By Ayman Adly
A number of residents living in shared villas have expressed their worries about the recent crackdown by municipality inspectors.
The recent enforcement of Law No 4 for 1985 targets illegal modifications of villas and other buildings in violation of the originally-approved designs submitted when obtaining the license.
The campaign has not specified clearly any sharing of accommodation as one of its targets.
“Some villas are shared with a number of families with very minor modifications only to keep their privacy and there is no real change to the original building. Speaking from the perspective of a tenant, it is only about having a decent and affordable family unit,” said an Asian resident of one such villa.
Another expatriate pointed out that many employees came to the country as newly-married or with just one or two infants on a small budget for housing allowance and a room or two in a villa would meet their needs.
“The majority of new villas are built to accommodate more than one family with very little modification to the original design of the building. Some families of certain expatriate nationalities share apartments and make modifications inside the apartment to subdivide it into smaller housing units,” said a resident.
The campaign, according to unofficial sources, targets those residences overcrowded by inhabitants, whether families or bachelors, constructing smaller units in the areas which otherwise should be vacant or used as yards or corridors. These could be deemed as violations “because of negative social, health and safety consequences”.
“It is okay for more than one family to share a spacious villa so long as this does not involve major modifications of the building that would alter its original design or cause hazards or overloads on its construction,” pointed out a legal source.
While the campaign has caused concerns among the residents and owners of such villas, municipality inspectors do not enjoy the legal mandate so far to enter into family accommodations to inspect their housing units for potential violations.
“The violating buildings or villas would be clear from its external appearance. For instance, if a villa was used as a labourers’ accommodation, its yard would have various unauthorised structures made of wood or other cheap materials. Further, reports of neighbours would affirm this, which leads inspectors into the place,” said the legal expert.
Meanwhile, members of the Central Municipal Council (CMC), though generally against the unauthorised partitioned villas, stressed that the overall shortage of affordable housing units should be taken into consideration when taking any such moves.
“The country is going through a massive development process and there are many things which really need to be addressed such as labourer accommodations and shortage of affordable housing units before taking any decisive steps to evacuate violating units. An alternative need to be devised first and we should bear with the situation for the time being to maintain the stability of the society,” CMC vice-chairman Jassim al-Malki had suggested earlier.
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