Explained: Building Code Violations in Suweida

According to official statistics, between 2011 and 2021 some 2,600 building code violations were recorded in the city of Suweida, 1,000 in the city of Shahba and its suburbs, and more than 1,000 in other cities and towns across the governorate.

There are two types of building code violations. First are those whose status can be settled legally. These include buildings with more storeys than permitted, as well as buildings constructed on common properties, or infringing on setbacks or archaeological areas. This type of violation accounts for more than 70 percent of violations in the governorate, making it the most common.

Second are building code violations that cannot be settled legally and require the demolition of the building. They include buildings constructed on areas that already have zoning plans that did not include these buildings, on public properties such as roads and squares, private state-owned properties or properties belonging to administrative units, or those located within areas included within expropriation decrees. Such violations may also include buildings that violate structural safety codes.

Since 2011, official measures to solve building code violations in Suweida have been limited, with the governorate carrying out more than 2,000 controls against violators. These controls were followed by settlement procedures for those who met the conditions for settlement under Legislative Decree No. 40 of 2012, as well as payment of fines. Meanwhile, the judiciary has placed signs prohibiting disposal of buildings whose illegal status cannot be settled. Some such violations have already received demolition orders, which have not yet been implemented.

The main reason for the increased building violations in the Suweida governorate is the high demand for housing. Since 2012 many displaced people have fled to Suweida from other governorates to escape hostilities. There has also been during that same period a large migration of people from rural parts of Suweida to the main cities. In response to this demand for housing, one of the most common building code violations in recent years has been to build additional storeys to existing buildings without the proper licenses. In 2012, the construction code in Suweida was amended to include, among other things, an increase in the number of permitted storeys. However, this amendment is still awaiting approval by the Regional Planning Commission (RPC), affiliated with the Government.

On the other hand, members of local armed militias with ties to the security forces are building many stores suitable for commercial and industrial uses on sidewalks and in the zones set aside for main roads. Many of these are built in reinforced concrete, especially in the industrial zone in the northwestern part of Suweida city. These stores are rented to craftsmen and small traders.

The need for increasing the number of commercial and industrial stores around the industrial zone is due to the restrictions set by the Suweida State Security branch over any potential expansion of the industrial zone. The branch restricts available plots within the zone to people who are close to it, or to those who pay bribes.