Syria’s state-run SANA news agency reported on September 8 that the Implementation Directorate in charge of implementing Legislative Decree No. 66 of 2012, which operates under the Damascus governorate, delivered about 47,438 ownership deeds for zoning shares to property owners in Basilia City — out of 93,829 owners. The directorate’s head, Al-Muhandas Diab, urged the remaining owners to visit the directorate to complete the necessary paperwork for the deeds and hand them over, “allowing trading to commence as soon as possible.”
This statement appears odd since the Implementation Directorate already allowed the trading of zoning shares in Basilia City for a full year last May. This discrepancy might be due to a lack of actual trading activity on the ground, sources told The Syria Report. These sources affirm that the only entity showing “theoretical interest” in buying shares is a group of real estate brokers active on social media, especially on WhatsApp groups. They claim to be willing to pay between SYP 2-3 per share.
Legislative Decree No. 66 of 2012 established two zoning areas within the jurisdiction of the Damascus governorate. One of these is an area located to the south of the southern ring road, known as Basilia City, covering an area of 954 hectares, with more than 100,000 ownership deeds. As per Decree No. 66 and Law No. 10 of 2018, properties in the area are redistributed to rightful owners via zoning shares. These are essentially common shares in designated building plots.
According to Decree No. 66, the value of the lands and properties in the area are appraised in Syrian pounds before being converted into a common shared ownership among rightful owners. Then, the value of the designated building plots is calculated in Syrian pounds, and subsequently, the value of these plots is divided among the rightful owners in the form of zoning shares.
Not all previous inhabitants of the area receive these shares. Property owners residing in their licensed properties before rezoning, receive zoning shares and the right to apply for alternative (albeit paid) housing. If an owner did not reside on property, they only receive zoning shares. If they are merely an occupant, they get the right to apply to alternative, paid housing.
In July 2021, the Damascus governorate stated that rightful owners would receive 35,000 zoning shares per square meter of their original properties. The governorate invited owners to collect their share ownership deeds throughout 2022. After distributing these deeds, the share trading phase began in mid-May 2023.
The Decree No. 66 Implementation Directorate then unofficially set the initial price for a single zoning share at SYP 1. The Damascus Finance Directorate set a two-percent tax on each share, adding reconstruction and war effort fees amounting to 20 percent of the tax value, making the total share value SYP 1.024.
A correspondent for The Syria Report noted signs suggesting that real estate brokers interested in buying zoning shares might be working for a single, currently undisclosed entity. The price offered by these brokers remains nearly constant, despite half of the legal trading period having passed. The majority of shareholders do not prefer selling at this price, waiting instead for it to improve or for other developments that might increase the price, such as the demolition of some real estate areas in some locations within Basilia City or the completion of any of the alternative housing towers.
Some shareholders residing in Damascus stated that the Basilia City project remains a theoretical venture. All administrative measures, including distributing ownership deeds for zoning shares and distributing shares among heirs, are still on paper. Sources informed the correspondent that there have been no actual sales of the zoning shares to date, with one describing the situation as a “game of finger biting” between shareholders and undisclosed “investment entities.”
One shareholder, Mohammad, told The Syria Report that the situation in Basilia City “does not bode well,” expressing surprise that no well-known or credible companies or investment entities have expressed interest in investing in Basilia City. This would allow shareholders to communicate directly with them, sell shares and sign partnership agreements. Theoretically, a shareholder has three options under Decree No. 66: convert their shares into a zoning plot, sell their shares at a public auction or form or join a closed joint-stock company.
Mohammad added that despite the significance of the Basilia City project, its location in the western part of the capital, and its vast size, the Implementation Directorate has not yet outlined a clear plan for completing the multi-phase project, nor provided a vision for its funding and implementation.
A local source currently residing in the area confirmed to The Syria Report that most areas under zoning in Basilia are still inhabited. An exception to this is Al-Asali area, where the authorities have not allowed residents to return since it was retaken by regime forces in mid-2018. The source pointed out that none of the inhabited areas in Basilia have been evacuated so far, and no evacuation notices have been issued to the residents.
Meanwhile, Mohammad stated that any move to evacuate these areas and demolish them would prompt many residents to be displaced once again. There are no indications that state-owned construction companies are nearing completion of any of the alternative housing towers for eligible residents of the zoning area.
Mohammad said he would not sell his shares at the current proposed price, even if he “had to donate them to charitable endowments.” He explained that an apartment of average size costs around 40 million zoning shares, based on plans. This estimate does not include execution costs, which, when factored in, could significantly raise the price. Mohammed added that he owns 55 million shares, and if he sold them at the current rate, he wouldn’t be able to purchase a single room in Damascus or its surroundings.
The Syria Report was unable to determine the mathematical relationship between common shares, zoning shares, and the size of the original property.