Expropriation Decree Threatens Demolition of 400 Properties for the Benefit of Hama University
The Hama City Council has decided to demolish around 400 properties built on expropriated land in order to construct a wall for Hama University. The council informed the homeowners in December 2021 that they must vacate their properties without providing any housing alternatives.
An expropriation decree was issued in 2010 for an 11-hectare area of the Mashaa Al-Tayyar neighbourhood, part of the larger Mashaa Al-Naqarneh area southeast of Hama city. The expropriation was meant to benefit Hama University by expanding the campus and building a wall and student housing. At the time, the decree set the allowance for owning one square metre of expropriated land at SYP 35. In 2010, the expropriated area contained less than 30 houses for landowners. All these buildings are not licensed because they are built on land classified as agricultural, on which it is not permissible to build.
Under Expropriation Law No. 20 of 1983, the entity carrying out the expropriation must pay the allowances no more than five years after the issuance of the expropriation decree. If payment is delayed, the entity must pay an annual interest of six percent of the property’s value. The jurisprudence of the Court of Cassation confirmed this requirement in Decision No. 11307 of 2002, when it gave property owners the right to demand interest for late expropriation allowance payments after five years had passed since the initial expropriation decree. The Court of Cassation’s Decision No. 227 of 1982 also gave owners of expropriated properties the right to request a re-evaluation after five years without paying the expropriation allowance. Re-evaluation here means accounting for changes in the prices of real estate.
In the 11 years that have passed since the issuance of the Hama University expropriation decree, none of the expropriated land owners, including owners of unlicensed buildings, have been paid their dues. During the war, more properties were built in the expropriated area, though without construction permits, due to the cheap local prices and urgent housing needs. Owners of these newly built homes do not receive any compensation under the expropriation decree. The semi-official newspaper Al-Watan, quoted the Hama City Council president as saying that when the land was expropriated in 2010, there were 15-20 unlicensed homes on it. But due to the ensuing years of conflict, the number of informal and unlicensed buildings increased. There are now apparently more than 400 unlicensed homes located on land officially meant for the university campus, according to the Hama City Council president.
During his visit to Hama in December 2021, the Prime Minister requested an appropriate solution for the affected residents without evicting them from their homes before securing alternative housing. In reality, the solution does not appear so simple. Residents of any expropriated area are not entitled to apply for alternative housing unless the expropriation is part of the implementation of one of the urban development or regulation laws which apply in an informal area in need of zoning. This is not the case for the land expropriated for Hama University.
It bears mentioning that on October 5, 1987, the Ministry of Public Works and Housing (at the time called the Ministry of Housing and Utilities) issued a report, numbered 2/28/36, that required expropriating bodies to secure alternative housing if the expropriation project affected residential buildings. It is unclear if the report had any practical application.