Residents at high risk due to low rents in run-down Istanbul neighborhood
Gülistan Alagöz – ISTANBUL
Hundreds of buildings at high risk that have been evacuated because of a planned urban transformation project in Istanbul’s Fikirtepe neighborhood are being rented by foreigners and Turkish citizens due to low prices.
Turkey, which straddles seismic fault lines and is prone to earthquakes, has many high-risk buildings which still expect to benefit from urban transformation projects.
In the metropolis Istanbul’s poverty-stricken Fikirtepe buildings, without any earthquake resistance and have a high risk of collapsing, are being used by foreigners - who came to Turkey for work purposes - and impoverished residents of the city.
The reason for their imperative residence at risky buildings stem from the residences’ low rental prices.
“Would we stay here if we had somewhere else to go. Our fears have mounted with the [recent] news of quakes. We are keeping watch on our children at night, afraid that the home will collapse,” Salih Akın, a citizen living in a derelict house in Fikirtepe, told daily Hürriyet.
“The homeowner left, and we had to settle when we found out that it was empty,” he said.
Another resident, Ahmet Ulucak, said that he has been living with the fear of death “every single day.”
Ulucak said that he rented out an apartment in his building yet “has on his conscience” when collecting the rent.
“But my tenant is desperate as well. Where else will he find a home for [500 Turkish Liras (about $84)]? He would not have stayed in this risky building if he had another choice,” Ulucak said.
According to information gathered from local real estate agents, the rents of these apartments differ from 400 liras to 800 liras. (about $67 to $134). However, in newly built apartments, rents can go up to 4,500 liras (around $754).
Satılmış and Güler Aktaş, a couple residing in Fikirtepe, said that they evacuated their home, which was heavily damaged because of new constructions, yet moved to another apartment on the same street.
“We cannot go to a safer place because of economic conditions. We said ‘yes’ to [urban] transformation with dreams of durable houses but have been turned adrift,” they added.
Even though people who rent old buildings are majorly Uzbek, Afghan and Turkmen, Turkish citizens stay in these residents as well.
Some foreigners in the neighborhood even lease the apartment and then rent the rooms to other people, in a bid to earn some money.
60,000 people victimized
According to Engin Akgüzel, the spokesperson for Leke Fikirtepe Platform, some 60,000 people in the neighborhood have been victimized due to an uninitiated, yet promised, urban transformation project, as well as contractors who went bankrupt.
“A majority of Fikirtepe residents had to leave their homes due to risks. People who had a hard time paying rent either returned to their old homes or rented their old apartments,” Akgüzel said.
Some 25,000 people currently live in “fear” in buildings at high risk of collapsing, he added.
“The conditions of the homes are heartbreaking; burst columns, crumbled walls… Let alone the expected powerful Istanbul earthquake, the situation of these people - who are terrified of homes collapsing even when vehicles pass through the street, in the [city’s] center is heart-wrenching,” he stressed.