GCC nationals face real estate curbs

NEW restrictions will be imposed on GCC nationals owning property in Bahrain.

The urgent government-drafted amendments to the 2001 Non-Bahrainis Ownership of Property and Plots Law is aimed at reorganising the real estate sector in the country – but without violating the rights of GCC nationals.

Gulf nationals and expat inheritors are considered Bahrainis under all laws.

The amendments will give the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister the power to approve requests for property ownership in designated areas.

New rules and regulations will be determined by the High Urban Planning Committee, chaired by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier.

Urgent

An urgent meeting was held last Thursday with Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa over the government’s urgency to have the amendments passed.

“The new amendments are vital as they take into consideration the future needs of the kingdom in having sufficient land and determining sites for residences and investments,” said Parliament public utilities and environment affairs committee vice-chairman Ahmed Al Demistani.

“Under the amendments, the government will have more flexibility to determine an actual balance between ownership and available spaces while ensuring rights are not violated.

“The new system will bring Bahrain on par with practices followed in other GCC countries, with rules and regulations only putting restrictions on the location and size of a property but not on the ability to buy property as a national.”

MPs last month insisted on amendments to the same law to ban expats from owning property in certain areas in Bahrain.

It followed two earlier rejections by the Shura Council to ban foreigners from owning homes in areas not considered tourism or investment zones.

Parliament first passed the amendments to the law in April last year, despite objections from the government, following claims that Bahrainis were being priced out of the property market.

According to the law, foreigners are able to buy property and land anywhere in Bahrain.

However, in 2003 the government imposed restrictions that limit this right to certain locations – such as Hoora, Abu Ghazal in Manama, Al Fateh District in Juffair, the Diplomatic Area, Reef Island and Seef. Expats can also buy properties in designated investment projects such as Amwaj Islands.

Amendments

The amendments were originally proposed in October 2017 by the previous Parliament which claimed foreigners were inflating property prices due to their higher spending power.

They voted to amend the law to restrict the right of expats to own property to only tourism and investment developments.

However, the government said at the time that expatriate ownership of property did not exceed seven per cent of the market and was mainly apartments not homes.

A joint vote is needed on expat amendment from both chambers, which has never happened since 2002.

Expat ownership is just around seven per cent of the total property sector, and of this 97pc are GCC nationals.

In existing legislation, GCC nationals are considered Bahrainis, so the actual percentage is much lower.

For example, in Durrat Al Bahrain 97.6pc of the properties are owned by Bahrainis and around two pc by expats.

Meanwhile, MPs are also set to vote in favour of a Shura Council amendment that would oblige the government to take into consideration water channels on maps.

MPs will back amendments to the 1994 Urban Planning Law which would see water channels ‘towards the water’ or ‘inside the water’ indicated alongside the allocation of historic, municipal, industrial and other use tags for plots on maps.

Parliament is also set to reject Shura amendments to the 1971 Civil and Commercial Defence Law that would give lenders open rights to claim owed payments.

 

Source: http://www.gdnonline.com/Details/822548/GCC-nationals-face-real-estate-curbs

 

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