Citing the need to get rid of “the tumbledown shacks distorting the appearance of Yerevan” the Armenian government on Thursday assigned additional areas in the city center to private redevelopers for construction needs.
The decision based on the legislation allowing the government to designate territories for various urban and other construction projects citing ‘prevailing public interest’ is likely to cause more dissatisfaction among the residents involved as it was the case in the early 2000s when thousands of residents in central Yerevan were controversially evicted from their homes with small compensation to clear the way for elite construction.
Some of the evicted residents later won cases against the government of Armenia regarding decisions on their evictions and under-compensation at the European Court of Human Rights.
The latest decision concerns a territory of four hectares in which a private company owned by a close associate of former president Robert Kocharian plans to construct a multi-apartment building with an underground parking garage. The document approved by the executive suggests that residents themselves had turned to Yerevan authorities with a request “to clear the capital from the shacks”.
Meanwhile, residents in the given area approached by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.com) said they did not know anything about it. One of them, Karine Manukian, said she had learned about the decision from the media. Along with her six-member family this woman lives in a renovated two-storey house that they purchased about 40 years ago.
“People are being thrown into the street. It turns out that anyone can do anything with our property. What can we do against the government? It is the weak who are always in the wrong,” complained Manukian.
According to the government, the residents to be affected by the decision will be notified about the plans to demolish their homes within the next seven days. The residents themselves say they have no hope of resisting what they regard as an unfair ruling as they know all too well what the usual outcomes of similar disputes were in the past.
Meanwhile, Vachagan Hakobian, whose home was controversially demolished about a decade ago to clear the way for the construction of a boulevard in the center of Yerevan, has called on the residents of the new areas affected by the law to stand up for their rights.
“These people need to know the laws to be able to fight if not for keeping their homes, then at least for receiving an adequate compensation,” he said.
Hakobian said that dozens of families who were evicted from their homes under similar decisions in the past later decided to emigrate from the country.
The government plans to complete the process of property alienation relating to the newly designated areas by January 1, 2015.