Although fighting in the city of Homs ended in 2014 and rebel fighters were expelled from the city that year, the demolition of damaged buildings continues to this day on safety grounds.
By March 2020 — the latest date for which an estimate is available — some 112 properties across most neighbourhoods of the city had been destroyed out of 840 classified as at risk of collapse. These properties form part of the 1,800 buildings in the city that are estimated to be partially or totally destroyed.
In 2020, the Homs City Council signed a contract with the General Company for Hydraulic Projects, affiliated with the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, to demolish more buildings in the Karam Al-Zeitoun and Deir Baalbeh neighbourhoods. This year another contract was signed with the General Company for Roads and Bridges (GCRB), affiliated with the same Ministry, to demolish more buildings. In May, the GCRB destroyed three properties on Fares Al-Khoury Street in the Qusour neighbourhood and 13 properties along the Homs-Hama highway.
Many of the demolitions have taken place in neighbourhoods that were either partially or completely destroyed in the war. Some of the demolitions have been carried out manually, as machinery is unable to reach the buildings.
Homs saw devastating destruction across 33 neighbourhoods, 12 of them within the old city centre, in addition to the neighbourhoods of Jouret Al-Shiyah, Al-Qarabis, Al-Hamidiyeh, Jibb Al-Jandali, Karam Al-Zeitoun, Ashireh, Deir Baalbeh, Al-Sbeil, Al-Bayada, Baba Amro and Al-Waer.
The head of the Damaged Buildings Committee, which is part of the city council’s Technical Affairs Directorate, revealed that the estimated costs of removing the buildings was SYP 6 billion, of which only one billion has so far been paid. The buildings are being demolished and removed under Law No. 3 of 2018, he added, which regulates the removal of rubble.
A committee has also been formed to categorise and verify ownership of private holdings and ruins, as stipulated in Law No. 3. Under the law, private holdings are all movable assets that can be acquired, used, invested, exploited, or disposed of, such as furniture or other items. The committee submitted a list of damaged properties to the Homs governorate, to be included under Law No. 3. The governorate then released the list publicly in order to inform the rights holders that they should submit requests to the city council to prove their property ownership.
Administrative units in Syria use Law No. 3 to selectively demolish damaged buildings or entire areas, then recycle the rubble for use in other industries. Law No. 3 grants an administrative unit the right to demolish any damaged property, regardless of the extent of the damage. Under the law, the rubble will be removed at the expense of the owner, who could be compensated later. Owners of buildings built on publicly owned land have rights only to the rubble. The governorate maintains a warehouse to store the belongings and movable assets it deems valuable, provided that they are later sold at a public auction to benefit owners if their ownership is documented. The costs of removing the rubble are then deducted.
The Homs City Council relies on three methods for removing rubble: first it uses its own machinery, second, it contracts with public sector companies, and third, it contracts with local and international NGOs. The Homs branch of the Syrian Red Crescent submitted two projects in 2020 to remove rubble. The first aimed to remove 15,000 cubic metres of rubble from the Khalidiyeh neighbourhood, and the second to remove 40,000 cubic metres from Al-Sbeil and Al-Bayada. The city council also launched campaigns to remove rubble alongside organisations affiliated with the Baath Party, such as the Student Union and the Revolutionary Youth Union.
Properties at risk of collapse in Homs