An Armenian couple has staged daily sit-ins inside a provincial administration building to protest its exclusion from a government-funded housing program which it attributes to corruption.
Arayik Sardarian, his wife as well as two young children are one of the families in Tsaghkahovit, a village in the central Aragatsotn province, lacking adequate housing partly because of a catastrophic earthquake in 1988 which destroyed many local homes.
Sardarian’s father received a new and smaller apartment after the earthquake. His son, now aged 43, moved out of it when he grew up and got married.
Arayik’s family was placed on a waiting list of Tsaghkahovit residents eligible for new housing. The family was excluded from it in 2013 for reasons which local government officials decline to clearly explain. Some 40 village families received newly constructed apartments in Tsaghkahovit late last year.
Sardarian claimed that at least ten of them were not eligible for the scheme when he, his wife and the children began their daily protests in the Aragatsotn administration building late last week. The family has since spent several hours there every day demanding a meeting with the provincial governor, Sargis Sahakian.
Sahakian rejects any wrongdoing in the distribution of the new homes. “We spent one and a half years verifying the lists together with the Ministry of Urban Development in order to determine who owns a home and who really needs one,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We didn’t distribute them in haste.”
“The recipients are the ones who had lost their homes during the earthquake and not been paid compensations,” said Sahakian.
However, information posted on the Aragatsotn administration’s website indicates that the new apartments were given to not only earthquake victims but also other families that were deemed poor. The Tsaghkahovit mayor, Yervand Khachatrian, confirmed this on Thursday.
Khachatrian also admitted that two families moved into the new apartments despite not being eligible for the housing program. He said Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian personally decided to include them on the waiting list.