Egypt's housing ministry began on Saturday to gather compensation preferences from disgruntled residents of a lower-income area in central Cairo known as the Maspero Triangle, which the government has been trying for years to evacuate for development into an investment and residential hub.
On Saturday, the ministry issued forms for locals to choose from a number of alternatives to make way for the development of the strategic area, which neighbours deluxe shopping malls and five-star hotels along Nile Corniche.
Residents in the area have for years balked at the prospect of being moved from their homes, where they work and where their families have lived for decades.
"No one will leave the area against their will, not only in Maspero, but in any slum development project in the country," deputy housing minister Ahmed Adel Darwish said in TV comments on Saturday.
Residents have been given three weeks to fill in the forms to choose their preferred form of compensation, Darwish said, though he did not clarify what would done with residents who refuse all of the options.
The government has listed five methods of compensation for locals in return for their homes, which will be demolished and replaced with commercial and residential buildings over three years.
These options include: leasing an apartment in the area after development is complete, to be owned after 30 years; renting a home in the area; buying a home in the area; receiving a one-time financial compensation of EGP 100,000; or relocating to El-Asmarat neighbourhood in Muqattam district.
The Maspero triangle, in the old Boulaq neighbourhood by the Nile, is home to countless small workshops.
The area, which was given its name because of its triangle shape on the map, stands on 74 feddans (77 acres) and is home to at least 18,000 residents, according to 2014 estimates by Madd platform, an independent urban development institution.
The dispute over the area dates back some three decades, when development projects began to be proposed and Gulf investors started acquiring buildings and blocks of land in the area.
The government says it is willing to provide houses for the 4,500 families in the area after development is complete, but residents say the solution is inadequate because they would not be able to afford to rent or buy in the area after its development.
The lowest rent the government is requesting from residents opting to stay in the area is EGP 1,000 – a hefty sum for lower-income families who struggle to make ends meet.
Other more costly alternatives include paying rent of EGP 1,600-2,500 or a monthly instalment of EGP 2,850-3,660 to own a property in 30 years.
Another option is to move to El-Asmarat at a monthly rent of EGP 300.
Residents say El-Asmarat is far from where they work and that their utility bills would be 10-fold in this neighbourhood.
As for temporary residence pending the completion of development, residents will either be offered homes in Badr, 6 October City or an EGP 1,000 monthly allowance to rent a home in the area of their choice.
Mahmoud Shaaban, the representative of tenants in the area, told Ahram Online that "most of the residents are poor and could never pay EGP 1,000-2,000 in rent per month."
According to Shaaban, the majority of locals in the area currently rent their homes.
"The government is therefore aiming to push residents to evacuate by leaving-them no option but to accept the EGP 100,000 in financial compensation; they can simply afford no other alternative," Shaaban said.
The government has pledged to disburse the money in three weeks time, which Shaaban says is meant to push people move out and lower the large number of sitting residents who are against the move.
"We are not against development, we are against the high payments required if we choose to stay here," 30-year-old Mahmoud, a resident of the area, said in TV comments on Saturday.
Shabaan said owners of lands and property will have another scheme for compensation, while shop owners will receive 30 percent of their property's value in cash.
A list of demands by residents presented to the housing ministry earlier this month included lowering rent to EGP 300 and ownership instalments to EGP 700; increasing the cash compensation; and offering alternative residential units in a nearby area.
"All the current alternatives do not work. What would EGP 100,000 buy these days, a kiosk?" one resident asked.