The traditional land tenure systems in Syria are complex and overlapping, stemming from hundreds of years of evolution in the legal as well the socio-economic conditions of the different communities in the country and the region. Some of these systems were codified progressively in the 20th century while others remained outside the control of the State. The rapid rural to urban migration starting in the second half of the 20th century generated a major demand for housing and real estate in the main cities. Most of the formal systems failed to cope with the increased demand for housing and the magnitude of the rural to urban migration, which created massive zones of informality, particularly in peri-urban sections of major metropolitan areas and in secondary cities. Supply-side state subsidies and the promise of freehold home ownership for all was a dream on which the State could not deliver. Contradictions unresolved in the transition from traditional land tenures to modern land registries accumulated and added to the inability of the State to manage urban growth properly. These contradictions were an important factor contributing to the outbreak of the conflict in 2011..
Project funded by the European Union
This study has been originally produced as a chapter of the State of Syrian Cities 2016–2017 report.