The scarcity of land in all Palestinian towns and villages and high levels of land speculation have resulted in astronomical price rises in real estate, making it out of reach for the majority of the population. Building your own home has become a dream few can afford.
Choices of accommodation are more limited than ever before: either a new concrete box in a crowded and badly serviced high-rise building or an older style house with a courtyard or small garden. As time passes and the situation worsens, the choice to live in the historic centers will become a trend, especially for students and newlyweds. This trend will spare the remaining Palestinian landscape from additional encroachment by costly new housing projects that do not respond to local needs.
Waqfiyyet il Iskan focuses on the provision of affordable housing in some of the historic centers that are part of Riwaq’s 50-village project. It makes use of the beautiful old buildings: a valuable resource that has long been abandoned and forgotten.
Crucially, Riwaq’s incremental rehabilitation of entire historic centers by upgrading the infrastructure of streets and alleys, rehabilitating community centers, children’s playgrounds and plazas, and restoring the facades of buildings, has made it possible to live in renovated housing units within the historic centers.
Inspired by the traditional concept of exchange-in-kind rather than in money, Riwaq has reactivated the old concept ilعOneh: communal help or collective effort to help a family construct its house, help a farmer pick his olive trees or give a hand during a harvest season. Since 2012, use of the revived modality of ilعOneh - utilizing the available labor within the same household, relatives or neighbors - Riwaq has restored more than 50 small houses in the very heart of historic centers throughout rural Palestine. Riwaq has also restored tens of small historic houses or small business spaces with a modest budget of USD 10,000. This affordable budget enabled Riwaq to provide a shelter for an old person or needy family in addition to refurbishing workspaces. As important, the restoration works created short and long-term jobs for the unemployed in these villages.
Riwaq is establishing a Historic Housing Fund with a capital of one million USD that will generate an annual income of USD 50,000 worth of restoration works. In other words, the restoration of five small historic houses or businesses annually for needy families and newlywed couples.