Middle East


Sharp Increase in Rents Hurting Displaced Families

A Kurdish man walks in an area of ruined houses in Dahuk, Iraq. (Photo: Gerard Fouet / AFP-Getty Images)

A sharp increase in house rental costs is hurting people in the northern Dahuk governorate in Iraq, local officials said. The governate is within the Kurdish Autonomous Region.

Following a large inflow of internally displaced people (IDPs) from other volatile regions of the country, there has been a shortage of housing. This has prompted landlords to cash in, leaving many with no choice but to stay in cramped and poor unhygienic conditions.

"One of the consequences of this large number of IDPs to Dahuk, within a short period of time, has been the dramatic increase in rent and house prices," Gorgees Shlemon, the acting Governor of Dahuk told IRIN.

"This has negatively affected people's economic conditions," he added.

The regional Kurdish government has started to build 200 houses for some of the IDPs near the city of Zakho, located near the border with Turkey, but much more is needed.

Housing Resources Strained

Salar Khalil, an estate agent in the governorate confirmed that prices have tripled since 2004 when IDPs first started arriving, as a result of the conflict to oust Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The north was already home to more than half a million IDPs and the new influx is putting a huge strain on resources, according to local officials.

There are currently 3,020 IDP families in Dahuk, according to statistics compiled by the local branch of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS).

Almost 80 percent of the displaced are Christians who fled the cities of Mosul and Baghdad due to the lack of security.

Some 63 families are currently living in tents in the Zakho and Shiladze camps, north of Dahuk. They are in poor conditions, without electricity and clean drinking water because they can't afford to pay rents, said Sardar Tamar, a senior official of the IRCS in Dahuk. The rest of the displaced are either renting or staying with relatives in the governorate.

Threats Issued

Julita Nissan Maku, 46, a Christian, fled Mosul with her family of four, after her 23 year-old son, Morin, was beheaded by armed men. Morin was employed by a Turkish company working with the U.S. military in the city.

"After the death of my son, terrorists sent us a threatening letter saying that if we don't pay 30,000,000 Iraqi Dinars (US $200,000) we would be killed. So we had no other option but to run away," she said.

She together with another family have rented a house with two rooms in a Dahuk suburb for $200 per month. In late 2004 a similar house could have been rented for $70, according to local estate agents. Maku said her husband was ill and could not work, forcing them to live on a meager monthly income of $100.

Many of the fleeing families are unable to find work and cannot afford to pay the rent alone.

[This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]