Thousands of families hit by wrong urban transformation policies across Turkey

Thousands of families hit by wrong urban transformation policies across Turkey

Gülistan Alagöz - ISTANBUL
Thousands of families hit by wrong urban transformation policies across Turkey Many Turkish people, who live in unstable buildings at high risk of collapsing during an earthquake have said “yes” to urban transformation projects with the hope of renewing their houses but thousands of them have been disappointed due to several wrong policies, which has paved the way for the appearance of hundreds of contractors who have not kept their promise to build.

“When an earthquake hits somewhere, the same thought bothers us—‘What will happen when an earthquake happens in Istanbul?’—With this fear in mind, we signed a deal with a contractor to renew our house under the urban transformation project. However, we have been waiting for years and nobody is building our house,” said Firdevs Uluocak, a woman from the Fikirtepe district of Istanbul, where an intensive urban transformation project has been underway for the last six years. 

Some of the contractors have finalized the buildings in the neighborhood and have handed them over to their owners in the last six years, but some of them have not even started construction—a move which has harmed thousands of people. 

Construction companies failed to keep their promises to build 35,000 properties in the neighborhood due to several reasons. Some of them went bankrupt or faced problems of finding capital or some others witnessed legal problems. In the end, many homeowners have to live out of their own properties.

In a bid to complete such projects, the ministry of environment and urban affairs has stepped in and announced these projects will be completed through a financial plan, which is backed by a number of state agencies. Problems, however, seem to remain as we have seen during our visit to Fikirtepe.

“We made a contract with a company three years ago. In line with this deal, our building was demolished two years ago, but construction never commenced. In addition to this, we have not received our rent aid in the last six months. In this area, more than 150 families with lower wages are just like us, my family. We cannot pay our house rent, to which we have temporarily moved to wait for the rebuilding of our houses,” said İrfan Timsir, who defined himself as an “urban transformation victim” in Fikirtepe.

The mentioned company did the same for another construction site, according to the Fikirtepe residents. 

Rise in criminal cases

Fadime Çadır and Neriman Zor, who also live in the neighborhood, said serious crime problems have erupted.

“Thinner addicts stay in the demolished building sites. There is a steep rise in robbery cases around,” they said. 

Another Fikirtepe resident noted that more than 1,000 families were in tough condition due to wrong policies, adding that he did not sleep at night to protect his family from criminals in the neighborhood. 

Such problems are not limited to Istanbul. Nearly 2,000 people have been waiting for their demolished houses to be rebuilt for years in the eastern province of Erzurum. 

“Low-rise buildings in this area were demolished in 2012. A new construction project, titled ‘New City’ and composed of 2,300 properties, was launched. Ahmet Küçükler, who was then the mayor of the Erzurum Municipality, was involved in the project, so we bought properties from this project. When a new mayor was elected in 2014, the project was stopped by the new mayor, Mehmet Sekmen. Some of the properties have been completed, but most of them are unfinished. Some 1,044 people are asking authorities to resolve their problem,” said the residents in the Palandöken district of Erzurum. 

Local authorities said that the project was halted as it was in violation with the existing construction permits. 

Sector representatives and legal authorities have recommended people to check the legal backgrounds and warrants of their potential construction companies.

“Check the legal and financial capacity of your potential contractors very thoroughly and be sure their warrants are solid,” said Ali Güvenç Kiraz, the head of the real estate law association.