The rural areas to the east and north of Aleppo are seeing urban sprawl as residential construction skyrockets. The areas under the control of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army in northern Syria became a destination for those fleeing the bombing elsewhere in the country.
The relative stability in the cities and towns of northern and eastern Aleppo is a major factor in this urban expansion. The construction has also granted hundreds of people the opportunity to work and provide for their families amid widespread unemployment in the countryside.
Amid rising costs of construction materials and construction permits, many families cannot afford to build their own homes and have sought housing in the already existing multi-story buildings in the area.
Azaz, in the northern countryside of Aleppo, is one of the places most affected by the construction boom.
Mahmoud Hegazy, director of sales at the Hamsho Construction Company, told Al-Monitor, “Around 80% of the displaced seek apartments. The average cost of a fully equipped apartment, consisting of three rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, is $9,000."
"The increase in population has contributed to wide urban expansion in Azaz, which led to increased construction in unregulated areas around the city in the south, east and west,” he noted, referencing areas that were not zoned for housing and thus lack some city services and utilities. "The project owner is thus responsible for providing the residence with services, including water, electricity, sewer and internet. At the company, we provide all services for the apartments that are sold through us.”
He added, “Azaz is the city with the highest price for residential lots, and the price per square meter of land for construction ranges between $40 and $50. The prices vary a lot depending on location. The price of one meter of land in the vicinity of the city of Afrin, in the northern countryside of Aleppo, ranges between $10 and $40. The price is higher if the land is inside the city, as a square meter of land there sells for $100.”
Saeed Basha, the owner of a real estate firm in Jarablus, told Al-Monitor, “Al-Bab city is seeing urban expansion in its north and northeast. The price per square meter of construction site ranges between $25 and $40. The further you go from the city, the value decreases.” Basha said land sales are limited to developers while residents purchase apartments in various stages of readiness. He explained, "An apartment with an area of 93 square meters without doors, sewer connection and electricity costs between $2,500 and $3,000. The buyer equips it depending on his financial capacities.”
He added, “In the city of Jarablus, the price per square meter of land ranges between $15 and $35, while the price per square meter in the city of Marea ranges between $15 and $30, depending on the available services.”
The local councils are trying to ensure that city services are provided to areas that are included in the residential planning of cities and towns in the northern countryside of Aleppo. However, the rapid expansion and the overpopulation in the region means some housing projects cannot be served by the local councils, as they must prioritize the areas they serve.
Haytham al-Zain, head of Al-Bab's local council in the eastern countryside of Aleppo, told Al-Monitor, “The real estate syndicate affiliated with the local council manages licensing and construction matters and works with the local council in the city to prevent real estate violations and protect public property. The syndicate, in consultation with the concerned authorities, decided not to grant licenses to [build on] agricultural lands covered by the Al-Bab and Tadef plains irrigation project. These areas are used for farming strategic crops for the region."
He added, "The syndicate is working to reduce licensing and sales fees to encourage merchants and residents to build so as to eradicate the camps.”