In March 2022, an official delegation, led by the prime minister, visited the Youth Housing project in the city of New Dimas in the Rural Damascus governorate to examine construction works and confirm that the project would be completed by the end of 2024.
The project is located on a 600-hectare plot of land along the Damascus-Beirut highway. According to plans, it will include 350 residential towers and 26,000 apartments. Of those apartments, 12,000 are allocated as alternative housing for owners of real estate expropriated under Expropriation Law No. 20 of 1983. The project also includes 14,300 apartments slated for youth housing, a social housing programme run by the General Housing Establishment (GHE) of the Ministry of Public Works and Housing.
During his visit, the GHE director announced the allocation of 2,000 apartments to applicants from 2020 as part of the body’s obligations to build 14,300 youth housing apartments in Dimas. The director’s reference to “allocation” describes the signing of a contract between an applicant and the GHE which defines the obligations of both parties; it does not mean that the construction has been completed or that the handover of the finished apartment will occur soon. The director also added that the GHE was aiming to finalise contracts with implementing parties with the goal of completing 3,200 new apartments.
Subscription for the Dimas youth housing project began in 2002. Construction was launched a decade later, with completion scheduled for 2016. Following a long delay, the GHE announced in 2018 that construction on the project had restarted.
One notable aspect of the recent government visit to Dimas was the prime minister’s assertion that the instalments to be paid by applicants would be no more than SYP 8,000 per month. The GHE director added during the same visit that his organisation would allocate housing to applicants after they pay 30 percent of the value of a given apartment. Applicants could then pay the remaining value over a period of 25 years, with monthly payments of no more than SYP 8,000. However, these two statements appear to contradict the facts on the ground.
The estimated value per square metre of an apartment within the youth housing project was SYP 12,000 to 15,000 when the project launched in 2002. That value rose to SYP 20,000 in 2009 then to SYP 100,000 in 2019. In early 2022, the GHE further increased the value per square metre of the apartments that were considered 80 percent complete to SYP 600,000.
Based on this price, the cost of one 100-square-metre apartment is around SYP 60 million. Applicants must pay 70 percent of this after allocation – that is, over the next 25 years – which amounts to SYP 42 million, with monthly instalments of SYP 140,000. Should they pay the maximum SYP 8,000 per month for the apartment, as per the prime minister’s estimation, applicants would complete their payments in 437 years.
In any case, the government’s estimation of the value of these apartments does not match current real estate market prices in Dimas City. The semi-official newspaper Al-Watan said that housing prices in Dimas City are influenced by supply and demand, which the GHE has no ability to control, especially amid the widespread trading of subscription and allocation documents on the black market. The news outlet cited one example of an allocated 90-square-metre apartment on the seventh floor of a residential building, reporting that the current market price of the apartment is SYP 115.7 million, while the GHE’s estimation is no more than SYP 54 million.