“We have been living here for nearly 50 years and are very attached to the area... It will be difficult for us to leave the neighbourhood,” an octogenarian resident of Nasr City’s Sixth District told Al-Ahram Weekly on Monday.
The man, who preferred to speak anonymously, was worried by Cairo governorate’s recently announced development plan that includes the demolition of the Sixth District’s residential blocks, and parts of Nasr City’s Seventh District.
“There doesn’t seem to be any justification for us to be forced from our neighbourhood,” he said, adding that no one is against development but people who are displaced “must be provided with proper alternatives”.
In September 2018 Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli issued a decree allowing the National Authority for Tunnels (NAT) to appropriate the land and real estate needed to implement the Nasr City and 6 October monorail projects. The decree is now being used by Cairo governorate to support its plans to demolish dilapidated residential blocks in the area that were built in the 1960s and house almost 4,500 residential units.
“We are not living in irregular buildings, nor ones that are about to fall. The neighbourhood was planned and constructed in the Nasser era and we have bought out homes from the governorate at the time on 15-year instalment plans,” another resident of the district.
“The monorail does not pass through all the residential buildings. If one or two have to be demolished, so be it, but why tear down the whole neighbourhood,” he asked.
Governorate officials have held several meetings with residents to explain the planned development scheme and compensation plans.
“We are re-planning the area, a project that benefits both residents and the state. It is not for the benefit of investors,” Ibrahim Gaber, deputy governor for Cairo’s Eastern District, told the residents in a recent meeting which was recorded and placed on social media platforms.
“People, by nature, are always against change, but these changes aim for the best in light of the state’s vision and its development efforts nationwide... No decision has been taken that negatively affects citizens,” said Gaber.
During the meeting, the deputy governor outlined the ways residents could be compensated, including returning to the area once its reconstruction is complete.
Residents are being offered units equivalent in space to their current homes, or can apply for larger homes and pay the difference in cash value in instalments. While work is underway on reconstructing the district, householders who want to return will be entitled to rental allowances. Alternatively, they can opt for cash compensation, based on property valuation of between LE7,000 to LE9,000 per square metre for housing units, and from LE15,000 for commercial spaces.
Other options include acquiring an apartment in the more expensive Gardenia project, a recently-constructed compound in Nasr City, with the difference in value paid in instalments, or moving to a fully-furnished unit in either the Al-Mahrousa or Ahalina project both of which were original designed to rehouse residents of informal areas.
“I am being evicted from my apartment and told I can return, but will have to pay, or else have to move to a housing project far away,” said one resident. “This is not just about the four walls of our homes. We are attached to the neighbourhood through work and community, and we use local services like schools and hospitals.”
A resident of the Seventh District expressed his concerns about the plans. “I’m in my 70s and live on a pension,” he said. “ I cannot pay instalments... even moving our furniture to a rented apartment, only to move it back, is expensive and exhausting. We cannot afford it.”
It would be easier and cheaper, he argued, for the governorate to renovate and upgrade the existing blocks.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 13 January, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.