Iraq Housing Crisis

Crisis in Housing Adds to Miseries of Iraq Mayhem
By MICHAEL LUO
Published: December 29, 2006

BAGHDAD — Along with its many other desperate problems, Iraq is in the midst of a housing crisis that is worsening by the day.

It began right after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, when many landlords took advantage of the removal of his economic controls and raised rents substantially, forcing out thousands of families who took shelter in abandoned government buildings and military bases. As the chaos in Iraq grew and the ranks of the jobless swelled, even more Iraqis migrated to squalid squatter encampments. Still others constructed crude shantytowns on empty plots where conditions were even worse.

Now, after more than 10 months of brutal sectarian reprisals, many more Iraqis have fled their neighborhoods, only to wind up often in places that are just as wretched in other ways. While 1.8 million Iraqis are living outside the country, 1.6 million more have been displaced within Iraq since the war began. Since February, about 50,000 per month have moved within the country.

Shelter is their most pressing need, aid organizations say. Some have been able to occupy homes left by members of the opposing sect or group; others have not been so fortunate. The longer the violence persists, the more Iraqis are running out of money and options.

Shatha Talib, 30, her husband and five children, are among about a thousand struggling Iraqi families that have taken up residence in the bombed-out remains of the former Iraqi Air Defense headquarters and air force club in the center of Baghdad. “Nobody should live in such a place,” she said. “But we don’t have any other option.”

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