villas are under construction on Island 14 and are expected to be completed by Q1 of 2022. In addition, infrastructure has been fully developed on Islands 12, 11 and 10 involving a land area of 166 ha and construction of 1,402 apartments on Island 12 is expected to commence this month (January).
• Madinat East Hidd: This new town development for medium density low-rise social housing will offer 4,500 units comprising almost 3,000 double-storey villas and 1,500 apartments and feature wide pedestrian walkways, cycle tracks, children’s play area, beaches, parks and street landscaping.
In addition, the town will provide almost 500 gifted plots providing homes for around 28,000 citizens. To date, 1,602 of the 2,778 villa units are ready, with the balance to be complete by Q1 of 2022.
To address the country’s huge backlog of housing applications, the MoH has joined hands with the private sector and launched the Mazaya scheme in 2015. The programme has not only speeded up the delivery of homes but has also brought about economic benefits through increased spending valued at BD837 million ($2.207 billion) in the real estate, financing, contracting, engineering and retail sectors.
Al Hamer comments: “The success of partnership initiatives with the private sector has taken the ministry’s plan to very advanced stages, apart from meeting more than 47,000 housing requests. Also, the commitment to implement 25,000 housing units in the government’s 2015-2018 programme has been met.
“The initiatives taken in partnership with the private sector have greatly contributed to speeding up the pace of meeting housing requests. The services the ministry has offered varied from providing housing units, ownership apartments, housing vouchers and financing diverse housing in addition to serving the beneficiaries of the Mazaya programme. This includes 19,772 housing units, 8,558 owned apartments, 3,725 housing plots, and 10,460 housing financing of all three types of ‘purchase-building-restoration’, apart from the beneficiaries of the Mazaya programme.”
The number of beneficiaries of the programme so far has reached 6,485 – with the annual number having risen from 745 in 2014 and 2015, to reach 1,358 beneficiaries in 2019.
The MoH pays special attention to the Mazaya programme because of its great success, especially in terms of meeting housing requests immediately. The ministry, in cooperation with the Housing Bank, periodically reviews and develops the programme’s procedures, and this has recently resulted in shortening the procedural cycle from 105 to 15 days, the minister points out.
“Apart from speed, the Mazaya programme has also brought about economic benefits through increased spending, valued at BD837 million in the real estate, financing, contracting, engineering and retail sectors,” he continues. “Banks have provided financing to citizens to acquire units valued at BD481 million, while banks participating in financing the programme have earned returns amounting to nearly BD100 million. The programme also contributed to supplying the contracting and consulting sector with BD252 million worth of business, in addition to earning BD4 million for the retail and furniture sectors.”
Further, the initiative to develop housing units with the private sector on state-owned lands launched in cooperation with the Housing Bank last October is expected to contribute to providing 15,000 housing units over the next 10 years.
Efforts are under way not only to meet the remaining requests on the waiting lists but also secure the right of new generations to benefit from instant and multi-option housing without the need to wait, the minister adds.
“The programme has been an overwhelming success with citizens who have the opportunity to buy a housing unit immediately without having to wait for a numbers of years to own a unit that fits their personal requirements and capabilities,” he comments.
Currently, there are more than 44 private developers with a total of 84 projects participating in the Mazaya programme, providing citizens a choice of around 5,000 units ranging from BD45,000 to BD120,000, two- to four-bedroom apartments (40 per cent) and villas (60 per cent), off-plan, readymade or second hand and located throughout the kingdom.
Among such projects is the Deerat Al Oyoun project, a partnership between the Ministry of Housing and Diyar Al Muharraq. Located in the heart of Diyar Al Muharraq over an area of 1.2 million sq m, the project will offer 3,043 housing units at reasonable prices with an area of 220 sq m and will be constructed in six phases.
The Government Land Development Programme (GLDP), an innovative initiative of the Ministry of Housing allows consortia of private sector investors, developers, contractors and financiers to build housing units on government land and, upon completion, sell these units at a MoH prescribed sale price to citizens targeting Mazaya and social housing loan eligible beneficiaries.
The pilot project (Al Luwzi housing project) is expected to be signed in the near future. The project consists of 132 housing units for Mazaya with an average land size of 170 sq m and a built-up area of 215 sq m. The units will be completed by September 2022 at a sale price of BD99,000.
The current pilot approach will be a model for the overall GLDP as a programme. It is estimated that the GLDP will provide over a period of 10 years around 15,000 units with a combination of apartments and villas at a variety of prices. Currently, the MoH is in the process of identifying suitable land in a variety of locations throughout Bahrain for the project.
Currently, the Danat Al-Lawzi project with 132 housing units is under way as a trial phase, after which a timeframe for the implementation of the project will be announced for all the residential units.
According to the minister, the core challenge the ministry is facing in the delivery of suitable housing to citizens is the large demand. “With a total waiting list of around 57,000 and a yearly influx of 2,000 to 3,000 applications for housing services, providing a sufficient number of services remains a challenge for any housing system. Related to this high demand is a substantial need for sufficient funds, land and construction capacity,” he states.