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Watchdog to regulate Bahrain real estate sector on way

Bahrain News
Sat, 11 Nov 2017
By Sandeep Singh Grewal
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A GOVERNMENT watchdog that will regulate the real estate sector in the country and investigate complaints from homeowners will be operational next year.

The Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) will be in charge of protecting the interests of all stakeholders in the real estate market including hundreds of homeowners who invested in stalled projects like Marina West and Sunset Hills.

It is expected to be up and running by January under the supervision of Survey and Land Registration Bureau (SLRB).

A Royal decree was issued last month appointing Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa as RERA chief executive with the rank of Under-Secretary.

“It is good to finally see a regulator that will serve interests of concerned parties involved in the real estate sector, which is the second biggest market after banking in Bahrain,” said Bahrain Property Development Association (BaPDA) chairman Aaref Hejres.

“Stalled projects and real estate legislation will be taken up by RERA that has the power to address these issues.

“The watchdog will register claims from homeowners, landlords and even from non-governmental organisations that will be investigated in a transparent manner.

“It has the power to address all real estate issues and protect rights of all parties.”

Mr Hejres confirmed the association would soon elect a representative to be included in RERA, which he said would be operational by January.

“RERA will boost investors’ confidence and regulate the real estate sector by addressing issues that were not addressed previously,” he added.

“The panel will include representatives from BaPDA, Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bahrain Real Estate Association and other associations.”

The GDN reported last week that the Stalled Property Committee for the Settlement of Real Estate Projects at the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Ministry announced a new date for the public auction of Amwaj Gateway project.

The first attempt to sell off the project failed with no successful bids, prompting the government panel to reduce the reserve price from BD36 million to BD30.5m.

The second auction of the $183m beachfront project will be held on November 29.

The project was launched in 2007 and scheduled for completion in 2010, but work stalled in 2009 due to the global financial crisis.

The panel is also dealing with two other stalled projects – Marina West and Sunset Hills.

Work first started on the $750m Marina West in 2007 with developers promising 10 residential towers offering more than 1,000 apartments alongside a five-star hotel.

Nearly 400 homeowners who pumped money into the project, located on Janabiya Highway, are still waiting for their homes.

Sunset Hills, at Al Areen Development, is a joint venture between Abu Dhabi Investment House and Sorouh Investments, a Kuwaiti investment firm.

The $100m project was launched in 2007 and included 300 real estate units, including villas, deluxe villas and luxury apartments which were supposed to be completed in 2009.

“For me personally, Marina West is a fantastic project for investment, but I feel that there is still work to be done as the development could be split before being put up for a public auction,” said Mr Hejres.

He also added that the real estate market this year witnessed growth with new buyers and projects in the country.

“Generally speaking, there is positive growth despite the financial challenges in the region as we are moving ahead,” he said.

According to the quarterly transaction data collected by the SLRB, the aggregate value of real estate deals in the first quarter of this year was BD290m. This marked a 15.2 per cent increase on the preceding quarter and was 8.1pc higher than the first quarter of 2016.

According to the Bahrain Economic Development Board, real estate developments totalling $26 billion are planned or under construction in Bahrain.

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