Turkey to build half a million housing units each year: Minister
Turkey has to build half a million housing units each year to replace “risky structures” constructed before the 1999 earthquake, Environment and Urbanization Minister Mehmet Özhaseki has said.
“The ministry has to prioritize, replace or transform all risky buildings constructed before 1999. Can we do this in 15 years? Yes we can. This means building 500,000 separate units each year,” Özhaseki said on Oct. 26 in the western province of Manisa.
He added that the number of risky units in Istanbul is 200,000-250,000, while also adding that another 300,000 houses in other parts of Turkey should be replaced.
“We have the power and the knowledge to achieve this,” he said.
But he also admitted that his government “wrecked cities” with construction projects.
“We live in a heaven of a country, yet if we had to describe the cities we constructed, we’d use the words ‘arabesque civilization,’” Özhaseki said, adding that Turkish cities “lacked identity.”
“Even in our smallest towns, you see a skyscraper and a slum next to it. If we could have preserved our historic legacies, we probably would create a much better city structure,” Özhaseki added, specifically citing the destruction of a hamam, an Ottoman-style bath, built by the world-renowned 16th century architect Mimar Sinan.
“This country is built on a loose ground. Seventy percent of our citizens live in first and second degree earthquake zones. Exactly 56 earthquakes above 6 in magnitude happened in the past century. We lost nearly 100,000 people and paid around $100 billion to compensate the damage,” Özhaseki said, adding the country should live in line with its geographic conditions.
Citing information he obtained from scientists, Özhaseki stressed that residents living in roughly 15 million buildings constructed before 1999 are facing a threat of collapse.
In a separate meeting, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu also said the government had “damaged” the cities’ character.
“Did we damage the structure of our cities? Yes, we have,” Soylu admitted on Oct. 26 in the Black Sea province of Trabzon.
Elsewhere, at a meeting in Istanbul on Oct. 10, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: “We didn’t appreciate this city. We betrayed Istanbul, and we still are betraying it. I, too, am responsible for this situation.”
The government is planning to build two brand new districts in Istanbul, the country’s largest province, as part of a bid to relocate residents living in buildings prone to earthquakes, Özhaseki had told daily Hürriyet on Oct. 5.
“There are so many military zones on the outskirts of Istanbul that could be considered barren land. If it is accepted, a new city may be built there and we could accomplish the urban transformations of at least 10 districts,” Özhaseki added.
He said the government was establishing a new mechanism for Istanbul, citing land on both the European and Asian sides of the city.