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Iraq faces challenge to find solution for growing slums

With Baghdad’s slums accommodating more than 2 million people, a solution to the housing crisis needs to be part of an urban planning strategy, something that previous governments ignored when distributing land to the poor.
Girls wash dishes outside their house in a slum neighbourhood in Baghdad's Sadr City July 31, 2007. About 30 poor families make a living by gathering junk at the dumpsite in Sadr City, a vast slum in northeastern Baghdad.     REUTERS/Kareem Raheem (IRAQ) - RTR1SEUJ
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The housing crisis has been a curse on successive Iraqi governments, and the problem lasts despite attempts by some governments to find patch-up solutions. For example, the solution of the government of Saddam Hussein was to distribute land to the needy, thus leading to Baghdad expanding without appropriate urban planning. As Harith Hasan reported for Al-Monitor last month, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has made acceleration of public housing development and distribution of land a bedrock of his campaign promises, blaming others for the current crisis. Maliki's government distributed 150-square-meter (1,614-square-foot) plots of land to those who had trouble finding housing, however this has been done with no urban planning or in-depth study of the crisis — which is getting worse as Iraq’s population increases.

After the US forces occupied Baghdad in 2003, there has been an increased need for housing. Amid an absence of the state, families started building slum housing on agricultural land or land owned by the state, and this kind of housing now has its own market in Iraq.

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