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Self-immolation in Algeria highlights housing crisis

Man sets himself on fire in Algeria - where rent has increased 500% in 10 years - after threats of eviction
Laundry is strung between houses in the capital - Algeria faces a severe housing shortfall (AFP)

An Algerian man was badly injured on Tuesday when he set himself on fire because he was unable to pay rent for his family home.

The 35-year old father of two sustained severe burns to his chest and hands, and was taken to the burns unit of a nearby hospital in the Sidi Bel Abbas district of eastern Algeria.

The man’s landlord had threatened to evict the family if he failed to pay rent for the accommodation.

Although Algeria is the world’s fourth-largest producer of natural gas, 23 percent of Algerians still live below the poverty line.

With 1 in 10 people under 24 unemployed, increasing numbers of people are struggling to pay rent for private accommodation.

A long-term housing crisis has meant that property prices have ballooned by 500 percent in the last ten years.

Efforts to accelerate construction and make up for the shortfall have faced stumbling-blocks – cement prices rose by a fifth in 2013, meaning that building affordable homes is a less profitable venture.

The Algerian housing minister, Abdel Aziz Taboun, recently told parliament that his department will not be able to build the required number of new houses.

He explained that Algeria’s top annual capacity for constructing new homes is 80,000 – ministers had hoped to be able to build 200,000 units by the end of 2015.

Self-immolation, setting oneself on fire, has been on the rise since 2011, when the street-vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in neighbouring Tunisia, in an event that is famous for sparking the Arab Spring uprisings.

Over 150 people have set fire to themselves in Algeria in the three years since then, more than have occurred in Tunisia.