Turkmenistan Plans Housing Sell-Off
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||12 July 2011|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Turkmenistan Plans Housing Sell-Off, 12 July 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e4ca68f2.html [accessed 11 March 2014]|
As the Turkmen authorities plan a revolutionary privatisation of housing, experts are calling for safeguards to ensure the rights of residents eligible to buy their property from the state.
In June, Turkmenistan's parliament began reviewing legislation that would make housing privatisation possible. No details of the plan are available, but the authorities want to begin selling off homes next year.
"The law will need to contain many innovatory features," a lawyer in Ashgabat said. "The housing stock is de facto private already."
The sale of state-owned housing stock has been effectively frozen since 1992, when the then president Saparmurat Niazov blocked the privatisation process, which had allowed public sector workers to buy their homes. A privatisation law dating from 1997 has not been fully enacted because the accompanying legislation it envisaged was never passed.
For the moment, only people who hold dual Turkmen-Russian nationality, or who are planning to emigrate, have the right to buy their home from the state. One owner who is planning to move to Russia said he paid 1,000 US dollars to buy the four-room apartment he lived in, plus 200 dollars for the documentation.
Assessing eligibility to buy a property will be made more complicated by the fact that many people do not have formal residence rights, so they are vulnerable to eviction. This often happens to those whose homes are scheduled for demolition as part of urban redevelopment schemes. (For recent cases, see: Turkmenistan: Rare Public Protest in Turkmen Capital.)
"It's very easy to confiscate these apartments," the lawyer said. "There's never been a court case in which people have succeeding in laying claim to their home."
Analysts fear privatisation could mean many more evictions, either because of lack of documentation or because people will not be able to afford to buy their home outright.
Among those who do own their homes, especially in the larger cities, there are many who have not completed the registration process to confirm their legal rights to the property. A housing official said that such people had a legal right to live their, the fact that they were missing from the land register was liable to create difficulties when it came to privatisation.
A commentator in Dashoguz in the north of the country said new housing laws should set out clear procedures for privatisation, with a simplified process for older housing with sitting tenants.
"We live in fear of being evicted to make way for demolition," a mother who has lived in a government apartment block for 20 years said. "If they require us to buy the property for a lot of money that we can't afford, we'll end up on the street."