On December 7, "Unrealized Housing Rights: 35 Years after the Earthquake", was organized by the Human Rights Research Center (HRRC) on the occasion of the anniversary of the devastating earthquake of 1988 and ahead of International Human Rights Day. The event was held in the "Dialogue" media center of Gyumri city.
The Human Rights Research Center expresses its gratitude to the "Dialogue" media center for collaboration and providing a platform for discussion of this urgent issue. You can watch the discussion here.
The aim of the discussion was to bring into the focus of state policy development the need for rights-based approaches for addressing pressing housing issues of the people affected by the earthquake.
Respective data and recommendations are presented in HRRC's new report on "The realization of the right to adequate housing by citizens left homeless as a result of the earthquake in Armenia in 1988". You can find the report here.
Anahit Simonyan, the Director of the Human Rights Research Center and legal expert Tatevik Tokhyan, Khachatur Khndzrtsyan - Head of the Urban Planning, Land Development, and Infrastructure Management Department of the Shirak Marz Governor's Office, Henrik Gasparyan - Chief Architect of Gyumri city, Tanya Arzumanyan - Head of the Housing Fund Management and Communal Infrastructures Department of the Urban Development Committee and Nonna Manukyan - Deputy Head of the Civil, Socio-Economic, and Cultural Rights Protection Department at the office of Human Rights Deffender took part in the discussion.
In her opening speech, Anahit Simonyan, the Director of HRRC, highlighted that all State actions in the context of addressing housing issues in the disaster zone should guarantee that adequate housing conditions are ensured for respective citizens and the risks of further homelessness are fully addressed.
Tatevik Tokhyan, legal expert and co-author of the report, emphasized that the report examines the policy of resettlement, adopted by the State in relation to the solution of the housing problem in the disaster zone, in light of Armenia's international human rights obligations, and the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in particular.
Tatevik Tokhyan further specified that the report reveals current issues of extremely inadequate housing conditions and the problems of citizens that might face further homelessness as a result of the demolition of temporary shelters built in the aftermath of the earthquake (the so-called "Tnaks"), established on the basis of the Government Decision 1601-N. She also highlighted that one of the core issues is the amount and form of state aid provided families as a result of the demolition of temporary shelters.
Khachatur Khndzrtsyan - Head of the Department of Urban Development, Land Construction, and Infrastructure Management at the Shirak Governor's Office, presented key data.
"There are currently 2,905 temporary buildings remaining. A total of 1,342 families are considered beneficiaries of social housing, and 237 families will receive state support of 60,000 drams for rent over one year,"- he said.
Tanya Arzumanyan - Head of the Department of Housing Fund Management and Communal Infrastructures of the Urban Development Committee, responded that the amount of money was decided before the sharp increase in housing rents.
"When the Government's Decision No. 1601 was adopted on October 13, 2022, rental prices in Gyumri were lower, and the planned budget of about 60,000 drams might not be sufficient now. However, this doesn't necessarily mean the decision needs immediate reconsideration. We will address and revise the disparity when we reach that stage. Also, it's important to note that some people face challenges in improving their housing conditions, which is different from homelessness," - said Tanya Arzumanyan.
Nonna Manukyan - Deputy Head of the Civil, Socio-Economic, and Cultural Rights Protection Department at the Office of Human Rights Defender, noted that the HRD has received numerous complaints from citizens.
"The main problem is that people who have been notified about the demolition of Tnaks are worried that they will become homeless, since thay cannot be considered as beneficiaries of state support programs upon the demolishion,"- Nonna Manukyan stressed.
Henrik Gasparyan - Chief Architect of Gyumri City, talked about issues of persons living in inadequate housing conditions (for example, in dormitory buildings in a state of emergency).
"We currently have 94 emergency buildings, some of which are beyond repair. I believe the decision-making toolkit requires improvement,"- he said.
At the conclusion of the discussion, Anahit Simonyan, the Director of Human Rights Research, and legal expert Tatevik Tokhyan expressed hope that the discussion would lead to proactive steps and the revisions of the Government Decision 1601-N, in particular.
The Human Rights Research Center will continue following up on the issues identified in the research.
HRRC finds critical for the State to adequately protect the housing rights of those affected by the earthquake and achieve full realization of their housing and other social rights in line with Armenia's international legal obligations.
HRRC remains committed to collaboration with State entities and civil society representatives in this regard.
"Unrealized housing rights. 35 years after the earthquake" multi-stakeholder discussion was carried out by the Human Rights Research Center with the support of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED).
Human Rights Research Center expresses its gratitude to the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) for the support in the preparation of the report and organization of the discussion.
See the picture from the event below.