Egyptian actor demands housing rights in new constitution

Actor Mohamed Sobhi, a member of the National Council for Human Rights, warned on Tuesday against the risks of informal settlements, describing them as a “danger belt” threatening Egypt’s main cities as they have become a haven for criminals and drug dealers.

“All of the people remaining in Tahrir [Square] are slum dwellers,” said Sobhi. “When I asked them they said, ‘Staying here is better than staying in the slums and most of the protesters in Tahrir Square are people escaping from the slums.’”

During a Human Rights Committee meeting at the People’s Assembly, Sobhi said the new constitution must include an article that would guarantee housing rights for all citizens, and exempt those unable to pay anything in order to solve the housing problems of 25 million people living in informal areas and to preserve their human dignity.

Sobhi said the constitution must also guarantee that housing is provided for life and that it could not be sold or rented. He added that the government must provide land on which housing projects for people living in informal areas will be built and that it must not rely on civil society for the collection of donations to buy these plots of land. He went on to say that the residential buildings must consist of a maximum of four floors instead of the usual ten floors.

Meanwhile, Mostafa Kamal Madbouli, head of the General Authority for Urban Planning, said the authority had developed a plan following the 25 January revolution for the construction of new urban communities, and that it would soon be presented to the housing minister so he can submit it to the People's Assembly. He noted that residential rent laws in Egypt would be amended to create a unified system concerning residential rent laws.

In June, Sobhi launched a campaign to collect LE1billion for the development of informal area nationwide, to convert them into clean areas with available drinking water. Sobhi was also keen on ensuring an active role for university youth in the campaign.

Local Development Minister Mohamed Attiya said a total of 383 areas nationwide are unsafe for living, and 29 are “maximum danger” areas, located in Cairo, Aswan, Alexandria, Red Sea, South Sinai and Kafr al-Sheikh governorates.

The minister's statements came during a meeting by the state-run Slum Development Fund. The ministers of housing and social insurance, the governors of Cairo and Qalyubiya and the General Federation of Civic Associations chairman attended the meeting.

The minister announced that the fund will, during the current fiscal year, spend LE145 million to develop 41 areas in Gharbiya, Qena, Kafr al-Sheikh, Assiut, Cairo, Marsa Matrouh, Aswan, Luxor, Ismailia, Suez, Alexandria, Fayoum, Port Said, Damietta, Giza and Sohag.

Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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