For many newlywed couples in Beirut, finding an apartment in this beloved city is often a depressing exercise. Even when I was on the look-out for a small apartment to rent, the best deal I was given by a sales-representative was a decrepit one-bedroom flat for not less than $1,000 per month in the trendy neighborhood of Hamra. Looking ahead, I expect that my future partner and I will have to move to the hills above our city to find a newly built apartment that accommodates us and our needs. All that without considering the other expenses, whether it was the car, the utilities bill and the everyday expenses, the budget which Lebanon’s new generation have to put aside for a decent life is becoming increasingly hefty. This present an imminent threat to our already fragile future. Should we, as young Lebanese adults, always resort to migrating abroad whenever we’re faced with a challenge in our own homeland? The answer is no.
For this reason, our work group in SMOL, took the decision of adopting the cause of reducing apartment prices in Beirut. Entitled “Badna Beit b Beirut” (We want a House in Beirut), the topic took us to research further on the motives and barriers of setting price ceilings for new and existing apartments in Beirut, and exploring the reality of the situation in terms of statistics, financial figures and case studies. For example, we learned that in 2010 alone, transactions of real-estate properties reached as much as $9.5 billion according to the Lebanese Ministry of Finance. With a country of a $39 GDP, this is a whole lot!
Throughout our work, we utilized citizen-journalism tools and methods to spread our word and reach out to a wide audience. Social media platforms, video cam recorders and blog posts were among the main tools we learned to use. Eventually, we started receiving feedback from those who are affected just like us, wanting to join forces with us and adopting our demands.
As young professionals and middle-income earners, we refuse to be forced outside our city or our country because of a greedy group of real estate developers and an absent-minded government. We believe it is time to speak out when everyone else is almost silent on this issue. SMOL gave us this opportunity in a practical and easy-to-learn manner. What was once unheard of before is today a public issue!