Demolishing houses Baku-style
A road along the boulevard goes up a hill. There is a fire station there followed by a sharp curve up, and then you can see the first bus stop near the shop, named after the bus stop – the Bayil market. Further along, there is the long and narrow Qurban Abbasov street. The streets parallel to it on the right ascend like steps up the slope of a hill.
The Baylovo district is not in the very center of Baku, though it is considered to be prestigious. It’s a 10-minute walk from here to the center on the straight road, with a rather good infrastructure while you take in the sea air and the best seafront views in the city. In addition to this, after the radical reconstruction of the boulevard, it now has a ‘new’ section, including Flag Square and Crystal Concert Hall, which are within walking distance.
However, because of the reconstruction plan in the district, it has been difficult to sell an apartment in Baylovo for the past ten years. The plan of turning Baku into a local Dubai apparently envisages the construction of something more presentable on this hill with a seafront view than old two-storied residential buildings. Therefore, the old buildings are being pulled down. Whether it is accompanied by a scandal or not depends on who exactly is commissioned to deal with it.
“This district should become fashionable. Hotels and costly buildings are being built here and that is why there are many people who come asking to demolish our house. But the point is that we are not paid any compensation for it, says Elnara khanum, who resides at 27 Qurban Abbasov street. This is an old two-story building, a so-called ‘cortile’ with entrances to the flats through the stairway in the yard. 38 families live here now.
According to the residents, people from FORTIS-BAYIL MTK Construction Company first came to their yard on July 7; they were distributing leaflets with plans and pledges. “They promised to pay compensation, to allocate money for the transportation of our belongings to our new flats, to cover the costs of rent and provide new flats in a new house, with a seafront view and large balconies, states Hikmet, another resident of the building.
However, as he told us, he couldn’t find even one word mentioning that they would get new flats or compensation for purchasing themin the proposed contract. Other residents of the house also confirmed this fact. Thus, it turns out that the sale of an apartment is not stipulated in any documents and it would be just a temporary residence in new apartment.
“45 families used to lived here previously. However, they managed to convince 7 families to leave. Company officials were actually very persistent, says Hikmet. “However, only those who had a place to go to, left. For example, a lonely woman moved in with her daughter.
After the residents refused to leave the building under such conditions, they were threatened, they would be ‘cast into the streets,” claiming the house was unfit for living. “The fact that the house was unfit for living was specified in the house deed, so that it couldn’t be sold, says Helmet. “We have never faced such a problem before. All the documents are in order and everyone has a deed.
After the threats had no effect, the building was fenced and they started to demolish the walls of deserted flats on the ground floor. “It is not just about their psychological effect, but this is also an act of vandalism, since the upper floor can simply collapse, says Vagif, another resident of the building.
“I showed the conditions they had given us to a lawyer and he confirmed that the conditions were very ambiguous, states Hikmet. “They require a payment of rent amounting to 300 AZN per month, and, to make things even worse, there are many circumstances, whereby the company can refuse to continue paying us that money at any moment.
Residents of this building have been filing complaints to executive government bodies and other institutions. They have also complained to the police, but it has all been in vain.
Israfil Kerimov, Head of the Humanitarian Issues Department of the executive government of the Sabail District, states, “There’s no way that the residents of the building could not have been given compensation. He met with the developers and they promised not only to give compensation to help with renting a new apartment, but also to provide flats in the newly constructed building. “To tell the truth, I haven’t seen the contract that was offered to the residents, he noted.
This story has gotten much publicity on social media. On July 11, residents of the building were threatened to be sued in court if they continued attracting public attention. Some people got scared, but the most active ones continued demanding a fair deal. They even posted this video on the web.
Finally, attempts to figuratively ‘smoke out’ the residents stopped only after they had appealed to the President’s Administration. The power supply to the building was cut off and even the nearest traffic lights stopped functioning last week. It was hard to tell for sure whether it was malicious intent or it happened by accident. However, residents of the building, who had learned from the series of painful incidents, called the President’s Administration. Their power supply was restored immediately.
House #6 on the same street was demolished about a year ago. Its residents were luckier, since the developer turned out to be ‘kind.’ Saida Mammadova says that it was indeed possible to bargain with him.
“As prescribed by the law, I can demand any price for my flat, even 1 million AZN. However, in our country things happen in a different way. People who choose to go unnamed, come to you together with officials from the housing and utilities administration, the strange half-dead soviet state structure. Formally, you sold your flat to some firm, though, from the very beginning, you were told that the state is going to demolish the building. They let you know that the building will be demolished irrespective of whether you agree to it or not. They tell you that you are eligible for a certain sum for every 1 square meter of the area of your apartment.
The next bargain is depends on ‘how many meters should be calculated’, i.e. whether balconies, expansions, common hallways, the thickness of walls, etc. should be taken into account. The area of an apartment actually does not matter at all. The same is with the market value of the house. Everything depends on how convincing and stubborn you are in your refusal.
Saida was lucky to sell her two-bedroom unfurbished flat subject to demolition at market value, especially given the fact that nothing had been sold in Bayil for 10 years, since nobody knows exactly which buildings will be included into a secret reconstruction plan and whether the residents will be treated humanely like the residents of building #6 or indecently like residents of building #27.