On June 4, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued Legislative Decree No. 140 of 2023, permitting the Daraa City Council to implement Chapter Two of the Urban Planning and Urbanisation Law No. 23 of 2015 for properties in the Daraa real estate zone No. 1. The decree enables the implementation of the zoning area in the city’s Al-Maftara neighbourhood.
The decree stated that the zoning plan for the city of Daraa and the detailed subdivision plan indicate the boundaries of the zoning area. The prime minister’s office, the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, and the Daraa City Council hold copies of these plans.
Chapter One of Law No. 23 gives local administrative units multiple options for zoning an area. Meanwhile, Chapter Two includes the main provisions of Law No. 23 and addresses zoning, which can be applied to any one of the following cases: areas affected by natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods or damaged by wars and fires; urban expansion areas to the general zoning plans for city centres after the year 2000; areas that appended to the general zoning plans for cities and towns; or areas where the administrative unit wants to implement the general and detailed zoning plan related to it. Zoning involves partitioning the land into zoning divisions by the administrative entity.
Al-Maftara neighbourhood, located in the western part of Daraa city, is the last urban area separating the city from its countryside. It is at most three kilometres away from the town of Yadouda. After 2013, the regime forces withdrew from the towns of Yadouda and Muzayrib. They assembled in Al-Maftara, turning the neighbourhood into a frontline with opposition forces. In 2015, opposition forces took control of the Al-Maftara neighbourhood for several days during the “Storm of the South” battle before withdrawing under pressure from regime forces. The regime maintained control until it reached an agreement with opposition forces in Daraa in mid-2018.
After the agreement, some residents returned to Al-Maftara neighbourhood. Regime forces remained stationed at several nearby military sites, most notably Air Defence Battalion 285, the Panorama, and the Daraa suburb. They even used civilian locations in Al-Maftara, such as the Abu Naeem olive press, for gathering and mobilising before executing their military campaigns in 2021 and 2022 towards the towns of Tafas and Yadouda in western rural Daraa. The same has occurred since the beginning of this July, with regime forces aiming to launch a military operation on the farms near the town of Yadouda.
Part of the Al-Maftara neighbourhood, specifically the section north of the Corniche road, was previously zoned and added to the zoning plan for the city of Daraa. However, the new area declared under Decree No. 140 for zoning is south of the Corniche. It includes more than 100 properties and parts of more than 50 properties. This area witnessed the arrival of mass displacement from the city of Daraa in mid-2011. Some people who arrived in the area built homes on land they owned. According to The Syria Report’s sources, about 1,500 people occupied more than 100 buildings south of the Corniche during periods of military calm.
The area south of the Corniche was considered a buffer zone for the city zoning plan, which separated the area between the zoned and unzoned areas. Parts of a buffer are routinely zoned during the expansion of a zoning plan. Municipalities and the executive office in the governorate prohibit the construction of residential or commercial buildings in the buffer zone.
On July 4, state-run newspaper Tishreen published an article justifying the zoning process with the fact that the urbanisation rate, according to Daraa’s zoning plan, had reached 90 percent, resulting in a shortage of remaining housing and an increase in prices. According to the newspaper, the shortage required that the city add more zoning divisions for construction.
The president of Daraa’s city council told Tishreen on January 23 that Al-Maftara neighbourhood’s expansion area was 158 hectares and that the topographical survey was complete. He added that the area was divided into various residential subdivisions, schools, parks, service facilities, and roads, among other things. He said that zoning the area will provide around 1,200 residential subdivisions to the Daraa city zoning plan, five percent of which will be for youth housing.
The city council president also said there was a second, 180-hectare urban expansion zone called Al-Kashef Al-Shamali and a third, 142-hectare zone in Tal Al-Sultan and Al-Bahhar on the outskirts of Daraa.
Like most laws addressing urban expansion and planning, properties inside the newly formed zoning area established under Law No. 23 constitute commonly owned property among all the rights holders in that zone. Each of those rights holders is granted equal shares to the estimated value of their property or in-kind properties. The local administrative unit deducts up to half of the surface area of each property in the zoned area in cities that are governorate centres without paying the property owners for this deduction. Instead, this deduction occurs in return for what Law No. 23 describes as the material and moral benefit that the property owner will receive as a result of their property entering the new zoning area, as well as the assets that will be allocated towards securing basic services. These include roads, public squares, parks, parking lots, public facilities, popular housing subdivisions and special service subdivisions, in addition to any increase in the purchase value of the properties.
Sources told The Syria Report that an initial appraisal committee was formed under Law No. 23. The committee comprised a real estate judge, two real estate experts, and two local resident representatives. The committee began its work in late June. The job of this committee is to give initial appraisals of the property values in the zoning area before it is zoned. Afterwards, a dispute resolution committee will be formed to consider any property ownership claims or disputes between property owners. That will be followed by a compulsory land readjustment committee to distribute the subdivisions in the zoning area to the rights holders. Compulsory land readjustment occurs during the zoning of an area, by distributing shares to rights holders in locations that are typically not the sites of their original properties.
On July 4, the head of the technical department at the Daraa city council told Tishreen that once the compulsory land readjustment decision is issued, the Directorate of Cadastral Affairs will be contacted to issue new property documents for the resulting properties and deliver them to their owners, so they can dispose of them, whether for licensing and construction or for selling them.