Magharebia (Washington DC)

10 January 2014

Libya to Build New Housing

Shahat — The eastern Libyan city of Shahat on Wednesday (January 8th) signed a deal to build 4,500 new residential housing units.

The project came in response to several weeks of protest by local residents.

Shahat, where no housing project has been planned for a long time, is home to many slums.

Faced with inadequate health facilities and high rent, local residents started a sit-in on December 16th, with demonstrations filling the streets of the city.

They soon erected a sit-in tent in front of the Municipal Council to face the brutal winter weather.

A residential project planned for the south of the city had fallen apart despite the appointment of an Egyptian company to carry it out.

The reason given to hopeful residents was that land owners objected to the compensation disbursed for the project before the revolution, which was then estimated at two dinars per metre.

The demonstrators threatened to step up their action in the event the government failed to respond to their demands and reach a solution with land owners. A forced closure of Al Abraq International Airport was not off the table.

"The residents of Shahat populating the sit-in tents are from all walks of life and from different social structures, and their only demand is housing," a protestor said.

He noted that campaigners had no political affiliation, but were "on a humane mission without any tribal or regional goals".

In response to Shahat residents' request, the Libyan Housing Minister on December 31st, with the help of intelligence chief Salem al-Hassi and interim Local Government Minister Salah Said, raised the value of compensation promised to land owners to 10 Libyan dinars.

However, protestors insisted on continuing their sit-in until the project's actual implementation. They vowed to stay until construction operations are kicked off and the company assigned to building their housing project brings its equipment to the area.

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