Wasit provincial officials on September 10th signed a contract with Al-Radhwan State Company -a branch of Iraq's Ministry of Industry and Minerals- to build housing projects for the province's poor families.
"This plan is one of the strategic projects adopted by the local government, and includes building 24,000 housing units for the poor, widows and orphans who reside in the province," Wasit governor Mahdi Hussein Khalil al-Zubaidi said in a press statement.
The project will be implemented in every district and sub-district according to population density, he said. In the first phase of the project, 800 houses, each with an area of 85 square metres, will be built in al-Kut, the capital of the province, as will a school and a mosque, according to al-Zubaidi.
These housing units will be built in less than a year according to the latest international specifications and standards, he said.
"There is an important segment of people which has been given top priority by the province, namely the poor, the widows and the orphans," Haidar Jassim, Wasit's deputy governor, told Mawtani. "The most important thing to provide for them is adequate housing."
Jassim said the project will begin in al-Kut and al-Suwaira, and other areas will follow.
"The local government in Wasit is moving ahead with building low-cost housing, to include all those in need of such housing across the province, such as the poor, the widows and the orphans who have suffered much from inadequate housing conditions," he said.
The local government set aside 80 billion Iraqi dinars ($69 million) from the money allocated to the province under the region's development scheme to build these housing complexes, he said.
"The low-cost housing project will help Wasit eliminate random housing construction," Mahmoud Abdul Ridha, chairman of the provincial council, told Mawtani.
"Random construction spread in the districts and towns of the province, and is considered outside urban planning and therefore trespasses on government land," Abdul Ridha said.
"It is known that the phenomenon of random construction [can be attributed to] poor families who are unable to buy and build on regular residential land, so they resort to such actions that distort the features of the city," he said.
"Therefore, the province decided to pay attention to this segment by providing them with alternative housing to enable them to live in orderly and civilised houses," Abdul Ridha said.
"In support of this project, the Wasit provincial council allocated 250 million Iraqi dinars ($215,000) to establish a factory that manufactures construction blocks, which will be used to build the houses," he said.
Waleed Abed Kassim, member of the local council in al-Hay district, echoed Abdul Ridha's sentiment.
"Random construction projects have inflicted serious damage on the province," he said.
"Because these houses were built in violation of construction guidelines, they have inflicted damage on the environment, by way of the random sewage systems these families created, as well their illegal connection to electricity and water distribution networks," Kassim said, adding that these violations bring detriment to other citizens.
"As officials responsible for our districts in the local council, we submitted a number of proposals and raised the problems of these citizens to find solutions for them," Kassim said.
"We are not pushing for their eviction because they are citizens and have committed no fault in being poor or being unable to provide suitable housing for their families," he added.
Kassim said that while the decision to support this segment of the population is perhaps overdue, the announcement of the housing project made him very happy.
Khedhr al-Shammary told Mawtani he was forced to live in a house built on state property in al-Kut because of his poverty.
"We are 32 poor families living in these demolished buildings, which used to be headquarters for some Iraqi army unit," he said. "We are always repairing the ceilings, and the walls are about to crumble down."
"I am unable to work because of a chronic ailment in the kidneys. I used to work in construction, and had a comfortable rented house to live in, but six years ago, I moved my family into these demolished buildings because I was unable to work and meet the requirements of life in full," he said.
"If the local government provided me and my family with housing under the new project, I believe many of my burdens would be gone and my children would be able to do their school homework properly," al-Shammary said.
"The walls of this building are tearing apart, the ceiling is made from metal and my children are always doing temporary repairs in order to create a proper study environment for themselves."