Investigations | 09 Dec 2014

Abu abd al-Rahman, who fled the oppression of the "Islamic State" in his hometown of al-Raqqa, never aniticpated a situation whereby the hotels of the Damascene Marjah district would become his only shelter, and the only place where his wife and two sons and he would be able to lay their heads.

The man tells Rozana of his suffering ever since he left his hometown, al-Raqqa, after ISIS entered it, saying: "I left my home and came to Damascus looking for safety for myself and my children. Everything was relatively easy, except for finding housing. After about 45 days of looking for a place to rent, I finally found a home in the Mazzeh Jabal area."

The house comprised a bedroom and a living room, with a monthly rent of 60 thousand pounds. The family was obliged to pay 4 months’ rent in advance, plus an insurance of 30 thousand pounds, not to mentiond 20 thousand as the broker’s commission. 

Abu abd al-Rahman acceded to these onerous conditions, yet his efforts were abruptly foiled. He failed to obtain the necessary security permit to rent in Mazzeh Jabal, which came back with a rejection. "Most of those whom I met, told me that people from other provinces, especially the eastern and northern ones, never get approvals for housing in areas of central Damascus; and that if it were to be obtained, such was done by paying bribes of up to 50 thousand pounds."

Abu abd al-Rahman adds, "all the brokers with whom I dealt advised me to try and rent in the relatively safe rural areas such as Jaramana and Jdaidet Artouz. Despite my acceptance to do so, I found no houses available for rent there. I have, therefore, taken the decision to remain put in my hotel in Marjeh, as this has proven to be a cheaper alternative to renting a house." 


Staying in a Hotel is Cheaper

The Marjeh district in the center of Damascus, has noticeably become shelter for displaced persons by the conflict. Rates per night range between 1500—3000 pounds, depending on the hotel’s rating and the services provided. 

When comparing accommodation at the hotel to renting a home in a safe area in the capital, according to Abu Abdul Rahman; a family wishing to rent a house should initially be able to come up with 290 thousand Syrian pounds; whereas the monthly cost of staying in a hotel per month is only 60 thousand pounds. 

And while the rents may be comparable; the difference is that hotel guests bear no electricity, water, communications, heating or air conditioning costs whatsoever. A hotel guest is, additionally, not responsible for any repairs or maintenance of the rooms in which they live—unlike a house. 


The 'Usual Suspect:' It is all the Dollar's Fault

When asking real estate office owners and brokers for the reason behind the current wave of price rises in real estate, Radwan, owner of a real estate office explained by saying that "rising rents are normal. There is heavy demand created by the displacement of many families from the provinces towards Damascus, versus the lack of supply of rentable space." 

Other owners of real estate offices link high rents to the hike in the price of the dollar in the market—without properly explaining how such affects the price increase of real estate. Their reasoning being: "The dollar is like a sea wave: it lifts everything up with it. At any rate, we are living in a time of crisis and everything will, naturally, be expensive."

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