YIMBY in a Palestinian Refugee Camp
The ﬁrst permanent structures that once were obstinately referred to as malja’ (shelters) are now called byut (homes). Faced with a density and rates of overcrowding higher than overpopulated cities like Mumbai and Kolkata in India, inhabitants not only moved outside, but also breached camp rules. They split up the ‘indivisible’ units among family components. Over the years, houses have changed owners, been sold and bought. Recently, shelters have also been rented to Iraqi refugees, Egyptian labourers, and other low-income immigrants who can afford only the relatively cheaper rents of the camp. After several changes of tenant, some units have lost any memory of the original owner, and real estate speculation has become one of the most tangible marks of refugee reappropriation dynamics. The vertical expansion of buildings also reached unpredictable levels. Fifteen years ago, a second ﬂoor on a building was permitted only in special cases. However, the DPA administration has turned out to be quite ﬂexible not only on the renting, selling and buying of housing units but also about the infringement of spatial norms. Today, for example, it is possible to build two additional ﬂoors (of less than 6 metres in height) on commercial buildings, and obtain authorisation to add one ﬂoor to a housing unit – though the request has to go through a speciﬁc ofﬁcial route before being issued. As a result of this, almost every unit in the camp has now a second ﬂoor, and three- and four-ﬂoor buildings are increasing.
From Luigi Achilli, Palestinian Refugees and Identity: Nationalism, Politics, and the Everyday (I.B. Taurus, 2015)