New Suppressed Class in the Making [Archives:2000/08/Focus]

January 21 2000

 Abdul Rahman Al-Mikhlafi
Nowadays it is a fanciful story to own a house. One should be rather practical to realize that only the most fortunate and well to do see their dreams come true. Therefore, to begin with, let us, first of all, survey the housing and rent problem in our country. Before the 1990s leasing a house was an ordinary matter and was  not too pricey. In the past, the number of people inhabiting cities, especially Sanaa, was very small. Facilities were somehow available. Besides, economic conditions were much better than today. 
However, the case nowadays is thoroughly different. Population has increased sharply. A huge number of villagers, both workers with their families and students, are flocking into cities in search for living, better opportunities and good life. This, by itself, has posed lots of difficulties to find houses to rent. Landlords, on the other hand, have become more greedy as they find people fighting for renting  their flats. The absence of law has also made them do whatever they want and ask for the amount they desire. So they exploit these difficult conditions to gain more and more. 
In fact there is a great number of people in our society who are being agonized by the problem of renting. They have suffered a lot, however, their suffering has reached the climax these days. For renting a house has become almost impossible for these landlords have become devoid of any sense of mercy asking for unreasonable rent rates difficult to afford by ordinary people. 
Our armchair officials, who are supposed to carefully as well as studiously address such a problem, do not care a bit, just to make the situation worse. These officials do not feel the suffering of the people that is mainly because they are completely living in another world; residing the most comfortable villas located in the most beautiful and spick-and-span areas. Therefore, they are indifferent to whatever happens to other people as long as they are living comfortably. 
In such hard and difficult conditions, we can never fail to notice that there are a good number of people living in basements that can never be inhabitable. Some other ones are living in very old houses that are liable to be pulled down at any moment. To add insult to injury, these places are very expensive and cost them much. From time to time landlords come to ask for a rise. If they show their objection they are forced to leave the so called flats to find themselves in streets. 
If we consider the relationship between the owner and his tenants,  we will find that it is up to the landlord himself to fix the rent he likes, raise it when he likes and gets rid of his tenants also when he wants. Therefore, there are no regulations that control this and preserve the tenants rights. Sometimes these owners may conduct  silly behavior so that they get rid of their tenants; they may turn the electricity off, block water pipes, or threaten them or beat them etc.
In such hard and miserable conditions people are driven by necessity to steal and ask for alms. For necessity knows no law. All this happens at a time our armchair philosophers preach democracy and human rights. 
In an attempt to solve this problem and settle it down the Yemeni government has built two cities, however, only the well-to-do have settled there. You could see one family living in a big building that can embrace five families. 
Therefore, our government should do something to retrieve the situation and save its image before it is too late to control. Some people are fighting tooth and nail for their survival while other ones are spending money through their noses and are exploiting the potential resources of the society before the very eye of the authority. This renting problem has really preoccupied the minds of people and holding their attention. 
In short, the government should address this issue and try to put strategies to set a limit to the aggressive behavior of landlords against the tenants; our government should set rules and apply them seriously on all without fear and prejudice. It should also follow a system to overcome the leasing obstacles and it should do what it is expected to do. It has also to adopt projects of constructing some buildings for low-income people and government employees. Is there any end to this problem?
We will wait and see.