Unexpectedly, Basilia City Reawakens

Damascus’ Marota City has for years taken the media spotlight as an example of a reconstruction project that has yet to see any real results on the ground. However, discussion has grown in recent weeks around Marota’s sister construction project, Basilia City.

Legislative Decree No. 66 of 2012 provided for the establishment of two new real estate zones in Damascus. The first, Marota City, extends southwest of Mazzeh. The second zone, set aside for Basilia City, is south of the southern ring road and extends across roughly 900 hectares of real estate in Mazzeh, Kafr Sousseh, Qanawat Basatin, Darayya and Qadam.

Renewed subscription

For the second time since September 2020, the General Housing Establishment (GHE) announced in mid-February that it was reopening housing subscriptions to people eligible to receive alternative housing within the Marota and Basilia projects, and who had not yet completed the subscription procedures or made their initial cash payments. Subscription for the housing is to remain open through March 2021. All alternative housing projects originally slated to be built in Marota and Basilia were transferred in 2019, to be built in Basilia City alone. 

Levelling the ground

The Damascus governorate and GHE, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Works and Public Housing, began on February 9 to level the land, and pour a concrete foundation on a plot of land slated for one of the six alternative housing blocks to be built in Basilia City.

Estimating real estate value

On February 8, the Damascus governorate called on owners of real estate in Basilia City to view value estimates for their properties. The estimates had been drawn up by the directorate tasked with implementing Legislative Decree No. 66, based in Mazzeh. The call came after the value estimates committee finished appraising around 4,200 properties in Basilia City. 

Decree No. 66 tasked the Damascus governor with forming a committee consisting of one judge and four real estate appraisal experts to estimate the “value of real estate properties in the area under the current situation”. The committee will take into account that “compensation [for a demolished property] is equal to the real value [of the property] as it was immediately before the date that the legislative decree was issued, and that every rise in prices that occurs as a result of this decree, or any commercial speculation, will be deducted from this compensation amount, if such a rise in value is not justified by a similar increase in surrounding areas, which are taken into account when estimating [property] value”.

The committee, whose work was delayed ever since the issuance of Decree No. 66 in 2012, finally set their estimate of the value of one square metre of property in Basilia, at the 2012 prices. The committee did not take into account recent price inflation or depreciation of the Syrian pound, meaning the loss will be substantial for former owners. According to social media users opposed to the committee’s appraisal, the committee's price of one square metre of land without construction has reached SYP 30,000, while one square metre of constructed land is SYP 40,o00.

Under Decree No. 66, internal dwellings within the development zone constitute common property shared among those holding rights therein in shares equivalent to the estimated value of the property for each, and the in rem rights which they possess.After issuance of the estimated real estate values, the values of the regulated plots are then estimated and distributed as equity shares in common among rights owners. Regulated plots are plots of land slated for construction within the zoning plans. This means that property owners get equity shares in the organised area. They also have the opportunity to subscribe to purchase alternative housing  if they had occupied the property prior to eviction.

Not subject to appeal

In an announcement, the Damascus governorate described the valuation committee’s appraisal as “final and not subject to appeal or review, under Legislative Decree No. 66 of 2012”.

However, the decisions issued by the committee can be appealed before the Court of Appeals under Law No. 10 of 2018, which stipulates that one or more organisational zones can be established within an administrative unit’s existing general zoning plans. The law also included some amendments to Decree No. 66 of 2012. Article 6 of Law No. 10 stated: “The two organisational zones included in Legislative Decree No. 66 of 2012 benefit from the provisions of Law No. 10, except for what has already been accomplished under the decree that established them”.

Dispute resolution committees

On January 12, 2021, the Damascus governorate announced dispute resolution committees in Basilia City had finished their work and called on rights claimants to visit the headquarters of the Decree No. 66 implementation directorate to receive certified copies of their decisions, issued by the dispute resolution committees.

The dispute resolution committees have judicial jurisdiction to review all objections and claims of ownership or in rem disputes over real estate inside the development zone. All similar existing cases related to the area, which are before the courts, shall be transferred to it if they are pending a final judgment.

The resolution committees are also nine years behind in completing their work.

Pouring a concrete foundation, SANA.