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Popular Housing and Urban Land Tenure in the Middle East

Popular Housing and Urban Land Tenure in the Middle East: Case Studies from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey

Myriam Ababsa
Baudouin Dupret
Eric Denis
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Popular Housing and Urban Land Tenure in the Middle East
    Book Description:

    Irregular or illegal housing constitutes the ordinary condition of popular urban housing in the Middle East. Considering the conditions of daily practices related to land and tenure mobilization and of housing, neighborhood shaping, transactions, and conflict resolution, this book offers a new reading of government action in the cities of Amman, Beirut, Damascus, Istanbul, and Cairo, focusing on the participation of ordinary citizens and their interactions with state apparatus specifically located within the urban space. The book adopts a praxeological approach to law that describes how inhabitants define and exercise their legality in practice and daily routines. The ambition of the volume is to restore the continuum in the consolidation, building after building, of the popular neighborhoods of the cities under study, while demonstrating the closely-knit social relationships and other forms of community bonding.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-351-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Contributors
    (pp. xv-xx)
  6. Introduction Forms and Norms: Questioning Illegal Urban Housing in the Middle East
    (pp. 1-12)
    Myriam Ababsa, Baudouin Dupret and Eric Denis

    This book aims at describing and taking seriously two major transformations that have been observed in the Middle East during the last thirty years: first, the accelerated changes in public policies toward neighborhoods characterized as irregular or illegal, and second, the claim that this form of housing in urban areas constitutes the ordinary and majority condition.¹

    There is nothing specific or original about these observations; and indeed the aim of this volume is to emphasize their banality in favor of empirical work aimed atdescribinginteractions specifically located within the urban sphere. This is as part of a wider trend...

  7. Part 1: The Production of Forms and Norms from Within

    • 1 Mukhalafat in Damascus: The Form of an Informal Settlement
      (pp. 13-46)
      Etienne Léna

      In 1936, in his preliminary report, René Danger, a land surveyor and town planner working on the Plan for Development, Extension, and Embellishment of the city of Damascus (Danger 1937),¹ was already concerned by a phenomenon of illegal construction in the market gardens that surround the city and the risks this posed for city resources (Danger 1937). Danger, who had a legalistic vision of his role, proposed, on the basis of urban rules developed in the metropolis, the creation of anon-aedificandizone for gardens. Several years later, in their report on a new town plan of Damascus, Ecochard and...

    • 2 Selling One’s Property in an Informal Settlement: A Praxeological Approach to a Syrian Case Study
      (pp. 47-66)
      Baudouin Dupret and Myriam Ferrier

      This chapter addresses the issue of how real-estate transactions are organized in so-called informal neighborhoods in Damascus, that is, city quarters that developed in contravention of laws governing rural lands that are deemed theoretically improper for development. There are many different practices, which may look random, yet they are shaped through a complex relationship to the law, which acknowledges the existence of informal neighborhoods, calledmukhalafat, in different ways. We shall describe this relationship through a single case study, by analyzing documents kept by the buyer of a property: Mrs. Sabbah.

      The apartment Mrs. Sabbah bought is located in the...

    • 3 Securing Property in Informal Neighborhoods in Damascus through Tax Payments
      (pp. 67-90)
      Myriam Ferrier

      The informal neighborhoods of Damascus present the seemingly paradoxical situation in which the inhabitants of a construction that is considered illegal have the right to live in, sell, or even inherit it, and possibly pay taxes on it. Such contradictions may seem surprising. One might expect that any non-compliance with the law would be severely penalized, that infractions would be punished, and that documents issued by the Ministry of Finance stating that the sale of housing built in violation of the law would be used against the inhabitants of such premises. Yet that is not the case: certain forms of...

    • 4 Inhabitants’ Daily Practices to Obtain Legal Status for Their Homes and Security of Tenure: Egypt
      (pp. 91-110)
      Marion Séjourné

      Today, as in many developing cities, most urban fringes around Cairo are designated as illegal. This urbanization does not comply with at least one of the laws governing urban land development and building (planning codes, subdivision laws, land rights, and so on). Moreover, most of the transactions are not registered; constructions do not have building permits, and properties lack formal title deeds (Séjourné 2006). These forms of urbanization account for most of the expansion of Greater Cairo and house most of its population growth. Indeed, urban spread and population growth were very high from the 1950s until the late 1970s,...

    • 5 Vertical Versus Horizontal: Constraints of Modern Living Conditions in Informal Settlements and the Reality of Construction
      (pp. 111-136)
      Franziska Laue

      Urban Syria is one of numerous examples worldwide of a city dealing with the issue of rapid urbanization, as well as urban formal and uncontrolled informal growth.¹ Alarmingly, this contributes to ever increasing ‘costs’ in terms of land consumption, environmental damage, and infrastructural needs. Syrian cities are continuously expanding, mainly at their urban fringes. Besides demographic growth and rural–urban migration, Syria’s larger cities are growing while rural areas are gradually losing their population. With the rate of urbanization increasing from 51 percent to 61 percent in the next twenty-five years (Meinert 2007), projections for municipal development suggest that Syria’s...

    • 6 The Politics of Sacred Space in Downtown Beirut (1853–2008)
      (pp. 137-168)
      Ward Vloeberghs

      Beautiful or not, the Muhammad al-Amin Mosque (Fig. 6.1) is Lebanon’s largest mosque. The view of its characteristically blue dome dominates the Beirut city center, and its construction of this mosque arguably marks the magnum opus of the late Rafiq Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister assassinated in 2005. This new structure, in a pervasive way, transforms the immediate urban environment and embodies a politically meaningful evolution of the city’s skyline.

      This chapter will show how a prestigious building like this mosque, in its actual form, is the result of a confrontation with a number of norms that imposed themselves...

    • 7 Shared Social and Juridical Meanings as Observed in an Aleppo ‘Marginal’ Neighborhood
      (pp. 169-202)
      Zouhair Ghazzal

      Syria’s main cities, beginning with Damascus and Aleppo, are padded with neighborhoods whose housing, design, and sewage facilities are the products of the residents themselves. Known in the common official dictum as “the zones of illicit habitat,” such neighborhoods have been built from scratch by the inhabitants themselves, defying all kinds of rules and regulations imposed by state and municipal authorities.

      This chapter focuses on one such ‘illicit’ neighborhood in Aleppo on three interrelated levels. First, it examines the norms of the habitat created by the inhabitants themselves, who have to take planning decisions not only with regard to their...

  8. Part 2: Public Policies toward Informal Settlements:: From Eviction to Self-help Recognition (or Legitimization) and Back

    • 8 Secure Land Tenure? Stakes and Contradictions of Land Titling and Upgrading Policies in the Global Middle East and Egypt
      (pp. 203-226)
      Agnès Deboulet

      Over the last decade, the percentage of the urban population living in slums has decreased dramatically in the developing world: it has dropped from 39 percent in 2000 to 33 percent in 2010 . . . . Despite this the number of slum dwellers is increasing in absolute terms . . . . The progress made by the development goal on slums is inadequate” (UN DESA 2010, 62). Precarious urbanization is separate from economic growth and is reinforced by difficulties in finding decent housing in urban areas where speculative mechanisms, weak or disengaged states, and inadequate standards deny an increasing...

    • 9 The Commodification of the Ashwa’iyyat: Urban Land, Housing Market Unification, and de Soto’s Interventions in Egypt
      (pp. 227-258)
      Eric Denis

      From 1997 to 2002, I followed the intervention of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) in the framework of experimental urban rehabilitation in Egypt. At that time I was involved with the GTZ (Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit GmbH) in a study regarding the extent and dynamics of irregular settlements in Cairo. The work of the ILD aims at formalizing so-called ‘illegal’ popular ownership, with the strong hypothesis that these secured ownership acts allow for more transparent transactions and popular and generalized access to mortgage loans aimed at stimulating a more inclusive economy. Hernando de Soto, Director of the ILD,...

    • 10 Public Policies Toward Informal Settlements in Jordan (1965–2010)
      (pp. 259-282)
      Myriam Ababsa

      While the issue of the management of Palestinian camps in Jordan and their integration into the urban fabric of the agglomerations of Amman-Russeifa-Zarqa¹ and Irbid has been extensively studied (Destremeau 1994; Jaber 1997; Al Husseini 2011), few studies have focused on the management of informal areas developed on the periphery of the camps and in Jordanian cities more generally. Only the anthropologist Omar Razzaz and the urban planner Jamal Al Daly have addressed the issue of informal settlements; one to study the conflicts that pitted the members of the Beni Hassan tribe against the state in 1986, when the latter...

    • 11 Mülk Allah’indir (‘This House is God’s Property’): Legitimizing Land Ownership in the Suburbs of Istanbul
      (pp. 283-302)
      Jean-François Pérouse

      Illegal construction contained for the first time”: this was the striking headline on 30 June 2007 inToday’s Zaman, a new Turkish daily close to the current government. Published just ahead of the latest general elections, this paper leads one to believe that a new era has arrived in the public management of self-produced settlements; it argues that “for the first time” a promise of an illegal construction amnesty has been made by politicians, ahead of the general elections of July 2007.

      “Istanbul: a huge illegal metropolis,” should be considered as a persistent cliché to be avoided. It is used...

    • 12 Law, Rights, and Justice in Informal Settlements: The Crossed Frames of Reference of Town Planning in a Large Urban Development Project in Beirut
      (pp. 303-320)
      Valérie Clerc

      When faced with informal settlements, town planners usually devise urban projects that bear in mind the fact that the transformation of space has a social impact. For some of them, this social change is one of the main goals of planning: improving living conditions, encouraging social diversity, normalizing certain practices, protecting the social identity of places, defending residents’ and owners’ rights, encouraging access to the city, and so on. How do these planners think the transformation of space might influence social practices? The designers explain numerous causal links between existing or planned spatial shapes and the social shapes they identify...

    • 13 The Coastal Settlements of Ouzaii and Jnah: Analysis of an Upgrading Project in Beirut
      (pp. 321-348)
      Falk Jähnigen

      This research paper stems from a period of research spent at the Institut Français du Proche Orient (IFPO) in Beirut and the subsequent period when I completed my degree at the Technische Universität Berlin. It focuses on two neighboring informal settlements in the south of Beirut (Jnah and Ouzaii) that have grown rapidly since the onset of the civil war and continue to grow today. Therefore the purpose of the research project is to suggest appropriate planning procedures and possible initiatives to improve the lives and living conditions of the citizens in the two neighborhoods. The original dissertation is divided...