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Turkish Housing Study

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Many people in Turkey are living in slum dwellings due to natural disasters and expensive home loans.

In Turkey, around 11.9 million – around 17 percent of the population – are living below the absolute poverty line that covers both food and non-food expenditure. Generally, rural residents are at greater risk than urban dwellers. Among the main causes of poverty are migration, internal displacement, economic factors and natural disasters, largely earthquakes (from 1995 to 1999 around 800,000 people were displaced).

These figures are presented in the fact finding report on Poverty and Housing in Turkey (PDF) commissioned by Habitat for Humanity in Europe and Central Asia. The study is based on a compilation and analysis of available data, documentation and reports from governmental, intergovernmental, academic and practitioner sources. It aims to provide an overview of housing related issues in the country that are crosscutting with the issues related to poverty.

Close to 10 million people, out of more than 44 million Turkish urban residents, live in informal settlements known as slum tenure or more commonly termed - gecekondu. Aiming to legalize the existing stock and solve the ownership problem of gecekondu settlements, 16 amnesty laws were adopted with accompanying improvement and development plans in the 1980s and early 1990s. This, however, has not prevented unregistered construction.

At the same time, social housing projects as known in Europe - municipally owned subsidized rental homes -do not exist in Turkey. There are some public rental flats for members of the military and for the civil servants. The social housing policy in Turkey is generally associated with the delivery of mass housing projects through TOKI (Housing Development Administration of Turkey) which families sitting on or just above the poverty line cannot generally afford.

Turkey is situated across three tectonic plates which creates a high potential for earthquakes. Such natural disasters cause major displacements; in 1999, an earthquake in northern Turkey killed around 18,000 people and displaced over 675,000. Furthermore, as a result of poor enforcement of building codes, linked to inadequate governance, a large proportion of residential buildings, as well as older public buildings, have been built without measures to protect them from seismic events. It is estimated that 3/4 of the population of Turkey live in areas highly vulnerable to earthquakes.

Turkey’s economy is growing and its standard of living is rapidly rising. With a growing economy comes rapid urbanization and increasing housing demand, but housing production and finance are lagging behind the need. The effect of the global crisis on the Turkish banking sector has been limited. The crisis has however, dented public finance performance with tax revenues well below the projected budget forecasts resulting in the contraction of support for the real estate sector.

In general, however, housing problems in Turkey are not that homes are too expensive, but rather, that home loans are too expensive. Thus, the biggest gaps in Turkey’s housing system are on the demand side - helping people pay for housing, and not on the supply side - making home prices cheaper.

The report has aimed to provide Habitat for Humanity with major housing problems and possibly help to devise future project developments. Whilst there is a need for wider donor support and resources, there are opportunities for Habitat projects to support low-income families in Turkey.

What is next?
Habitat wants people not only to read about poverty housing but do something to fight it. You can support Habitat’s work in Europe and Central Asia in a number of ways. Here are some examples:

• Visit our donations page to support projects in Europe and Central Asia.
• Go to country profile pages to learn about other programs in Europe and Central Asia.

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