Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a draft resolution on Monday (December 20th) to freeze the demolition of houses belonging to citizens squatting on state-owned land in all provinces until further notice.
"Voting for the resolution came after several complaints were filed by squatters, especially from Basra province, in which they called for suspending the demolition of the houses they built on state-owned land," said Naheda al-Daini, a lawmaker representing al-Iraqiyah.
"The parliament has responded to these requests on humanitarian grounds until the problem has been resolved once and for all," al-Daini told Mawtani.
The new resolution prohibits citizens from building new homes on state-owned land without legal permit, and urges the new government to pay attention to unplanned housing when implementing development and service programs.
The resolution stressed the need to quickly form a committee comprised of representatives from the government and parliament to take practical measures to resolve the issue of unplanned housing.
Muhsen al-Saadoun, a lawmaker representing the Kurdish Alliance, said the resolution is a first step to enacting a binding law that creates a taskforce in every province to count and follow up on the cases of illegal housing.
"Some cases of squatting were not due to compelling reasons," he told Mawtani. "Therefore, when we assist squatters, we have to differentiate between those who were forced to squat because they do not own a house and those who squatted on state-owned properties for business-related purposes."
Intissar Hasan, a lawmaker representing the National Alliance, called for providing land to squatters and creating a comprehensive database on the causes of this problem.
"This will enable the government to find suitable solutions for this problem that would preserve these properties on the one hand and protect citizens' right to proper housing on the other," she told Mawtani.
The Iraqi government previously announced the launch of a number of housing projects as part of an investment plan extending until 2014.
Last November, Iraq signed a memorandum of understanding with South Korean company TRaC to execute a project that builds 500,000 homes in all provinces of Iraq. Work on this and other housing projects are ongoing, including al-Dhafaf project in Karbala and al-Rasheed City in Baghdad. These projects are also part of a huge investment plan to build one million housing units for low-income citizens.
Citizens who constructed homes on state-owned properties expressed their relief about the resolution, calling it a "generous gesture by the parliament".
"The parliament's resolution made me very happy, as it did with other people who had to build simple homes on state-owned lands as a result of the housing crisis and high rental values of houses and flats," said Muthanna Abdul Hussain, 23, who lives with his five-member family on state-owned land in al-Baladiyat area in Baghdad.
"We will be really happy when they provide alternative housing for our families with flexible financial installments that would not burden our daily or monthly incomes, which are already very low," he said.
Janan Mohammed, 38, who lives with her family in an illegally constructed home in al-Ameen area in Baghdad, said the resolution was "generous" and made her "optimistic".
"I call on all officials to extend a helping hand to us so that we may own land and build our own houses on it," she said. "In my opinion, this will be an effective measure to put an end to the sufferings of many squatters."