In late November, the General Establishment of Housing has issued a series of consecutive statements stating that it would speed up the process of allocating homes to applicants for social housing projects. However, this move appears to come alongside an amendment to the contract conditions without prior agreement, namely increasing the value of the monthly instalments to be paid by applicants, under threat of cancellation in the event of non-payment.
In Syria, there are numerous social housing projects aimed at securing low- or medium-cost housing and at selling it to applicants. The General Establishment of Housing, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, is usually the party responsible for implementing these projects. Allocating a home to each applicant means creating a contract between the subscriber and the Housing Establishment that determines the obligations for each party. This allocation contract includes the location and description of the housing unit and is documented by the Ministry of Public Works and Housing. Allocation through this contract does not, however, mean that construction has been completed or that handover of the housing unit will occur soon. Rather, the contract is considered a title deed provided that the remaining financial obligations are met.
On November 25, the General Establishment of Housing announced that it had allocated 3,033 homes to applicants in social housing projects across several governorates. The majority, some 2,080 homes, were allocated in the youth housing programme in the Dimas City project, located in the Rural Damascus Governorate. The project is located 20 kilometres northwest of the Damascus city centre and borders the Damascus-Beirut highway to the northwest. Some 14,300 youth housing units are included in the Dimas City project, of which only about 1,000 have been completed thus far. Subscription for the youth housing units ended in 2004, while the delivery of the housing was originally planned for 2016.
It is worth noting that on November 28, the General Establishment of Housing called on those who had been allocated plots or equity shares in the Dimas City project to pay 50 per cent of the value of those plots or shares within a three-month deadline. The Housing Establishment threatened that those who failed to pay by then would have their allocations cancelled. Equity shares are given as a form of compensation for expropriation by public institutions in a given area. It is unclear whether the expropriations mentioned in the warning occurred in the Dimas City project or somewhere else.
In any case, the implementation of most social housing programmes has been interrupted over the past decade, with the Housing Establishment now trying to reactivate some projects. But due to drastic changes in the value of the Syrian pound in recent years, as well as the rising prices of construction materials, the Housing Establishment has raised the value of the monthly payments for such housing without prior agreement from the applicants. The body is now threatening to cancel existing allocation contracts if applicants do not pay their monthly instalments according to the new prices within specific time limits.
It is not clear to what extent the instalments have increased within the Dimas City youth housing project or if the increase applies to other social housing projects in Syria. An announcement on Dimas City’s unofficial Facebook page from 2019 indicated that the monthly instalments for the project had been raised to SYP 8,000 from SYP 3,000 in 2011.
The General Housing Establishment does not set final prices for allocated apartments, adhere to deadlines for handing over the allocated homes, or set final deadlines for the instalment payment process. This inconsistency has caused chaos and confusion among applicants, who fear that the Housing Establishment may not be serious about transferring the apartments it has allocated them.