Forms of Ownership

Property ownership is highly emphasized among Palestinians for a range of reasons. Real estate has traditionally been a favoured form of investment throughout the Middle East. Moreover, in the occupied territories there is a lack of alternative targets for investment and uncertainties about the future place an additional break on investment. Additionally, fathers have been under obligation to provide a house for their sons upon marriage. 24% of the households report that they have taken up loans to finance house construction. House construction is the second most important reason reported for household indebtedness. The first is support of daily consumption.

In the occupied territories there are few credit institutions which extend loans or mortgages for house building. Consequently, the extended family continues to be a principle financial base for construction although survey data suggests that loans from individuals who are not kin might be playing an increasing role in house financing, particularly in Arab Jerusalem. Nonetheless, because financial resources mobilized through kin groups or personal relations are usually fairly limited, this form of financing has clear implications for the quality of the housing stock and the size of units constructed.

Table 3.10 Forms of ownership by type of locality
Resident ownedOwned by extended familyLeasedLeased UNRWAOther
Greater Gaza city58289423
Gaza towns/villages37335222
Gaza camps13122721
West Bank towns591823--
West Bank villages81145-2
West Bank camps31753522
Arab Jerusalem40262825
All households561911122

The nature of house ownership varies with locality, indicating in part the differential availability of land for construction in the areas concerned and in part a trend toward a more fragmented family structure with urbanisation (table 3.10).

Survey data on forms of ownership is both complex, rich and merits a detailed study. A full consideration of this issue has not been possible within the confines of this baseline report. However, it should be noted that UNRWA housing is probably even more widespread in the camps than indicated by these figures since many refugees regard the homes they have leased from UNRWA for several generations as their own and may report them as such.
As mentioned, house building, both in terms of capital invested and labour expended, tends to be a family affair. Except in large urban areas, it is relatively unusual to find multi-household buildings occupied by households that are not part of the same extended family. Even in large cities, families tend to live with non-related households only in large apartment buildings with four floors or more. What is almost non-existent outside Jerusalem and the large West Bank towns is multi-household buildings where kin and non-kin live together. This reflects, among other factors, the role and expectations of the kin group in house construction. Historically, the head of the household was obliged to build, if not an adjacent house, at least an adjacent apartment for his sons. This patrilocal pattern persists in the "large building" type of architecture in which the family builds a number of self-contained apartments for themselves and their sons' future families.

However, there are notable regional variations which partly relate to the impact of urbanisation on family structure.

Table 3.11 Kinship relations between households in multi-household buildings
BrothersOther kinNot kinBoth kin &
not kin
Greater Gaza city4639131
Gaza towns/villages63307-
Gaza camps385112-
West Bank towns3923344
West Bank villages46487-
West Bank camps385310-
Arab Jerusalem1830457
All households4036223


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