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HISTORY OF CITIES – HERITAGE
According to the MENA-POLIS Website (1) …
After experiencing an urbanization rate fairly stable for approximately 50 years (1960 to 2006), around 43%, the country has experienced a dramatic increase in the rate is increased to 82% in 2010! But I must say that during this same period (half a century), the Egyptian population has tripled. The settlement was achieved mainly in the Nile Valley and Delta. However, the urbanization rate is comparable to other neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Libya.
Egypt presents a particular geology, the country is mostly desert. This has led to the phenomenon of urban sprawl, cities with tight between them (average 5 km between the cities in 2010).
This has resulted in the following phenomena:
The continuous emergence of new urban areas.
New urban ensembles : the various localities extend and will gradually merge with the cities that are close to them.
A phenomenon of urban sprawl leads to urban forms of “diffuse”, including through the creation of large villages and new habitats along the roads.
According to the authors of the study, the medium-term projections highlight the following points.
Urban sprawl, if followed phenomena of decentralization will ask questions regarding urban management, good governance territories.
The resumption of growth in the major cities. Following the creation of new towns, urban densification came to a halt. But population growth will lead to a new urban growth.
A disruption of the urban network. Including population growth in the cities of lower magnitudes and the process of urban sprawl can ultimately change between the Egyptian cities and secondary cities.
HABITAT : LEGAL ASPECTS
RIGHT TO HOUSING
Egypt has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which is domesticated and thus enjoys in its constitutional order a status above national laws and regulations. The country has not yet ratified any international complaints mechanism under the human rights treaties of the United Nations, limiting the ability of its residents to submit individual complaints to international human rights treaty bodies.
Egypt’s Constitution of 2014, enunciates the right of residents to adequate, safe and healthy housing in a manner which preserves human dignity and achieves social justice (article 78). The article also obliges the Government to devise a strategic housing plan, to regulate state lands, and to address informal settlements and unplanned areas. No cases, as of yet, have been brought to the Supreme Constitutional Court under Article 78.
The government acknowledged that most laws governing housing pre-date the 2014 Constitution and have not yet been reviewed or amended to ensure conformity with the new Constitution, though this process is envisaged.
A new law pertaining to the rights of persons with disabilities was passed by Parliament in February 2018. This law reserves at least 5% of new build social housing to persons with disabilities, though it appears not to give effect to Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by ensuring access to housing supports necessary for persons with psycho-social disabilities to live independently in their communities.
The government of Egypt has yet to adopt a national housing plan or strategy as foreseen by the Constitution. In 2016 the President of Egypt announced that the national government would create 1 million housing units to address the country’s housing deficit. In a short period of time, an impressive 600.000 units have been built.
A recent phenomena causes of forced evictions is the current policy of urban development. Here is an example of Cairo in Egypt.
“Under Cairo’s intended urban master plan for 2050, the government strives to beautify the city, create new green spaces throughout, and make Cairo more appealing on the world stage. Gazirat al-Dhahab Island is one urban space that the government wishes to put into “better use.” Although this “better use” remains to be clearly defined by the Ministry of Housing and Public Utilities, one option has been to sell the land to a non-Egyptian Arab investor that would use this space to build tourism facilities. The government justifies the eviction of these families by stating that the island is government-owned land and that it is not being used for “public benefit.” It also promises to provide residents with adequate compensation packages. Yet, residents find it difficult to trust the government’s promises since many families who gave up their land in prior negotiations never received full compensation.”
The commodification of housing is also an issue of concern more generally in Egypt. Egyptians are culturally pre-disposed to acquiring real estate as a form of investment. As one expert commented, “The banking system in Egypt is real estate”. According to CAPMAS, there are at least 3.8 million representing secondary investment properties. This phenomenon may be made only worse with the government’s recent announced intentions to market Egypt’s real estate as an export product by luring foreign investors into the country. To this end, the government has expressed an interest in initiating luxury developments throughout Cairo. There is concern that the Island of El-Warraq will fall prey to this vision. Residents spoke of their fear of displacement, despite their historical connections to the land and in many cases registered title. It was particularly alarming to hear of the forced evictions that unfolded on the Island on 16 July 2017 and that resulted in the death of one resident as well as the ensuing criminal charges against a group of residents who have refused to sell their lands to the Government.
Agrarian reform began in 1987, earlier than other reform programs. It continues to have a very negative impact on human rights and is a source of considerable state and non-state violence.
In 1992, land law no. 96 of 1992 was issued through which the agrarian land was liberalized. The law determined a five-year transitional period (that ended in 1997) after which tenants had to return the arable land to its original owners. The tenants had rented these properties for forty years with fixed rents determined by law (seven times the tax – about 100 LE per feden/acre) since the issuance of law 157 of 1952. According to the new law no. 96 of 1992, the rent increased to 22 times the tax (about 600 LE). In 1997, determining the rent of the arable land was left to the owners, whereby the rental of one feden reached 2000 LE. And in 2005, the yearly rental value of one feden amounted to an average of 3000 LE.
Land law no. 96 of 1992 omitted the two most important advantages of the previous law no. 157 of 1952 issued by the Naserian government namely a fixed rental value (seven times the tax), the inability to evict tenants from their rented lands. Accordingly, new (non-cash) rental relations emerged, such as unfavorable commodity payments, sharecropping and others that turn farmers into slaves cultivating land that is not sufficient for satisfying their basic needs.
The tenants are evicted from their lots without receiving any compensation for their property and houses. Article no. 33 of law 96/1992 proposes giving alternative properties in the desert to the evicted tenants, but in reality, nothing has happened. Moreover, the law is not concerned with compensating tenants for their houses, buildings and agricultural machines that they had acquired throughout the renting period. Also, the law violates all constitutional regulations that require providing the million tenants and their families with alternatives guaranteeing their social safety. The law neglects public welfare and the discrimination applied by the law violates the constitutional principle of equality.
Read more : CITEGO
Land grabbing is analyzed in terms of widespread corruption for decades. ICH-HLRN offers a contemporary analysis of the situation in relation to the Arab spring. For more information: HIC-HLRN document
SOME INTERESTING PRACTICES
HABITAT : SOCIAL & ECONOMIC ASPECTS
Egypt is facing a mismatch between supply and demand for housing. The low-income populations are facing a shortage of formal housing supply, while the supply for the wealthier populations exceeds demand. This explains the coexistence of a strong demand for housing and a large amount of “luxury” housing empty. (3)
QUALITY OF HOUSING
INFORMAL HOUSING / SLUM / HOMELESS
There are approximately 38 million people living in informal settlements in Egypt. These are defined as areas where residents have established households on land without formal legal title to the land upon which they live and whose homes do not necessarily conform with urban plans and building standards. Egypt recognizes their obligations under the SDGs to upgrade informal settlements and have commenced doing so, prioritizing unsafe areas or areas that are deemed to be life threatening, for example, flood prone areas, communities established close to railway lines or subject to sliding geological formations. They have committed to eliminating the “unsafe areas” by 2019, to develop unplanned areas in the medium term and to stop the expansion and emergence of new informal settlements in the long term.
In 2009, there were a total of 461 areas that have been classified as unplanned, 44 of which have been categorized as life-threatening areas, 317 as unsuitable shelter areas, 75 as health risk areas and 25 as tenure risk areas. For those places classified as life-threatening areas, like the community of Dweiqah, the policy of the government is to either relocate residents or offer compensation for them to pursue alternative housing options.
ROLE OF PUBLIC AUTHORITIES
Among the actions implemented by the Government in recent years, there are (3):
Social housing has for decades relied on the public sector who has never been able to meet demand.
A program of access to private property for low-income households had been taken by the Government in 2005 (= National Housing Program). The idea was that developers should be both public and private.
A loan is granted to low-income households, amounting to 15% of the value of the property and a ceiling housing.
New towns have an important role to play in policy social housing: social housing in these cities – self-supporting low-cost building – provision of public land for private investors responsible for conducting 35% of social housing.
HABITAT : ENVIRONMENTAL ASPECTS
Bibliography & Sitography
Video of the association « La Chaîne » : « European Coalition of Housing Rights and the Right to the City in ATHENS 21 and 22 June 2015 » (Part 4)
EGYPTIAN CENTER FOR HOUSING RIGHTS explicit situations indicating major problems in housing:
Egyptian law in favor of the landlord, the tenant has very little protection. Many homeowners set contracts for one year in order to raise prices easily.
Given the very high prices of housing, including those produced by the state in the past years, Egypt is experiencing a serious situation of homeless people and empty homes.
New towns are experiencing specific problems: luxury accommodation, low job offers that require a high degree of mobility, …
Informal settlements important. Slums are périférie in cities, but also in the heart of cities, many people live in cemeteries!
EGYPTIAN CENTER FOR HOUSING RIGHTS proposes:
Limit the growth of informal settlements by eliminating the causes of the problem, that is to say, the result of massive rural living conditions in rural areas.
Create a fund to support housing for the poorest, including through funds collected by those who introduce a building permit.
Establish clear procedures for expulsion, with information of the citizen, or relocation assistance and intimidation from the police.
CIVIL SOCIETY ACTORS
EGYPTIAN FOUNDATION FOR REFUGEE RIGHTS – EFRR = an NGO founded in 2008 to provide free legal aid to refugees before Egyptian courts, police officers and detention centers. EFRR wishes to assure refugees the access to and enjoyment of their rights, and working to raise awareness of the rights of refugees under international law and domestic Egyptian. Website
THE EGYPTIAN CENTER FOR HOUSING RIGHTS – ECHR = non-governmental organization for the defense of the right to adequate housing, especially for the most vulnerable populations. Its objectives are to fight against forced evictions – attempt to provide alternative housing to those evicted – create campaigns for the right to housing – networking organizations interested in that right – awareness in the defense of their rights to adequate housing – to help provide housing for the most vulnerable populations – providing legal assistance. Website ECHR – Contact Them.
THE AFRICAN CENTRE FOR HUMAN LIVING IN EGYPT = association born of a new cooperation network in 2000 in Cairo and whose aim is to guarantee the right to housing for the most disadvantaged. The association conducts information campaigns to people about their rights and political lobbying. CITEGO Website