The Housing Monitor is publishing its periodic report for July and August 2021. In this period, 40 cases of threatened cases were monitored affecting 206 people including 3 elderly people, 20 single women, 89 children, and 4 people with disabilities. Along with this report that analyzes the type of housing precarity reported and eviction threats, we are also publishing for the first time a legal report detailing the legal approaches and negotiation strategies that the Housing Monitor utilizes to defend housing rights. This legal report attests to the need for a multidisciplinary approach by legal experts and lawyers to reinforce housing rights, as well as the need for new laws that protect and fortify these rights.
Around 70% of the reporting groups live in the affected areas, with the majority of those facing housing threats being Syrian refugees, following them Lebanese, then workers from several nationalities.
Despite the existence of Law 194/2020 “Protecting Affected Areas and Supporting Their Reconstruction”, which includes an article that obligates the extension of all rent contracts in affected buildings, tenants are being threatened with eviction, mostly by small owners. We have also monitored 6 cases of threats from multi-property owners or investors. The causes of these threats are related to three major themes: rent increases by owners during the contractual year, refusal to renew contracts, and rent increases after renovations by NGOs. These threats are also accompanied by abusive practices, like forceful eviction threats, forced entries, dicrimination, and power and water cuts.
The story of Layal, a resident of Gemmayzeh, portrays the negative effects of NGO interventions through restoration with a technical approach while ignoring the relationship between renovation and real estate investment, and the consequences of this approach on housing rights. Layal received 18 million LBP as compensation from the army, and paid it to the owner as renovation cost. The owner did not carry out any renovations, and an NGO intervened and carried them out instead. After these renovations, the owner demanded a 600% increase in rent.
In fact, renovation is being used as a tool for eviction, especially of old tenants. For example, Khalil, whose father died in the apartment as a result of the port explosion, is living in a three-story building that consists of 5 apartments and commercial properties. Before the explosion, 2 of the apartments were rented out through airbnb, another was rented out under a new agreement, and the remaining 2 were still rented under an old agreement. To this day, the owner has not started any renovations, making 3 out of 5 apartments currently vacant. He sent an eviction notice stating the need to vacate for 1 month, using renovation as an excuse. In the absence of any laws that guarantee the tenants their right to return, they decided to stay and appeal the legitimacy of the notice.
We are in dire need of laws that protect housing rights, and prevent displacement, especially in the framework of reconstruction that threatens the gentrifying of areas damaged by the port explosion.