The Aleppo City Council has demolished and removed more than 50 informally built properties in the Al-Maasraniyeh neighbourhood, in preparation for the completion of a youth housing project in the area. The project threatens the property rights of hundreds of former residents who have been displaced from the area due to the war.
Al-Maasraniyeh is located along the Aleppo-Raqqa highway, near the Aleppo International Airport. It is home to one of the largest settlements of informal housing built on state-owned property in Aleppo city. The neighbourhood’s informal housing problems date back to 1982, when the Aleppo municipality issued an expropriation decree for a number of plots within Real Estate Zone 10, for the purpose of expanding the airport road. As a result, a large area of land was suddenly transformed into state-owned property, with the housing already built over it rendered “informal housing”.
Residents continued to build on some 36 plots of land that had been only partially expropriated and had not been included in the airport road expansion project. The purchase and sale of these properties took place through court-issued contracts. In 2002, the Aleppo municipality ceded these partially expropriated plots of land to the General Housing Establishment (GHE), which is affiliated with the Ministry of Works and Public Housing. In this way, the GHE moved forward with expropriating what remained of those already partially expropriated 36 properties. Afterwards, the GHE began work to build a youth housing project in Al-Maasraniyeh, one of several types of social housing programme developed across Syria.
The Aleppo City Council and GHE then surveyed informal housing residents in Al-Maasraniyeh in 2004. They aimed to compensate owners of recently expropriated properties by granting them the right to apply for apartments within the new youth housing project.
On paper, the youth housing project covers 68 hectares of land in Al-Maasraniyeh, including 132 plots with a total capacity of 3,960 apartments. The project was launched in stages beginning with the demolition of some informally built properties on site in 2004. Only one phase of the project has been completed so far, with some of its apartments handed over in 2010 to people who had applied for the project. It is not clear how many apartments were completed in that first phase, nor how many were delivered to applicants.
Both informally built housing and youth housing units in Al-Maasraniyeh became dangerous places to live after 2012, due to their proximity to the airport. The area came under regime aerial bombardment until 2016, causing most residents to flee, and leading to material damage, especially to informally built housing.
Today, only around 250 families live in Al-Maasraniyeh, scattered among the remaining informal housing, as well as the small number of completed youth housing apartments. There are no services available in the neighbourhood, including electricity, transportation, and water. A number of pro-Iranian militias have set up headquarters and other military sites in the neighbourhood, including Liwa Al-Baqer and the Nubl and Al-Zahraa Militia. The area is considered strategic because it is near the airport.
A source from the Aleppo City Council told The Syria Report that, until the end of 2019, the GHE had worked to identify youth housing applicants still committed to make payments for their future apartments, and allocated housing for them within the Al-Maasraniyeh project. As for applicants who were not committed to pay, measures have reportedly been taken to cancel their applications. The source added that more than half of the applications had been cancelled, including those for applicants who stopped paying in 2012-2016. Most of them have been forcibly displaced from Aleppo.
According to the source, workers affiliated with the city council are currently demolishing what remains of Al-Maasraniyeh’s informal housing, much of which was destroyed in past bombing. Most of the former residents live elsewhere, having been displaced to areas outside regime control in Aleppo. The government will not compensate these displaced residents, nor will it grant them the right to apply to alternative housing within the youth housing project, the source added.
A Youth Housing Block in Al-Maasraniyeh
Source: Social Media