At least 1,500 families in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri still lack adequate housing despite government pledges to complete the protracted reconstruction of the areas devastated by a catastrophic earthquake in 1988.
The government launched in 2008 a $250 million program to build more than 4,600 apartments and houses there. Government officials said at the time that virtually all people living in makeshift homes in the earthquake-hit regions will be provided with new housing by 2013.
Over 2,800 apartments have since been constructed in Gyumri, according to the local municipality. A private construction firm contracted by the government was due to start building another 420 apartments last year. However, the construction has still not begun apparently because of a lack of government funding.
The waiting list for free housing also includes more than a thousand other Gyumri families. With no further construction plans announced by the government so far, they are facing an even more uncertain future. In addition, there are an estimated 200 households that are not on the list despite also huddling in metal shacks that were placed in Gyumri shortly after the 1988 earthquake, which killed 25,000 people and left hundreds of thousands of others homeless.
Artyom Davtian, head of the housing department at the Gyumri municipality, said there are still as many as 4,000 such shacks, called by locals “domiks,” remaining in the city. Many of them are abandoned.
“The mayor [Samvel Balasanian] has instructed us to clarify the exact number of homeless people,” Davtian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He said the authorities need to have such information before announcing whether more housing construction should be expected in Gyumri in the coming years.