A private company recently obtained approval to establish the first real estate development area within the city of Damascus. The project is a clear violation of the executive instructions of Real Estate Development Law No. 15 of 2008.
The Real Estate Development and Investment Commission (REDIC) approved a project proposed by the Emessa Real Estate Development and Investment LLC to create a real estate development area on real estate plot 1710 and part of plot 1696 in Mazzeh, as well as on public properties surrounding the two plots. The properties are located near the Southern Ring highway, not far from the Basilia City construction project. The new development project in Mazzeh extends over five hectares of land and is planned to include residential buildings, as well as educational and tourist facilities, a commercial building, a private medical complex, and a park.
Law No. 15 of 2008 created REDIC as a public administrative body with financial and administrative independence with ties to the Minister of Public Works and Housing.
Emessa was founded in Homs in 2015 with a capital of SYP 50 million. The company obtained the first approval of its kind in Syria to establish a real estate development area in the Um Al-Izam area in Rural Homs, covering 95 hectares of land. The Minister of Public Works and Housing laid the foundation stone for the development area in March 2021.
Nearly a year earlier, in May 2020, REDIC’s board, headed by the Minister of Public Works and Housing, studied the request submitted by Emessa to establish the real estate development area in Mazzeh. The board then decided to write to the Prime Ministry to receive approval.
In March 2021, the Damascus Governorate Council approved a recommendation from its Building and Reconstruction Committee to permit the announcement of Detailed Zoning Plan No. 46. The plan amended the building classification of real estate plot 1710 and part of plot 1696, in addition to the public properties adjoining them in Mazzeh. They were modified from being “areas under government protection” to “areas under real estate development” in accordance with the provisions of Real Estate Development Law No. 15 of 2008. Protected areas are likely wooded areas located on state-owned property.
At the time, some members of the governorate council objected, claiming that the approval was “private and not available to all,” especially with regard to public properties located within real estate development areas. It also appears that the deal between Emessa and government officials may have been based on corruption and clientelism, as the area granted for development includes part of a public wooded area. The head of the Building and Reconstruction Committee responded to the criticism, saying that that approval was available to everyone under certain conditions specified in the real estate development law. He added that the request to convert the area into a real estate development area was submitted to the Minister of Works and Public Housing and, from there, received approval from the Prime Ministry.
Approval of the real estate development area in Mazzeh violates the executive instructions of Law No. 15, which classifies the city of Damascus as “category one” for real estate development, meaning any such development project within the city must cover at least 25 hectares. Emessa’s project is only five hectares.
In May 2021, the Parliament convened over a new draft law for real estate development and investment meant to replace Law No. 15 of 2008. The assembly referred the draft law to the constitutional and legal committees for further study. There are now 67 licenced real estate development companies in Syria. Six of them belong to the public sector. However, none of them has completed a project under Law No. 15 thus far. The actual number of such development companies is continually changing as new companies obtain licences, while others lose them.