Manama has held a meeting with contractors to discuss plans for a low-cost housing project financed by the private sector.

About 15 to 20 potential bidders attended a conference in Bahrain on 15 February to meet with the Housing Ministry and its advisers on the project. The ministry is expected to follow up the meeting by issuing a request for proposals on the scheme in March.

“The meeting was intended to get all the interested parties together so they can start forming consortiums ahead of the issue of the request for proposals,” says one industry executive who attended the conference.

The scheme will be the country’s first public-private partnership and aims to address the housing shortage in the country.

In total, the Economic Development Board (EDB), which launched the initiative, wants 20,000 low cost homes constructed in the next 10 years in a number of phases.

The first phase will result in 5,000 social housing units developed on a design, build, finance and operate basis by 2015. Other houses to cater for a slightly higher income bracket will also be developed as part of the project.

Three locations are being considered for the scheme: Al-Buhari east of Riffa area, an area of reclaimed land known as North Bahrain Newtown and Al-Lawzi. The land will be given to the winning consortium for free.

The Housing Ministry is being advised by Ernst & Young, the UK’s Mott MacDonald and law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

In October 2009, the chief operating officer of the EDB, Kamal Ahmed, said it planned to prequalify more than 56 companies for the project (MEED 9:10:09).

The EDB’s initiative is part of a plan to reduce the waiting time for social housing from the current 12 years to five years.