NRC Shelter Innovative Program in Irbid Governorate (2013-2015)

Myriam Ababsa

In July 2013, NRC launched an innovative program aiming at reducing housing tensions in Jordanian communities by providing financial support to landlords willing to accommodate Syrian refugees in new housing units. The Urban Shelter Project supports both refugees and host communities affected by the Syrian crisis. The program targets vulnerable Syrians who reside in inadequate housing, responding to their needs of basic shelter and protection. By providing new extra housing units, the program aims to appease the tensions surrounding housing and contribute to the reduction of high rental prices. This program is one of the key schemes outlined in the Syria Crisis Regional Response Plan (RRP) and highlighted in the Government of Jordan’s National Resilience Plan (2014-2016).

NRC is the only organization currently implementing this shelter methodology in Jordan and across the region. NRC Shelter and Counseling departments follow each step of the program, mediating between the refugees and the Jordanian landlords. This original shelter program allows the Syrian refugees to gain much more than a roof and four walls, but “adequate housing” defined as the right to live in security, peace and dignity. NRC manages to give Syrian refugees a simple but clean house, in a quiet environment, whilst being given extra protection as a result of proper contracts signed between landlords and refugees. After six months, refugees have managed to send their children to school, and most important of all, child labor has decreased fourfold (from 21% to 5% of cases). Along with psychological relief, the reduction of child labor is the major benefit of rent-free accommodation. As rent is secured, Syrian refugees have had more money to spend on medication and food. While benefiting from free shelter over a period of one year to eighteen months, a third of the Syrian beneficiaries said they felt more secure, two thirds of them managing to pay back their debts. But this shelter program does not shield them from the high level of vulnerability they are exposed to; such as difficulties to make a living, to renew their ID papers, to protect their children from the various forms of violence they are exposed to, and to preserve their dignity.

The NRC Shelter program was implemented mainly in the Irbid governorate on a very large scale. Out of 966 contracts signed and delivered, 936 were in the Irbid Governorate. It is a direct contribution to the housing stock of 936 new apartments, or a fifth of the housing units built by the private market (5,529 in 2013). As a comparison, the governmental housing schemes from 2008 to 2013 created a total of 1,143 new housing units, 204 apartments in the King’s Initiative framework, 392 plots of land with subsidized loans by HUDC and 547 plots of land with additional support of 5000 JD  (on the King’s Initiative).

Source : Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), “In Search of a Home“, 2015