Explained: Social Housing Programmes in Syria

There are numerous social housing projects in Syria built by state-owned entities and established with the aim of supplying low- or mid-priced housing. These projects have assumed various descriptions and designations and are subject to various legislative terms and conditions. Usually, the General Housing Establishment (GHE), affiliated with the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, takes on the largest share in implementing Syria’s social housing projects.

Popular housing: Legislative Decree No. 94 of 1953 allowed the municipalities of Syria’s major cities to establish popular housing, meant to accommodate certain segments of the population, namely workers and employees. The housing units would be sold for cash or in interest-free instalments over a period of seven years. The Al-Jalaa neighbourhood of Damascus’ Mazzeh area is home to one of the first popular housing projects, built during the period of unification between Syria and Egypt, 1958-1961.

The Ministry of Public Works and Housing issued Zoning Decree No. 1570 in 1984, which included a system for allocating popular housing, and determining who could be beneficiaries of such housing. These measures built off of Expropriations Law No. 20 of 1983.

Savings housing: This program was launched under Housing Savings Law No. 38 of 1978. Subscribers to the program were required to pay a specific monthly sum according to the housing categories offered, on the understanding that they would receive housing units after five years.

Labour housing: This program began as housing projects that were developed and owned by the state and leased to public sector workers. In 1980, the government formed the Labour Housing Committee (LHC) with the aim of building and leasing housing units to public sector workers. Law No. 43 of 1982 then regulated the leasing mechanism and controls for such housing. Government circular No. 1117 of 1988 defined labour housing as buildings constructed by the LHC and registered in the Land Registry as property belonging to the government. Decree No. 46 of 2002 amended Law No. 43 of 1982, allowing occupants to own the housing under certain conditions. The 2002 decree was applied to housing projects that had been implemented up to that date.

Employee housing: This housing is similar to labour housing in that it temporarily benefits public sector workers, while ownership remains with the state. That is, the occupant is treated as a tenant by the state for the duration of their stay until they either resign or retire, at which point the lease ends and they must vacate the home. Employee housing requires that the resident remain employed, and in return they do not incur any of the costs of housing construction, furniture, or repairs. It is often difficult to distinguish between employee housing and labour housing due to the lack of clarity in the laws governing the two.

Youth housing: This program was launched in 2002 under Prime Ministry Decree No. 1940, with the aim of securing 65,000 small apartments for youth across Syria, on condition that subscribers not already own a house listed in the Land Registry. There are three categories of youth housing, determined according to their size: 85, 75 and 65 square metres. Subscribers must pay a 30 percent down payment on their apartment upon receiving it, plus monthly instalments.

Youth housing was meant to be launched over five phases: apartments in the first phase were to be delivered five years after subscription, the second after seven years, the third and fourth after 10 years, and the fifth after 12 years. However, by 2021, only apartments from the first phase, and some from the second phase, have been completed. Most of the following stages are still in the stage of  contracting and construction.

Alternative housing: Subscription is available for occupants of informally built housing or housing built in violation of the construction code that was destroyed. Beneficiaries of alternative housing must provide their property deed or old lease in order to receive a share in a commonly organised zone. These shares authorise the property owners to subscribe for an apartment or part of one, though they do not exempt them from paying for it. The two zones established under Decree No. 66 of 2012, Marota City and Basilia City, are the most prominent examples of alternative housing projects. However, the alternative housing projects for the two zones suffer from poor funding and delays.

Government housing: Launched in 2011 to build more than 11,000 housing units in all governorates and for all citizens, the so-called Government housing is supposed to be funded by a government loan without interest. The project stalled, as it coincided with the start of the “Syrian crisis”, the expression the government uses to describe the Syrian uprising of March 2011. The GHE later announced in November 2020 that a zoning plan had been issued for a housing project in the Maarouneh area in Damascus Countryside. It would be the first such project within the government housing programme.

Youth housing

Source: Athr press.