Two temporary housing buildings have been completed in Aleppo’s Masaken Hanano district and will house residents of homes at risk of collapse, the governor of Aleppo told the state-owned Tishreen newspaper in early January.
The units are part of a project–slated for completion by the end of 2023–that the Aleppo City Council launched in 2020 to construct 10 residences containing 224 apartments in Masaken Hanano, in Aleppo’s eastern neighbourhoods, a source on the council told The Syria Report. The council owns the units.
However, the units were not fully allocated for residents whose homes are at risk, unlike what the governor said. According to the city council source, the council will not distribute them as alternative housing but rather as temporary shelters for emergency or urgent cases. For example, people facing sudden eviction from their homes due to imminent collapse will be allowed to stay in the Masaken Hanano housing units for a renewable six-month period, during which time they must search for other housing.
Unconfirmed rumours suggest that the 10 housing units project was built on the site of buildings that were destroyed by regime airstrikes during the period of opposition control over east Aleppo in 2012-2016. Thos destroyed buildings are said to have been owned by residents who were forcibly displaced from the area.
The city council plans to use the units to house some residents of the informal Al-Haydariyeh neighbourhood, which is now the site of a real estate development zone, the council source said. These residents will only be allowed to live in the units temporarily, until the housing units allocated to them are completed–which in turn will not be free of charge, as residents have to buy it.
Under Real Estate Development and Investment Law No. 15 of 2008, a real estate development zone may handle informal settlements, no matter the size of the latter. An administrative body subjecting an area to Law No. 15 may expropriate privately owned real estate located within that area in accordance with the Expropriation Law. In cases like this, the administrative body must allocate a portion of the residential plots it builds to sell to the owners of the real estate expropriated from that zone.
According to the website of the General Commission for Real Estate Development and Investment, the Aleppo City Council established the real estate development zone in Al-Haydariyeh in 2010. The 118-hectare zone was meant to “upgrade” the area, which contained unlicensed constructed buildings. The area is fully expropriated by the state, and all the real estate within it are included in the general zoning plan for Aleppo city, which was approved in 2004.
Beyond the housing project in Masaken Hanano, the city council has a number of other units in the neighbourhood, as well as in Al-Sukkari and Al-Mashhad neighbourhoods that can be used as temporary shelters. Such buildings are owned by people who were forcibly displaced to opposition-held areas. They were partially damaged, though the city council rehabilitated a number of them in 2021-2022 and they now house families who were evacuated from at-risk homes in Al-Saliheen, Al-Fardous, Al-Maadi, Al-Maysar, Qadhi Askar and other neighbourhoods.
In December 2022, the city council began demolishing some severely damaged and uninhabitable buildings in various parts of east Aleppo. The head of the city council said on November 9, 2022 that evacuations had begun for some 1,500 buildings at risk of collapse so that they could be demolished. He added that an action plan was needed to evacuate and find alternative housing for those residents, as a sizable portion of those buildings are still inhabited.
For those forced to vacate their damaged, at-risk homes, temporary housing is not easy to come by. The city council requires that applicants meet a complex set of conditions before being granted such housing. One person who was evacuated from their home in Al-Saliheen neighbourhood told The Syria Report that the city council refused to grant them the temporary housing usually given to people in his situation because “he owns a car.” The justification wasn’t clear but it could be that the council considers a car-owner as being relatively well-off and hence not needing support. Other people said that wasta, or personal connections, were needed to obtain such housing, or payment of bribes to city council officials.