Bahraini officials are working to provide more government-subsidised housing for lower-income citizens while trying to balance the growing demand for housing against the limited availability of land.
The cabinet approved construction of four housing complexes in Manama's poorer districts in May including Bandar al-Saif, Karbabad and Nijairi. The new facilities contain an estimated 14,000 units that will be offered at subsidised prices.
There are 54,420 housing applications pending, including 53,416 requests for homes and 1,004 for fully-owned apartments, according to the Ministry of Housing.
Ministry officials hope the recently approved projects will alleviate some of the housing applications registered on the waiting lists.
Housing officials told Al-Shorfa that the government is doing all it can to provide the largest number of units to eligible applicants based on seniority. Some citizens and politicians said the housing initiative has yet to meet public expectations.
Sami Bouhazza, assistant project co-ordinator for the Ministry of Housing, said the ministry is reviewing plans for multiple public housing projects in several provinces, adding that they will begin as soon as the blueprints are ready.
Projects scheduled for completion include ones in Sharq al-Had, Sharq Sitra and Northern City developments, which will be offered to applicants on the waiting lists.
Bouhazza said the ministry is working with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Urban Planning and said officials examined several viable locations in the Jannusan, al-Shakhoura and Karrana areas.
"We are now in the process of finalising their purchase," he said.
Bouhazza estimated that construction will be completed within 15 to 18 months and will cost 45 million Bahraini dinars ($120 million) which will come out of the state's budget for Ministry of Housing projects.
"The units will be offered to 657 beneficiaries that will house 4,000 people and will be given to applicants based on the earliest date of applications," he said.
Khalifa Ali, a private sector employee, said he applied for a government-sponsored housing share 21 years ago with a plan to build his own house. The application process dragged on until 1994 when he submitted another application for a housing unit.
"Since 1994 until now there has been no progress in this matter," Ali said. "I was given many promises that I would get a house within the new housing projects, and I am hoping that selection is based on the earliest date of application."
Issa al-Qadhi, a member of Bahrain's House of Representatives, said the process of housing construction and distribution is "thorny" and "slow".
He said the government should distribute housing units to citizens based on the date of application, pointing to cases in Issa City where residents submitted housing applications in the early 1990s.
"From time to time we hear about planned projects, but we see very little on the ground. There is no real drive to solve the housing issue. We want actions much more than words," al-Qadhi said. "In the end, we hope that each citizen gets their fair share of these housing projects, and we want an urgent government solution to this issue."