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Thousands of homeless people at crossroads

8 months without rent bonus in Durrës and Kurbin and municipality-government pinpong game

Ilda Hoxha

Since April, at least 3500 families left homeless due to earthquake of 26th of November 2019 in Durrës and Kurbin, haven’t received rent bonus. Municipalities pass the buck to Ministry of Finance for not relieving funds, but the Ministry absolves itself by confirming that payments are responsibility of the local government. Homeless families left in the middle of streets, until completion of this protracted reconstruction process, are those who suffer from such ping pong game of responsibilities. Failure to grant bonuses is considered by experts as an indicator of abuse with post-earthquake reconstruction funds.

His apartment in Neighbourhood No. 5, Durrës, remained largely uninhabited due to the Earthquake of 26th of November 2019. Since that night, Bashkim Gjika has still no roof over his head.

The structure of the building left over in “Stefa Dhima” street after the devastation four years ago, assessed at DS5 damage level of the coastal city has not been collapsed yet.

“The building was initially classified as DS2. Following our case presented with Prosecution Office and submission of expertise by the latter, experts assessed the building as unfit to live, ordered immediate movement of inhabitants and classified it for demolition, DS5. From that day forward, we’re living in a rented house” – he confesses worriedly.

As if that was not enough, Bashkim has not even received the rent bonus.

“There are 48 families in this building and most of them are on the streets as they don’t have money to pay the rent. The rent amounts 200 thousand ALL per month, however I haven’t paid it for 8 months now. I’ve let the owner know and he gave me 2 more months.  By the end of December, I should give him the money or hand over keys of the house – that’s it”- he says.

Bashkim’s incomes are minimal as he suffers from diabetes and his wife has undergone 5 surgeries. They benefit from Medical Examination Commission on Capacity for Work (KEMP) and that’s not enough to even cover their basic expenses.

“Me and my wife spend 1 million ALL for medicines every month, because she has done 5 surgeries for cancer tissue. I’ve been operated twice, I’m done – with needles, on insulin, last degree of diabetes. Our daughter, who lives in Italy, has sent us money several times to cover these medicines as if it was not for them, I would be dead now” – says Bashkim.

Who is responsible?

Driven by Bashkim’s concern and that of other similar families, Faktoje asked Durrës Municipality for information. Officially, this institution admits that 2,500 families have not received the rent bonus since April.

“There are about 2500 families in Durrës District that are treated or are part of the list of families benefiting from the rent bonus and, who, haven’t received such rent bonus since April 2023”, confirmed by Municipality of Durrës.

Damaged building as per DS5 level in Durrës, November 2023

Furthermore, this institution holds Ministry of Finance and Economics responsible for the delay:

“Durrës Municipality requested to Ministry of Finance and Economics funds aimed to subsidize the rent for families affected by earthquake of 26.11.2019 with Letter no. 30/4, dated on 18.07.2023 and has receive no answer about reliving those funds”.

Following this situation, Faktoje officially addressed the Ministry of Finance which explains that since March 2023 Municipalities have been notified that rent subsidies for homeless families will be paid by local government budget.

“Pursuant to Paragraph 5, Article 26, of Normative Act No. 9, dated on 16.12.2019, by Letter No. 5897, dated on 30.03.2023, aiming to push the reconstruction process forward and given the fact that housing falls under local government units responsibilities, all municipalities affected by earthquake have been notified that rent subsidies for affected families shall be financed by their budget starting from March 2023, preparing them to take further measures to cover these payments. Furthermore, in order to push the process forward, Ministry of Finance and Economics, while reviewing Budget 2023, has recently allocated 12 billion ALL for the reconstruction process, through the Normative Act herein.” – Ministry of Finance declared to Faktoje in the official response of 23rd of November.

Given the circumstances where Ministry of Finance and Durrës Municipality pass the buck and responsibilities to each other, Faktoje asked Council of Ministers and Media and Information Agency about who will provide a solution for 2500 homeless families in Durrës, left with no rent bonus for 8 months.

We haven’t got an answer by the time the article was published.

Expert of Economics, Mr. Zef Preç remains critical to the central and local government regarding the entire post-earthquake process.

“Failure to grant bonuses to families left homeless due to earthquake of 26th of November 2019, reflects, on one side, the fear of officials from SPAK punishment due to abuse with reconstruction funds and irresponsibility of central and local government to implement the acts they have approved.

Meanwhile, local government prioritizes payments of incinerators that do not exist. And, it is ever less fulfilling the duties to citizens who voted for it.  Furthermore, even after four years, the government is still using the earthquake as electoral bond”, argues Mr. Preçi.

Bonus is missing even in other municipalities affected by earthquake

Kurbin Municipality also confirmed to Faktoje that inhabitants left homeless by the earthquake in 2019 are not being treated with rent bonus since April 2023:

“Kurbin Municipality 1086 families that need to be treated with rent bonus. Since the beginning, this fund has been covered by central government and regardless of our requests, no fund has been relieved to pay these bonuses.

While the “responsibility ping pong game” continues among institutions on who will provide the rent bonus, thousands of families left homeless by the earthquake are suffering and waiting without hope again this year.


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