Land Policies in Lebanon


The current crises have proven the urgency of questions related to the systems that guide and manage lands in Lebanon, as well as policies and concepts stemming from the prevailing practices. This section deals with the emergence of urban planning and its institutions, and the path these institutions took. It also evokes historical periods that were pivotal in shaping the structure of the property and land system in Lebanon during the past hundred years, and their relationship with major social and political transformations. 

In this sense, we review parallel pathways in the history of policies, through timelines of the cement, agriculture, marine public property, and housing sectors. Through these timelines, we refer to the historical connectivity and resemblance between land policies on the one hand and the construction of an economic-political identity on the other. 

During several eras, land policies have emerged as a tool for consolidating the real-estate rentier model and as an opportunity to accumulate wealth and establish the control of members of the ruling class in the different regions. For a hundred years, planning has been an instrument of the domination of both people and geography by the ruling class, rather than a means of achieving social justice and managing resources.


Promulgation of the so-called Ottoman “Tanzimat”, a system of reforms that separates lands from the network of rights that prohibited their commercial exploitation, and thus the onset of transforming and regulating the concept of land management on the basis of individual ownership.

Beirut port 1980s
Beirut port pre-1900


Expanding and modernizing the Port of Beirut for it to become the sole sea crossing for the transfer and import of European products into Syria, in parallel with the advent of the capitalist system in the Levant

إعلان لبنان الكبير 2
Declaration of Greater Lebanon at the Pine Residence of the French Ambassador


Proclamation of the State of Greater Lebanon


Establishing a modern land registry in Lebanon and Syria, canceling communal lands, and authorizing survey teams to enter villages and update all title deeds – thus, causing change in ownership relations.


Defining the maritime public domain which includes the farthest point on the seashore reached by winter waves, as well as sand and gravel shores and riverbanks. This definitions made the property exclusive for public use, and prohibited their sale or transfer of ownership.

Old picture of Chekka
Chekka coast 1920s


Establishing the first cement manufacturing company in Lebanon: “Lebanese Cement Company” by Archbishop Antoine Arida in partnership with the “Societe d'Entreprise et de Réseaux Electriques, Paris”. In 1932, the Swiss company HolderBank replaced the French company.


Defining the system of “real estate” ownership, which gives the right to use, enjoy and dispose of a property within the limits of laws, decisions, and regulations. These rights vary according to ownership type.


Establishing the “Lebanese Cement Company” factory for the manufacture of cement within the municipalities of Heri, Chekka and Kefraya.


Initiating the legislation of the Stone Crushing Industry sector along with the promulgation of the Quarry Investment Law whose articles cover all aspects regulating the sector.


Cement production increased, with exports going mainly to the Palestinian markets. Production was about 49 thousand tons in 1938 and reached 100 thousand tons in 1940.

Promulgation of a decree implementing provisions to all types of cement used in cement industry, transportation, trade, import from and export to all Lebanese territories and costs.


Developing the first Lebanese Construction Law, an updated and revised version of the French Construction Law adopted at the time; the law belongs to a colonial context rather than embodying local experience and concepts thereof.

Major socio-political changes


Legislation specific to land management

Agriculture land

Cement sector

Legislation specific to the cement sector

Legislation specific to construction

Legislation specific to marine public domain

Institutions specific to housing

Legislation specific to rent

Affordable housing legislation

BDL decisions/loans/eskan


Independence of Lebanon


Passing of the 1944 Tenancy Law allowing contract extension and increases in rental fees. The decree was followed by amendments that allowed the extension of its provisions period to 1954, the validation of rent increases/decreases, and had set conditions for eviction.

epa01333550 An handout picture provided by the Israeli Goverment Press Office on 04 May 2008 shows Arabs fleeing with just tthe possessions they are able to carry as they make their way toward Lebanon from villages in the Galilee during Israel's 1948 War of Independence. During the 1948 war Arabs fled to Lebanon, to Jordan, into the West Bank areas, and the Gaza Strip and became refugees in what they refer to as the 'Nakba,' or the catastrophy. Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary on May 14, according to the internationally-used Gregorian calendar; on May 8, according to the Hebrew calendar.  EPA/ELDAN DAVID  EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Palestinian civilians forced to flee from Galilee some months after the creation of the state of Israel


Al-Nakba and the Palestinians’ displacement to Lebanon


The customs boycott of Syria 1950


Lebanon succeeded in occupying the eighth place in the world in exporting lemons. Syria was the first importer of Lebanese produce in terms of quantity.


Establishing the “National Cement Company” (Al-Sabaa) for the cement industry by the Sehnaoui, Ossaili, and Doumit families, within the municipality of Chekka.


The promulgation of a new construction law which intensifies construction by removing restrictions imposed earlier, on the height of buildings. This took place through calculating investment factors by region, an action which falls within the framework of the laisser-faire policy and complacency in the name of encouraging free market economy.


Establishment of the "Ministry of Public Planning" to direct and coordinate Lebanon's development policy, collect data and produce statistical information, aiming at enhancing national wealth and improving the living standards of the population. Its primary task was to develop a comprehensive planning approach.

Lake Qaraoun, Litani River

Launching the implementation of the Litani Project based on a study addressing the aquatic, agricultural, electrical and geological aspects of the river.

Abu Ali river 6
Damages caused by Abu Ali River flood in 1955


Tripoli, Abu Ali river flood

Launching Al-Qasimiyah Irrigation Project by the Litani River Authority, which planned and implemented several agricultural irrigation projects that resulted in economically productive agricultural lands.

News of the earthquake that hit Lebanon in 1956 in "Jours de France"


An earthquake hits Al Chouf, Jezzine, Sidon, and parts of the Bekaa valley

Establishment of the “National Construction Authority”.

Extension of lease contracts and determination of rental fee increases.


Tripoli, Abu Ali river second flood

ثورة 1958
Street mobilizations in Beirut in 1958


“The 1958 Revolution”


Annulment of the “National Construction Authority” and establishment of “Construction Administration”.

Major socio-political changes


Legislation specific to land management

Agriculture land

Cement sector

Legislation specific to the cement sector

Legislation specific to construction

Legislation specific to marine public domain

Institutions specific to housing

Legislation specific to rent

Affordable housing legislation

BDL decisions/loans/eskan


The Fouad Chehab Era and the adoption of a new policy based on strengthening the role of the central state and its institutions


Extension of the Rent Law without any increases.

Establishing the “Lebanese White Cement Plant” factory in Chekka. Currently, Holcim owns 66% of its shares.


Promulgation of the first urban planning law defining the development of urban design and regulations for cities and regions according to land use in the light of public interest.

Establishment of the “Housing Council”.

The National Cement Company owns 26 properties in Bdabhoun in one year.

Passing of the “Housing Act” that implicitly grants the right to housing.

Extension of lease contracts period to 1966 and an increase in rental fees.


Licensing of the National Construction Company to occupy the maritime public domain in Chekka region.

مساكن شعبية 1
Taamir housing project in Saida


Drafting of a law authorizing the government acquisition of real estate for housing the disadvantaged.


Putting housing cooperatives into operation.


Promulgation of a decree that considered the beach a single and indivisible natural space, and a public domain for everyone to access freely, assessing it as a natural resource.

Aerial photo from 1975 of Damour coast

Promulgation of Decree 4810 allowing the occupancy of maritime public domain by owners of properties parallel to the shore, by “allocating a part of the beach for individual or group occupancy.” This confined “limited access” to conditions that were easy to bypass, when it also allowed “the construction of permanent structures on the maritime public domain.”

Excavation pits in Koura middle plain


Looking for red cement, the National Cement Company began its excavation work in Koura central plains, house to almost two million olive trees.

Extending lease contracts, reducing rental rates, and setting some conditions for eviction and for landlords to regain possession of property.

Establishing a customs office at the National Cement Company factory in Chekka, with the authority to monitor the export of cement produced by the company and the import of raw materials.


Formation of “The National Cooperative Credit Union”.


Establishing the Council for South Lebanon.


A new Construction Law removes the conditions that were imposed on the height of building structures similarly in all areas, the diversity of land, geographical and social conditions.


Organizing northern beaches.


Organizing southern beaches.

Formation of “The Ministry of Housing and Cooperatives”.

مساكن شعبية 2
Masaken housing project in Mina - Tripoli

Disbanding the “Housing Council” and transferring the housing tasks to the “Ministry of Housing and Cooperatives” through the “General Directorate of Housing”.

Decree 4809 abolished and classified coastal lands (including those cultivated and irrigated by the Litani irrigation network) as “tourist or residential areas,” thus organizing coastal towns according to the pattern of our major cities. The decree increased investment factors at high rates, succumbing to the concept that encouraging beach tourism can be achieved only by increasing construction on the beach, and reinforcing the role of the service sector in the national economy.


Implementing and developing Al-Qasimiyah irrigation channels in the south of Lebanon. It became the largest project in Lebanon in terms of the irrigated area and the number of agricultural subscriptions.

Major socio-political changes


Legislation specific to land management

Agriculture land

Cement sector

Legislation specific to the cement sector

Legislation specific to construction

Legislation specific to marine public domain

Institutions specific to housing

Legislation specific to rent

Affordable housing legislation

BDL decisions/loans/eskan


Cancelling the Ministry of Public Planning and replacing it by the Council for Development and Reconstruction. Annulment of the “National Construction Authority”.

Annulment of the "National Construction Authority".

Cabinet approval to establish a Lebanese joint-stock company later named the “Housing Bank”.

Passing of the “Municipal Act” that allowed municipal councils to implement public housing projects.

1979 st minchel abdel karim abu diye
Saint Simon resort housing those displaced due to 1976 Karantina massacre


The Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon


Establishment of the “Independent Fund for Housing” commonly known as “Al Murr Floor”.

Ramlet el-Baida during the Israeli invasion of Beirut


The Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon and Beirut


The Mountain war

Public Corporation for Housing headquarters

Dissolution of “The Public Corporation for Housing” and the reinstatement of housing institutions that were previously cancelled.

A new urban planning law (abolishing the quarries law 1935), which subjected the licensing of quarries to conditions and rules determined by the General Directorate of Urban Planning in partnership with the concerned departments within an implementation decree resolved in the Council of Ministers.

Extending lease contracts, increasing rental fees, setting additional conditions for eviction, and for landlords to regain possession of property.


Collapse of the Lebanese lira


Dissolution of “The Public Corporation for Housing” and the reinstatement of housing institutions that were previously cancelled.

Suspension of payment notices in rent legal cases for a period of two months.

Sibline (back then owned entirely by Jumblatt) was having difficulties financing the completion of a cement project. Hariri gave a loan to Sibline and became a major shareholder in the company. The loan was granted while the negotiations were taking place to win over Jumblatt to the Syrian sponsored militia agreement.

Sibline cement factory


The Sibline Cement Plant starts operating within the boundaries of Sibline municipality in Al Shouf district.


Announcing the end of the Lebanese war

Major socio-political changes


Legislation specific to land management

Agriculture land

Cement sector

Legislation specific to the cement sector

Legislation specific to construction

Legislation specific to marine public domain

Institutions specific to housing

Legislation specific to rent

Affordable housing legislation

BDL decisions/loans/eskan


Capital increase for the Housing Bank.


A new construction law improves investment conditions for corporate in real estate and increases the percentages allowed for construction.

2_Advertisement 2
Promotion ad for housing ownership loans

Passing the “Free Contract Act” that deregulated rent control.


The Lebanese government prevented the import of cement from foreign markets, under the pretext of protecting the investments of cement factories in Lebanon to increase their production capacities, which led to a frequent increase in the price of the ton of cement.

Privatization of the “Housing Bank”, reducing government and social security subsidies.


IDAL, a governmental framework for real estate investment in Lebanon, that would provide incentives to investors and reduce taxes on investment.


The Lebanese Government granted Sibline Cement Plant the exclusive right to use the Jiyeh port facilities which is 5 kilometers away from the plant.

Cement companies were allowed (by the state) 6% sulfur in cement for months only; the effects of which are everlasting. Note that the rate was previously 3%, while the permissible global average is 1.75%.

related to 1995
Dalieh and Movenpick hotel in Rawche

Allowing the investment factors to be doubled for real estate parallel to the beach with an area greater than 20 thousand square meters in the event of building a hotel.

The Housing Bank resumes operations.


The Israeli attack on Lebanon

Dissolution of “The Independent Fund for Housing” and establishment of “The Public Corporation for Housing”.

Hariri’s Bank Med helped raise US$20 million for Sibline Cement Plant.

Offering incentives to banks for housing loans.

Tax exemptions for banks on housing loans and housing and residence contracts.


Implementing the "Facilitating and Developing Trade Exchange among Arab Countries" agreement, which Lebanon joined in 1985. The agreement frees trade exchange between Arab countries from various fees and restrictions, which in turn allowed the import of various crops and agricultural products from other countries into the local market.

Extending and amending the “Built Property Tenancy Law”.


Allowing banks to seize real estate in lieu of loan defaults.

Launching the “Public Housing Corporation”, offering housing loans in cooperation with banks.


Liberation of the South


Disbandment of the “Ministry of Housing and Cooperatives”.


Establishing a public institution called the “Investment Development Authority of Lebanon” over which the Prime Minister exercises guardianship authority.


Promulgation of an Environmental Protection Law that prevents occupancy that impedes free access to beaches and obligates the protection of the beach from any source of pollution.

Promulgation of a decree organizing the operation of quarries and crushers, according to which the Koura quarries and crushers don't fall within a quarries-designated zone.

An agreement between Lebanon and the European Union allowed some agricultural products to enter those markets, including bananas. As a result, the lands planted with bananas expanded rapidly, and the volume of production increased, with the export reaching 100% in some years.

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 8.15
High-rise building construction in a Beirut neighborhood


Promulgation of a new construction law which the Association of builders contributed to its writing, to answer its needs in higher constructions.


The annual cost of the deterioration resulting from the random and improper investment of quarries in Lebanon is approximately twenty-five billion Lebanese pounds.


Israeli war on Lebanon

Allowing the “Public Housing Corporation” to provide loans for housing construction in the aim of putting housing units out for rental (Rental purchase).

Financial crisis 1
News of the financial crisis of 2008


The global financial crisis and the real estate boom


Extending and amending the “Proprietary Tenancy Law”.


Promulgation of the “Comprehensive Plan for Lebanese Territory Arrangement”, which constitutes a major document for sustainable development and planning, and aims to direct large public investments while ensuring integrated development and rationalizing the use of resources.

In this photo provided by an anti-Bashar Assad activist group Edlib News Network (ENN), which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, anti-Syrian government protesters carry banners and a giant Syrian revolution flag during a demonstration in Idlib province, northern Syria, Friday, Aug 22, 2014. The death toll from three years of Syria's civil war has risen to more than 191,000 people, the United Nations reported Friday. (AP Photo/Edlib News Network ENN)
Demonstration in Idlib during the Syrian revolution


The Syrian revolution and the refugee crisis in Lebanon


Drafting of the “Proprietary Tenancy Law”.


Syrian refugees in Lebanon reach one million


Passing a law that liberates old rent agreements.


19-year extension of the law allowing the investment factors to be doubled for offshore properties once a hotel is built.


Amendment to the Tenancy Law.


Allowing banks to benefit from Central Bank subsidies for housing loans in Lebanese pounds.


Allowing banks to benefit from approximately 460 billion Lebanese Liras for housing loans.


Suspension of housing loans in order to contain inflation in the money stock.


Cabinet approval for additional credi for the Ministry of Social Affairs for loan support.

Graffiti “the beast has destroyed my village” during 17 October revolt


October 17 uprising, exacerbation of the economic crisis and financial collapse


Reducing the credit interest rate on deposits.


Declaring a Public Health Emergency and a state 2020 of general mobilization across Lebanon

“Nothing is mine” written inside a house damaged by the port explosion


Beirut Port Explosion


Budget approval which extends the payment deadlines for defaulting housing loans.


Reducing the interest on housing loans and granting possible facilities to banks and financial institutions.


Passing of a law for the “Protection of Areas Affected by the Port Explosion” which extends rent contracts for a one-year period.


Suspending the deadlines of all legal, judicial and contractual proceedings, excluding old rents.


Granting loans to those affected by Beirut Port Explosion.

Major socio-political changes


Legislation specific to land management

Agriculture land

Cement sector

Legislation specific to the cement sector

Legislation specific to construction

Legislation specific to marine public domain

Institutions specific to housing

Legislation specific to rent

Affordable housing legislation

BDL decisions/loans/eskan

Conclusion: Towards a collective demand for land as a common, social value

Established during the era of independence, the Lebanese state adopted the principles of urban planning through a series of laws and institutions which point to its recognition and acknowledgement of the primacy of public rights over private interests. On account of the institution of mandates and directives to regulate construction operations and land use, the state has implicitly conceded to the existence of a public right, recognized as part of the collective social value of land, prior to any private property. This social value is enshrined through urban and civil planning which are meant to carry and preserve the principles of public interests and shared identity. This is due to the fact that the land is distinguished by the specificity of its contents and connotations, and it cannot be classified as any traditional commodity, as it is simply the place of living and the source of life. However, the historical sequence presented throughout this article indicates that the adoption of the French Mandate’s policies on land ownership and private property as well as the liberal trends on which Lebanon’s economy was based, systematically sought to transform the land into “real estate” ownership which is meant to turn it into a commodity that is exchangeable on the capitalist market.

Ultimately, the system has succeeded in pushing us to accept and perpetually conceive of the land as a commodity, via its ideological apparatuses which regularly reiterate the common appellations, including "real estate market," "real estate ownership,” among others. It also perpetuates this conception through its focus on paragraph “f” of the Lebanese constitution, which relates to the right to private property, in public discourse. It does so, however, while deliberately ignoring two other paragraphs which relate to the understanding and overall management of the land, given that they do not serve the private purposes of the powerful ruling class. One of these is paragraph “c,” which states that Lebanon is a parliamentary democratic republic based on respect for public freedoms and on principles of social justice and equality of rights and duties among all citizens without distinction or preference. The other is paragraph (g), which insists on and calls for the balanced cultural, social and economic development of all regions which it considers to be a fundamental pillar of the unity of the state as well as the stability of the system.

This is evidence of an antagonism related to the social and economic balance of power. As such, as long as this balance tends to the ruling class, the interpretation of the constitution will always be in its favor. As a matter of fact, people have been deprived of the knowledge that allows them to formulate radical demands. In that sense, the principle of land as a social value with deeply entrenched social and historical roots has been rendered a hollow phrase, buried solely in old texts which are stripped from the daily lived experiences of the masses. In the end, radically transforming this reality will require a bottom-up revolution in civic organization and public understanding of the land, and that is only possible when people are at the center of this process.

To review the policies and legislations issued since 2020,
see the