Informal Settlement in Syria

This timeline provides a preliminary overview of major events, including key laws, decrees, presidential recommendations, policies, programmes, and activities related to informal housing in Syria. It aims to contribute to understanding the approach of Syrian authorities to informal settlement in the decades preceding the event of 2011 in Syria.

Therefore, it focuses specifically on events that took place during the rule of Hafez al-Assad and the rule of his son Bashar al-Assad, especially the period preceding the outset of the events of 2011, that is the period between 1971 and 2011. Some entries preceding the rule of Hafez al-Assad were included, particularly those related to the post-independence era and the period when the Ba‘ath Party took power, given their significance to the discourse of informality in the country thereafter. Others following the Syrian events of 2011 were only included if they directly relate to earlier entries. ;xNLx;;xNLx;The timeline is developed as a live document where the feedback and suggestions for amendments and additions from Syrian and international experts are highly welcomed.;xNLx;;xNLx;The timeline was prepared as part of a project run by the Arab Reform Initiative, funded by GIZ and conducted by Ahmad Sukkar, Hani Fakhani, and Sawsan Abou Zainedin in 2021.;xNLx;;xNLx;The team sincerely thank all those who were consulted throughout the process of developing this project, especially Dr. Valerie Clerc and Prof. Patrick Wakely.;xNLx;;xNLx;Some dates are approximative.;xNLx;;xNLx;Icons:;xNLx;;xNLx;Last updated: 15 August 2021

1936-06-01 00:00:00

Damascus Masterplan (René Danger Masterplan)

The Plan for Development, Extension, and Embellishment of the city of Damascus was prepared by French townplanner René Danger.

1949-06-01 00:00:00

48/1949 - Civil Law

A significant portion of the Civil Code deals with property law matters.

1952-01-01 00:00:00

111/1952 - Rent Law

The law regulated property lease contracts.

1956-01-01 00:00:00

232/1956 - Eviction Compensation

The law set the compensation to value rate in the case of eviction.

1958-01-01 00:00:00

161/1958 - Land Reform Law

The law placed limitations on the ownership of land.

1960-01-01 00:00:00

44/1960 - Informal Properties

The law defines informal properties and mandates their demolition.

1961-01-01 00:00:00

683/1961 - Public Establishment for Housing (PEH) المؤسسة العامة للإسكان

The PEH was established according to Presidential Decree No. 683 of 1961.

1968-01-01 00:00:00

Damascus Masterplan (Ecochard and Banshoya Masterplan)

Damascus Masterplan was conceived by French archutect Michel Ecochard and Japanese architect Gyoji Banshoya.

1974-01-01 00:00:00

14/1974 - Lands Law / Obligating Vacant-lands Construction

The law aimed at increasing housing supply through imposing penalties on owners of lands that are prepared for construction (connected to infrastructure) and located within the urban areas boundires. The owners are subject to panilites of the land is not constructed to its maximum use within a certain timeframe.

1974-03-01 00:00:00

69/1974 - Cooperative Housing

The law sees the housing cooperatives as an instrument that would contribute to the state housing plan.

1974-06-01 00:00:00

9/1974 - Partitioning and Organizing Cities

The law of land partitioning and cities masterplanning.

1975-01-01 00:00:00

Prohibiting Demolition of Informal Buildings without Providing Substitute Housing

A presidential recommendation advocated that informal buildings built of cement with a door and a window and covered with a reinforced concrete roof could not be destroyed without offering a dwelling in compensation.

1976-01-01 00:00:00

03/1976 - Prohibiting the Trade of Lands within Planned Areas

Prohibiting the trade of lands within the region of planned areas.

1979-01-01 00:00:00

60/1979 - Urban Expansion Areas Law

According to the law, Urban Expansion Areas (UEAs) defines as all real estates that are not planned by a relevant master plan.

1981-01-01 00:00:00

Extending Services to Informal Settlements

Then Prime Minister's decision to improve informal districts and help their integration into the city led to a policy of increased public facilities development and infrastructure in informal settlements during the 80s and 90s.

1981-06-01 00:00:00

13/1981 - Housing Cooperative Law

The law aimed at providing affordable housing at cost price through the framework of housing cooperatives.

1982-01-01 00:00:00

05/1982 - Urban Planning Law

Procedures for putting the principles of master-planning and preparing the building regulations. The law was amended by Law 41/2002.

1983-01-01 00:00:00

20/1983 - Land Acquisition Law

The Law regulates land acquisition by authorities in favour of public interest, this is including but not limited to acquiring private lands to extend infrastructure and public services or to plan and repartition in order to be suitable for construction and housing projects.

1991-01-01 00:00:00

10/1991 - Investment Law

Improved the conditions for private investment in the country and removed some restrictions on imports and provided some exemption from customs and tax duties.

1994-01-01 00:00:00

Urban Management Programme UMP

The UN-Habitat's Urban Management Programme was implemented in Syria based on the request of the Syrian government with the aim of developing new approaches to improve living conditions in informal settlements and prevent their uncontrolled development.

1994-06-01 00:00:00

Dweila and Tabbaleh Upgrading Project (Part of UN-Habitat Urban Management Programme UMP)

In 1994, a pilot project in the districts of Dweila and Tabbaleh in Damascus was implemented by the Ministry of housing and Damascus governorate as part of the UN-Habitat's Urban Management Programme.

1994-10-01 00:00:00

Including Informal Settlements in City Development Plans

As a result of the UN-Habitat Urban Management Programme UMP, Syrian authorities realized that the only viable solution to address informality was the assimilation of existing settlements into the fabric of the adjoining cities by including them in city development plans and providing infrastructure services.

2000-01-01 00:00:00

Public Social Housing Production

In 2000s, the Public Establishment of Housing (PEH) relaunched its construction of public housing and reoriented its efforts toward the low income population. More than 57000 dwellings were planned around Damascus since 2000, more than the PEH has ever built in this area since its founding in 1961. By 2009 however, only a few more than 3000 had been completed; on 16000 of these work was still in progress.

2000-01-01 00:00:00

26/2000 - Amendment to the Urban Expansion Law

The Law addresses the Housing Expansion Areas and subjects them to the expropriation law in order to be planned by the authorities.

2001-01-01 00:00:00

06/2001 - New Rental Law

Removing rent controls previously legislated through Law 111/1952. (Amendment to law 111/1952). The law regulates the rental fees based on a percentage of the property value and provides the landlords with a root to terminate the rent contract providing they pay compensation with the value of 40% of the current property value

2002-01-01 00:00:00

41/2002 - Urban Planning Law / Amendment

Amendment to Urban Planning Law No. 05/1982

2003-01-01 00:00:00

1/2003 - Building Violations Law

Handling informal buildings.

2004-01-01 00:00:00

Ministry of Local Administration and the Environment (MLAE)

MLAE became in charge of urban planning, previously attributed to the Ministry of Housing and infrastructure.

2004-06-01 00:00:00

46/2004 - Regularisation of Some Informal Settlements

Law 46 provided for the regularisation of some informal settlements through the provision of titles and building permits under certain conditions.

2004-10-01 00:00:00

Tourism Investment Market (TIM)

The Tourism High Council set up the Tourism Investment Market (TIM). Since the first one in 2005 these markets have become yearly events where some public land is offered to the investors.

2005-01-01 00:00:00

10th 5-Year Plan

The 10th 5-year plan (2006-2010) was adopted by the Syrian government, introducing a new model for development: The Social Market Economy.

2005-01-01 00:00:00

Municipal Administration Modernisation programme (MAM)

The Municipal Administration Modernisation programme was a €20.5 million EC-funded programme aimed at improving local governance and administration; achieving better planning and management of urban growth; and delivering of key municipal services. It was ran in 6 of Syria's biggest cities and encompassed 17 areas of intervention.

2005-01-01 00:00:00

Flow of Investors

The years 2005 and 2006 saw the arrival of investors from the United Arab Emirates and from Kuwait. From 2007, legal reforms have allowed expatriate Syrians to invest in their own country. The same year saw also the arrival of the property branch of the Qatar sovereign wealth fund, Qatari Diar, which announced some of the most ambitious projects.

2006-01-01 00:00:00

The Study on Urban Planning for Sustainable Development of Damascus Metropolitan Area

The Study was commissioned by the Syrian government to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to produce a masterplan for the urban development of the Damascus Metropolitan Area, reflecting the position of the capital region in the socio-economic development of Syria in relation to other regions.

2007-01-01 00:00:00

Sustainable Urban Development Programme (UDP)

The Sustainable Urban Development Programme was a €4 million GTZ-funded programme to promote capacities for urban management and development at national and municipal level.

2007-01-01 00:00:00

Detailed Studies

In 2007, a series of Detailed Studies was conducted for the urban renewal of 17 inner urban zones in Damascus defined by the governorate, including several informal ones.

2007-03-01 00:00:00

08/2007 - Lifting Land Ownership Cap on Investors

Foreign investors allowed to own or rent lands for investment project even if the size of the land exceeds the land ownership cap.

2007-06-01 00:00:00

09/2007 - High Investment Council and Syrian Investment Agency

Establishing the High Investment Council and the Syrian Investment Agency a one-stop services bureau to facilitate and support international investment in the county

2007-08-01 00:00:00

17/2007 - Housing Cooperatives

The law sees the housing cooperatives as an instrument that would contribute to the state housing plan. The law provides for the establishment of the housing cooperatives and sets their operational and legal framework. According to the law, the aim is to increase the supply of affordable housing at a cost price for the cooperatives' members.

2007-11-01 00:00:00

32/07 - Lifting Cap on Foreign Investor Ownership of Industrial Land

Foreign investors allowed to own or rent lands in industrial cities for their investment project even if the size of the land exceeds the needs of the project and the ceiling of the size of lands allowed to be owned.

2007-11-01 00:00:00

Atlas of Public Land - Damascus

Creating an atlas listing all public land in Damascus, outside the masterplan, available for the construction of large-scale projects.

2008-01-01 00:00:00

15/2008 - Real Estate Investment Law

The law provides for establishing the General committe for real setate development and investment.

2008-03-01 00:00:00

Real Estate Investment and Development Commission (REDIC)

REDIC, located within the Ministry of Housing, was established as per law 15/2008 in order to supervise, reorganize and control the real estate sector. It assumed many responsibilities previously granted to the Ministry of Local Administration and Environment (MLAE), which is responsible for the urban planning in Syria, or to the Governorates.

2008-06-01 00:00:00

59/2008 - Penalties on Illegal Properties

The law imposes penal sanctions and monetary fines on those building illegal properties for facilitating the partitioning and selling of the lands in the informal market.

2008-08-01 00:00:00

33/2008 - Formalization of Properties Ownership

The law aims at the regularization of real estate in certain districts under certain conditions.

2008-11-01 00:00:00

59/2008 - Building Violations

The law impose penalties including prison sentence on those involved with the construction of informal properties.

2009-01-01 00:00:00

39/2009 - Establishing Mortgage Finance Supervisory Authority

A Presidential decree has established a Mortgage Finance Supervisory Authority (MFSA), a step which aimed at easeing access to finance and increase demand in the real estate sector.

2009-03-01 00:00:00

Preliminary Urban Profile of Rief Damascus

In March 2009 preparatory assistance from the Cities Alliance was granted to the Ministry of Local Administration and Environment and to the Governorate of Rief Damascus to undertake preliminary investigations of informal urban development in the Damascus fringes and to prepare for a large grant from Cities Alliance for the upgrading of Rif Damascus informal settlements.

2009-03-01 00:00:00

Damascus Masterplan

The Governorate of Damascus commissioned Khatib and Alami (Architectural and planning firm) to prepare the new Damascus masterplan.

2009-06-01 00:00:00

Rif Damascus Regional Masterplan

The Governorate of Rif Damascus started developing a regional masterplan.

Informal Settlement in Syria

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