First residential complex handed over to quake-affected families in Vaqarr, Tirana 

First homes in the newly-built residential complex in Vaqarr, Tirana, were handed over to the families that lost their dwellings in the devastating earthquake that hit Albania on November 26, 2019.

Two years later, the area’s unfolding panorama is now totally transformed. New houses and schools, modern infrastructure and contemporary standards thanks to the ongoing post-earthquake reconstruction program that is turning the earthquake challenge into an opportunity for radical transformation of the worst-hit areas.

The residential complex of the newly-built homes is part of a modern neighbourhood, which will soon include a new nine-year school building, a high-school, a health care centre, as well as the administrative services, creating a space of totally new conditions for everyone.

The project’s full implementation for the quake-affected families in Vaqarr was built through the combined contribution of the state budget and the Different Week Foundation headed by Arbër Hajdari.

 

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at the ceremony of handing over the new housing units in Vaqarr:

Good evening everyone! It is a pleasure to see the new phase of handing over the housing unit to the beneficiaries starting in the village of Vaqarr, a small but very significant residential complex built with dedication and maximum quality.

I would like to primarily express my wholeheartedly gratitude to Arber and everyone else also for their cooperation and readiness to join forces with us so that we could set in motion and deliver on a plan, where, in addition to construction of the new homes, it could also deliver on the idea about a new residential neighbourhood, which would provide not only new housing to the quake-affected families that move into their new homes today, but also a nine-year school, a new high school building, a health care centre, , as well as the administrative services, creating a space of totally new conditions for all of those who lost their houses in the November 26 earthquake two years ago, when they lost everything, but today they are about to move into new dwellings that are built back stronger and better than the ones they lost and they have today a lot more than they used to have prior to the earthquake.

I am very happy to see the ongoing reconstruction effort significantly improving the lives of around 33,000 across the country. A total of 33,000 families residing in the whole area hit by the devastating earthquake two years ago have either lost their dwellings or their homes have sustained serious structural damages. Thanks to this huge effort they will now live in much better housing conditions in the new residential complex rather than in the apartment buildings they used to live in prior to the earthquake. These new housing units have been built with high energy efficiency standards that significantly reduce the electricity consumption.

On the other hand, if we are to take a look at the list of all of those who have already moved into their homes, one would find that thousands upon thousands people now live in the newly-rebuilt single-family homes, with 500 of them in the municipality of Tirana alone, while thousands more families have also moved into their reconstructed apartments and work is in full swing to construct the residential complexes in all affected areas.

Many more families will soon move into the new single-family homes in Ndroq, Zall Herr area, as well as in the new residential complex in May 5 neighbourhood, which is set to become a role model in terms of urban infrastructure in Tirana as everything is being built from scratch and this would provide all these residents the opportunity to reside in an urban space, which unlike other previously-built urban spaces, have undergone various projects to transform into spaces meeting optimum conditions.

The same goes for the new residential complex in Kombinat, where significant progress has been made in terms of both designing, but also clarifying all elements concerning primarily the property titles and so on and so forth.

The affected residents in the village of Bubq will move into their new homes in the next few days. A ten-time bigger neighbourhood has been built in Bubq and where all those families will now live in an exemplary urban space that will now replace a previously totally degraded urban situation.

More families will move into their newly-built homes in Fushe Kruje and Thumane. A huge exemplary residential complex has been built in Laç and reconstruction process is underway in other parts of the city that is being rebuilt from scratch under the efforts to turn the crisis into an opportunity for everyone.

The same goes for other worst-affected areas in Lezhe, where construction of a total residential neighbourhood is nearing completion, or in Kavaja, or further away in Mirdita, near the town of Rreshen, where construction of a new neighbourhood is heading towards completion too, or in Kruja, where construction work kicked off most recently after the challenges due to the terrain, or in Durres, the worst-hit city, where reinforcement and repair of damages has completed in a significant number of apartment buildings. Work is now underway on apartment buildings that have sustained most serious damages. Work has started for some time now, but it is about projects that take a longer time, while work has kicked off on construction of a brand new residential neighbourhood in Spitalla, which is set to become another example of incredible transformation for the families due to reside there and, in it represents yet another opportunity to transform a suburban area into an important hub of the city life.

All these projects represent milestone moments in a two-year long effort. We should all bear in mind the fact that the country has been through very tough moments in the last two years and this effort was actually hit by the surprise blow from the pandemic, which has postponed a number of our objectives, as we actually had all the opportunities to complete construction of single-family homes earlier. But the pandemic grounded a series of projects to a halt and postponed our objectives to a relatively long period of time. In the meantime, it is important for us not to forget that none of the affected families that were forced to abandon their homes – although some of them decided to stay in their apartments as the damages they sustained were not structural – were forced to leave their houses and they were not abandoned, but were all provided the rental bonus under the government housing programme for the quake-affected families.

The process has been marred by incredible difficulties regarding the property ownership titles as part of our efforts to make sure that in every step of it, the process is fair to everyone and make sure that all the families due to move from their previous residence are provided unquestionable and incontestable property ownership certificates.

Construction of a good part of the new educational facilities has been completed in tandem and the children in the affected areas now attend schools built back better and more resilient in the heart of urban centres.

This has been made possible thanks to a greater commitment of the government and the state budget.

Many, in their effort to contest the process, even without needing to do so, because there are many other things for which we could be criticized, but in this case the process has been exemplary, still continue to focus on the international pledges.

First of all, the single-family homes, the apartment buildings and new residential complexes built to date and which you have already seen with your own eyes, together with the schools, a good part of the educational facilities have been totally built through the state budget money, including also some contributions, like the one provided by Arber and the Different Week Foundation in this site, or the contribution provided by the other foundation called “Albanians for Albanians” in Thumane, or the contribution provided by Behgjet Pacolli do not include the international donors’ pledges.

In the meantime, a part of the project on construction of the educational facilities is being implemented under the European Union funds and pledges provided by our country’s international friends and partners. The first residential neighbourhood, which was built through funds provided by the Republic of Turkey and the residential bloc already under construction through funding provided by the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates.

The second issue I would like to underline for everyone it should be clear to everyone that the funds allocated by third parties, be it the funds committed for construction of the two big neighbourhoods I already mentioned, or the EU-funded projects on construction of the educational facilities, or construction of schools supported by various states, are not transferred to the Albanian government. Not a single cent is transferred to the government.

For everyone to be clear, the international partners and friends spend their funds themselves. The international partners manage their money themselves through projects, where we have our contribution and we have the last say on approval of the projects and tenders that they actually design themselves, and contracts that they sign and award themselves and eventually transfer to the public.

Therefore, it is crucial that we all feel good for the fact that we have accomplished and we are delivering on something, which nobody had imagined on a day after the tragedy, when more than 15,000 families lost their homes and thousands more families were terrorized because of the cracked walls and today, all the 33,000 quake-affected families now own an important capital, more valuable assets than they used to have prior to the earthquake.

This is also the reason for us to feel good, because not only did we succumb to this blow, but on the contrary, we made and are making it possible every day for all those affected by the disaster to recover and emerge stronger and these houses today have a higher value. So, all these children moving into these new houses now will inherit a more valuable property than the ones they unfortunately lost in the earthquake, which was a loss now increasingly being transformed into goodness for everyone as they are constantly moving into their new homes. In the meantime, the value of areas has completely changed.

This area, also thanks to this project, has now gained a new value and of course once the entire project on the administrative services centre, on the construction of the new school and the health care centre, the value of properties here will jump high, just like the value of the properties and land area in Laç has gained a much higher value. The same goes for the value of properties and the land in the May 5 neighbourhood, in Kombinat, as well as the value of the land in the town of Thumane, in Lezhe, Kavaje, Vore, where a neighbourhood is being constructed too, which was unimaginable prior to this disaster and it is a value created thanks to this effort.

I am very proud that we are able to make sure that a certain category of affected families, mainly the low-income ones, because the earthquake has mostly damaged the single-family homes of the poorest one, who wouldn’t be able to build such houses, not only are they now moving into houses they would never be able to build, but they are benefiting them for free, something that hasn’t happened and doesn’t happen neither in Italy, nor in Turkey of Greece, where new house are constructed in the wake of earthquakes, but the affected families benefit them through soft bank loans. They are receiving these houses for free and, on the other hand, they are receiving the new properties in areas that are residential areas similar to those where houses are built by the wealthier people. They do not differ in terms of construction quality with the residential blocs of those who can afford buying them, and this is another reason for us to be proud also for the fact that we have been standing with the most vulnerable ones, who were devastated from the earthquake and by supporting them we are providing them the opportunity to feel and emerge stronger than prior to the earthquake.

Finally, I would like to address all the quake-affected families that have yet to move into the new houses, and urge them to show some more patience. They will continue to benefit from our support through the rental bonus until the day they move into the new homes and they should not forget that these are extremely difficult processes for the most developed countries too. What Erion said is a fact. Italy is still working to cope with the effects of earthquakes that have hit the country even 40 years ago. People are still living in caravans 10 years after earthquakes hit the country. This means nothing else but the fact that we have been dealing and working every day to press ahead with this process, we made it possible that despite other difficulties, because Albania is not a rich country, to make available to these families all the required funds, even to make sure that they live under normal human conditions. We haven’t abandoned them to live in tents. Earlier today, I came across the latest data, showing that 177 families only are still receiving the rental bonus since day one and they are not leaving in tents, because we have supposedly forgotten and abandoned them, but they have refused to leave their place of residence as they want to stay close to their land, farm, and livestock, whereas a considerable part of them have been accommodated in rented apartments. That’s why I think we have all the reasons to optimistically see the future through the eyes of all these families and we will ultimately clean all the traces of the earthquake for every affected family.

It remains to be seen, as it is the case today, as it will be the case in the coming weeks, it will also be seen next spring and all the wounds will be healed and only three super big blocks, namely the May 5 residential complex, Kombinat and Spitalla residential complexes, which of course may take a little more time, but it is really about neighbourhoods in big cities and it is normal I believe that those who will reside in those neighbourhoods show some more patience, because they will find themselves taking possession of a property that otherwise they themselves would never have been able to develop, due to their economic conditions. 

So, from a grave tragedy, 33,000 tragedy-affected families will emerge financially stronger at the end of this process and they will definitely feel relieved from the point of view of social conditions, and above all their children will grow up amid much better conditions than they would enjoy if the tragedy was not happen.

Thank you very much everyone!