Decree No. 13 of 2022, issued in August, granted wide-reaching tax exemptions and concessions within historic city centres and souks in the Aleppo, Homs, and Deir-ez-Zor governorates. However, it does not appear that the measure will directly result in easing the restoration and rehabilitation of homes, shops, and other facilities in these areas.
How to obtain a permit
The tax exemptions granted until the end of 2023 present an important opportunity for taxpayers and certain economic actors, to restore their homes and workplaces. Still, it remains unclear how much the restoration and rehabilitation fees cost, as they differ from one part of Syria to another and have no clear regulatory measures. Financial Law of Administrative Units No. 37 of 2021 imposed a fee equivalent to one percent of the value of the total surface area of a property, calculated at the current value, to grant so-called “reconstruction permits.” It is unclear in this case whether reconstruction refers to restoration, rehabilitation or repair work to properties.
In all cases, rehabilitation work means returning a building to useful condition through repairs that cause the least possible change. On the other hand, restoration includes: restoring a building’s outer structure, repairing any doors and the roof, reinforcing insulation, and renewing structural networks to prevent collapse.
Property owners must first obtain a restoration permit to undertake rehabilitation and restoration work, which is granted by local administrative councils. Before doing so, however, they must obtain a security clearance.
Restoration permit applicants must present the following documents: Proof of ownership or approved certified legal proxy, real estate registration statement, a survey plan, a location plan, financial clearance, a copy of their ID and proof of legal inheritance (if the property has been inherited).
Additional conditions within historic city centres
Within historic city centre districts, there is a complicated condition that an applicant must also meet to obtain restoration permits. The relevant city council must issue an integrated technical study on the status of the local souk or historic district, which explains the original plans for the traditional buildings, the construction materials and any technical or craft methods used to build them.
This study must meet special conditions imposed on historic districts. Such conditions are set by the city and governorate councils and the Ministry of Culture’s General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums for that governorate. Among these conditions: the original description for historic properties is not changed, the original building materials be preserved, and any reconstruction work remains compatible with the traditional building methods.
In reality, such studies are completed for most historic souks in the Homs governorate’s historic souks, some of those in Aleppo, and none in Deir-ez-Zor. It is up to the relevant city councils in all cases to decide which areas will be covered by the decree requiring these studies.
Notably, Decree No. 13 may make it easier for some government-backed Syrian NGOs to obtain contracts to restore and rehabilitate historic souks with funding from international organisations.