Syria’s Prime Minister laid the foundation stone in December 2021 for the Al-Amal residential suburb project in the city of Hama, located in Al-Naqarneh along the Hama-Aleppo highway.
According to official statements, the project covers an area of 104 hectares and is composed of 7,000 residential apartments distributed over 60 plots for cooperative housing, 83 plots for social housing and 19 plots for owners of expropriated lands. The project site was expropriated by the General Housing Establishment. The General Company for Construction and Development is set to build the infrastructure for the project for an estimated cost of SYP 7.6 billion.
Following these statements, the General Housing Establishment announced the sale of the 60 housing plots allocated for cooperative housing to housing cooperatives in the Hama Governorate. Any cooperative hoping to purchase one of the plots must submit a written request to the Directorate of Housing Cooperatives in the Hama Governorate, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Public Works and Housing. The request must be accompanied by the necessary documents as well as a written pledge that the cooperative will make an advance payment of SYP 180 million before attending the public allocation sessions for the plots.
Al-Naqarneh is a big area just south of the city of Hama home to a large informally built neighbourhood called Mashaa Al-Naqarneh or Hayy Al-Naqarneh, as well as privately owned farmland. Informally built homes began to appear en masse over the past decade on farmland expropriated by the state in 1983. The Hama City C0uncil issued zoning plans in 2008 for the expropriated farmlands in Mashaa Al-Naqarneh, granting permits to housing cooperatives to construct 1,724 housing units within an area of 104 hectares. Some of the units have already been constructed. However, in September 2018, the Hama governorate waged a wide-reaching demolition campaign in the district under the Building Violations Legislative Decree No. 40 of 2012. Some of the buildings constructed by the cooperatives were also demolished for unclear reasons. The demolitions continued over the course of an entire week.
The location of the Al-Amal suburb and its zoning plans – whether or not they overlap with the current site of Mashaa Al-Naqarneh – remain unclear. However, it does appear that the suburb could be a new, amended copy of the old zoning plans for Mashaa Al-Naqarneh that were issued in 2008, with the number of housing units raised from 1,724 to around 7,000 within a 104-hectare area. What is notable is the project’s transition from merely a cooperative housing project to one that includes both cooperative and social housing under the supervision of the General Housing Establishment.
According to Al-Watan, a pro-government newspaper, Mashaa Al-Naqarneh still contains many buildings that violate the building code and that belong to “big traders whose violations nobody dares to interfere with.” Previous attempts were made to add Mashaa Al-Naqarneh to the zoning plans for Hama city, but the Agricultural Directorate in Hama, affiliated with the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, refused this change as the area is classified as agricultural land. Also, the Water Resources Directorate in Hama, affiliated with the Ministry of Water Resources, refuses the rezoning of the area because it sits within the government irrigation line project.
A home collapsed in Mashaa Al-Naqarneh in October 2021, killing two people. The Hama Governorate at the time simply warned residents of the danger and requested that they evacuate. It is worth noting that the Hama Governorate has dealt with Mashaa Al-Naqarneh according to Legislative Decree No. 40 of 2012, which concerns “building violations,” rather than as an area of informal settlement that may be addressed under any of the development or urbanisation laws in effect. Law No. 40 addresses construction code violations on an individual basis while issues related to informal neighbourhoods, on the whole, must be handled collectively in order to ensure property owners’ rights. Where Law No. 40 only grants owners of individual destroyed real estate properties the right to dispose of the debris, rights holders in informal neighbourhoods may register in alternative housing programmes or for organisational shares in the area after its rezoning.
Picture of the Al-Amal Suburb Plan