Senior Istanbul Municipality official racist defense of project
Elif İnce Radikal - ISTANBUL
DAILY NEWS photoForeigners were the target of racially-charged remarks from an Istanbul municipality official, who made the remarks in defense of a municipality practice of selling urban transformation apartments to foreigners of the area.
After 600 buildings in the Sarıgöl neighborhood, located in Istanbul’s Gaziosmanpaşa district, were evacuated and demolished as part of an urban transformation project, Gaziosmanpaşa municipality had pledged that the new apartments would only be sold to former residents.
However, as only 191 of the 775 new flats were sold from within the district, the municipality lifted restrictions on the sale of flats to non-residents, causing fury among municipal assembly members and from residents who were concerned over a decline in living conditions.
But Gaziosmanpaşa Municipality Deputy Mayor Yılmaz Özkan’s response to criticisms of the move led to a greater controversy, with accusations of him being a racist.
“Now, it is being made to look like we are selling flats to buyers abroad, like Armenians, Greeks, Israelis, or other nations,” he said during a Municipality Assembly Meeting on Nov. 25.
“If one wants to buy a flat from here, our citizens from İzmir, Adıyaman, Diyarbakır, Rize or Trabzon should buy.”
The senior official asked his remarks to be erased from the minutes of the assembly meeting after drawing great reaction from Republican People’s Party (CHP) members of the assembly.
Focus on low-income regions
During the same meeting, the project was also made exempt from the scope of the Law on Shanty Housing No. 775, which only allowed for the construction of social housing in low-income regions.
“The Law No. 775 provides a framework suitable for low-income groups as it is designed to prevent the construction of shanty houses,” Tayfun Kahraman, head of the Istanbul branch of the Chamber of City Planners said.
“If this [area] were included as part of Law No.6306, every type of housing project would have to be approved, including luxurious ones,” he further stressed, adding the law also eases administrative interference with the projects.
Istanbul’s many districts, which are full with unhealthy shanty houses built by low-income families, have been witnessing a boom in urbanization. But most of these projects, promoted by the government and city municipalities, have been slammed for being geared at only profit-raising and indifferent to socio-economic development.