Investigations | 13 Dec 2014

Abu Mahmoud, a construction contractor in the Bisnada and Demserkho regions, was incapable of completing construction of his third building this year; after the Department of Building in the Lattakia City Council embarked on its campaign to remove violations to the Building Code.

The man says that the Latakia City Council, had already turned a blind eye to thousands of Budiling Code violations, that cannot be easily removed now.

He adds: "We temporarily halted work here after receiving a visit by the Building Department few days ago, accompanied by about 300 army soldiers to remove the violting buildings, or those built on agricultural land not intended for construction. We will try to find a way out, and strike a deal with the City Council people, before restarting work on the building."

Necessity or Invention?

In the last twenty years, hundreds of neighborhoods violating the Buidling Code sprang up in Syrian provinces, inhabited by millions of people from different social groups. Many believe that this phenomenon is merely an expression of the pressing need for housing, as well as the officials delinquency in providing adequately zoned areas for real estate development, to accommodate the growing needs of Syrians.

Given the ongoing war and the attendant increasing corruption and a lack of oversight; construction contractors are quickly converting every piece of land they can find, into apartments that are eventually sold for less than half the price of officially approved ones.

Batoul lives in one the Building Code violation apartments in the Da'atour area. She describes the situation by saying: "I cannot afford a regular apartment, and the state doesn't help us to get one. We therefore found no problems in buying this little house, in a violation neighborhood."

Blessing in Hell

The displacement of thousands of Syrian families towards the city of Latakia, sharply raised property prices, whether purchase or rental. Doing business in real estate became "blessing in hell," as some citizens describe it.

Building contractors took advantage of this need, and new buildings sprouted out of nowhere; entire blocks not subject to any form of prior engineering or geological screening related to soil type and the safety of the place for building. And with the rush from city dwellers to purchase new apartments and houses, some farmers have even destroyed their orange and olive trees, to free that land for buildings, in the hope of striking it rich, quickly.

Wael, a young man living in a building violation area, says: "Despite the start of the campaign to remove violations and irregularities; that did not stop the violators from construction work. In my area, there are many contractors who have even resumed work under the protection of soldiers and weapons."

Real Estate, The Coming Crisis

Economist Ghassan Habra, speaks on the potential outcome of this huge wave of building violation. He expects this tide to increase, leading to growth in offer offset by a lack of demand, due to weak purchasing power and the high cost of construction materials.

He explains: "This will lead to a real estate recession, and thus lower the value of construction as well as the loss of the money supply invested therein, which should have been invested in economic development. This is a waste of national wealth, which may result in a major economic crisis."

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