The Vanadzor Municipality has decided to immediately to vacate the #1-8 hut settlement in the Kimshen neighborhood. Presently, 60 families reside in the settlement.
All of them acquired residence in the huts through legal avenues after the 1988 earthquake, via a joint order of the Vanadzor Municipality.
Vanadzor Deputy Mayor Norik Sardaryan explained to us that, “Such an order is a document akin to a residency permit. It is not a house or a private ownership document. The right has been granted to those people to live in those huts since people were living in the streets. In addition, it didn’t happen during this mayor’s term.”
Mr. Sardaryan also told us that only 6 needy families left homeless from the earthquake presently reside in the Kimshen settlement. The rest have either sold their apartments or are people who have moved in from elsewhere.
Yesabek Kirakosyan, a disabled resident of hut #12, says, “My three room apartment was destroyed by the earthquake. My father passed away while living in this hut and my two sisters got married here. The Municipality didn’t take into account the fact that we had a 3 room place before and gave us this 2 room apartment. I’m a married woman with a growing family. I want a 3 room apartment.”
All the same, why has the Vanadzor Municipality elected to resolve the issue of resettling these individuals by following such an uncompromising method prone to conflict? The issue is that as far back as December 12, 2003 the Municipality, based on the ROA government’s Resolution #317, organized an auction of the lands occupied by the huts that it had allocated to injured earthquake victims and those in social need.
Residents of the hut settlement claim that the Municipality never informed them of the auction in a timely fashion. Deputy Mayor Sardaryan stressed to us that, “The auction was publicized in all the appropriate venues. Each of the hut settlement residents were informed in person. The auction is like state-sponsored gambling, the person who is clever and raises his hand before the others comes out a winner. To go tell someone that an auction’s being held and that they should go and participate is violating the right of others.”
According to the statements of Yesabek Kirakosyan, Anahit Margaryan and other hut residents, these land parcels located in the center of town were purchased by officials of the Lori Marzpetaran (Regional Authority) and the Vanadzor Municipality. These officials include Vanadzor Mayor Samvel Darbinyan, Judge Varduhi Hovnanyan of the Vanadzor First Court Tribunal, the Military Commissar and other assorted bureaucrats who have decided to quickly build “elite” apartments on the site.
The hut residents aren’t refusing to vacate but are demanding an overall resolution to their housing problem. In this matter the residents hopes were buoyed by the words of Serzh Sargsyan who traveled to the town with National Assembly Deputy Viktor Dallakyan during the recent presidential campaign and who called on the residents, “Not to leave These huts until they give you keys to a new apartment”.
The Deputy Mayor interpreted the word’s of the President thus, “I have the right to assume that the nation’s President, or any individual up for election, who makes statements during the election campaign has the liberty to, shall we say, to get carried away. What I mean to say is that people hear what they want to hear and understand statements in such a way that’s beneficial to them.”
What is also farcical is that all the petitions forwarded to the Lori First Tribunal Court by the residents came before Judge Varduhi Hovnanyan for review, a person who gobbled up a large chunk of those lands. Naturally all these legal suits were thrown out as baseless by Judge Hovnanyan.
Nevertheless, the Vanadzor Municipality is proposing three options to the residents as a resolution - The first is to pay residents a sum equal to 2 years rent (which is 10,000 drams per month). Deputy Mayor Sardaryan describes it as “a means whereby residents can rent a place and have time to choose their future.” He added that, “A large percentage of people in the world rent their homes. Thus, like them, we all can’t own our homes. We are giving the people the means to live for two years and decide their own fate.”. Of course what Mr. Sardaryan fails to mention is that in many countries those renting are also have well-paying jobs that allows them to afford both a comfortable home and normal lifestyle For Mr. Sardaryan to compare this situation with those miserable unemployed families in Vanadzor, or those who somehow manage to live on a meager monthly 15,000 dram allowance, is not only incorrect but insincere as well.
The second proposal by the Municipality is to relocate all the town’s hut settlement into one central location on Leningrad Street. But residents claim the area is a semi-marsh and unfit for living. Resettling residents in a dormitory is the third proposal. Residents reject such a move because, as opposed to the huts, rooms allocated in the dorms are to be used as bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens, all at once. Here’s how Haykanoush Simonyan, someone whom the Municipality resettled in the dormitory, describes the place, “I live in the dormitory but I wouldn’t call it living. There are prostitutes plying their trade in there. Conditions are truly horrific.”
Regarding this issue Deputy Mayor Sardaryan stated, “What nerve for somebody to say such a thing. Knife assaults and prostitution happen all over. We uncovered prostitution back in the hut settlement. We went down there an destroyed that hut.”