GAZA CITY — It was a good house, Yousif Qirshalli said, staring at the rubble baking in the sun. He had built it over three decades. But its destruction, which occurred on a mid-July day in an Israeli airstrike, wasn’t the worst part.
That came after a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas nearly a month later, when Qirshalli learned he and his family had to leave a relative’s place. It was when they pitched a tent on the dusty ground outside their demolished house, where they’ve spent many nights since. It was when Qirshalli, 65, inquired about local rent prices — and learned there was no way he could afford them.
Official numbers are few in Gaza City, a densely populated seaside enclave of 600,000. But businessmen, rights groups and economists agree that apartment rents here have more than doubled since the war ended, as thousands of displaced residents elbow into an already saturated housing market. Before the war, experts said, an average two-bedroom apartment went for $200 per month; now it can rent for as much as $500.
The surge in rent underscores a housing problem that has plagued Gaza for years: There simply is not enough. Even before the recent war — which the United Nations says destroyed or severely damaged 17,000 houses — the housing market in Gaza was squeezed by Israeli restrictions on imports of construction material, land scarcity and rapid population growth. The United Nations expects Gaza’s population to swell by nearly one-quarter by 2020, from around 1.7 million today to 2.1 million.