Phnom Penh Municipality held a ceremony yesterday in which 174 families from the Borei Keila community received new apartments in exchange for giving up their land to the developer Phanimex Company, officials and residents said.
Municipal Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said by telephone that a public lottery had ensured a fair distribution of the 4-by-12 meter apartments, which were located on different floors of a Borei Keila Building D, paid for by Phanimex.
“The drawing was fair. They received an apartment depending on their luck,” he said.
Mr Chhoeun said poor families would receive assistance in getting a connection to the water supply, adding, “If they are really poor the water supply authority will allow them to get a payment plan.”
It is the fourth building to be completed at the Borei Keila site since 2007 and 696 displaced families have received housing so far, he said. A total of 10 buildings have been planned to house around 1,740 displaced families and two more buildings will be finished in the coming months, Mr Chhoeun added.
The social housing area in Borei Keila covers 2 hectares, while Phanimex will develop the other 2.6 hectares.
Speaking at the ceremony, municipal Governor Kep Chuktema said residents would only receive legal title for their apartment after five years of residency. Potential “buyers should be careful…. These houses are not for sale,” he said.
Resident Van Thy, 39, said he was glad to have a new home, but found it unfortunate it was located on the sixth floor. “I am glad I have a new house, I don’t have to worry about eviction anymore,” he said.
A 38-year-old resident, who only gave her name as Sotheary out of fear of retribution from authorities, said many people were still concerned about the cost of connecting their homes to the electricity and water supply system, which she said cost around $300.
Bunn Rachana, an advisor to the Housing Rights Task Force, said the development of Borei Keila–started in 2003–was the only case of land sharing and onsite housing development for displaced residents in Phnom Penh.
Ms Rachana said the project offered “a good solution” for resettling families, as it allowed people to continue to live in the same location and keep their local livelihoods, instead of being resettled on the city’s barren outskirts, as is often the case with inner city resettlement.
Ms Rachana said however, this type of resettlement comes with its own “administrative complexities,” adding, “They need to get more transparency and accountability” to improve the legitimacy of apartment distribution.
(Additional reporting by Paul Vrieze)