Turkey is getting set for a major overhaul to activity on public lands as a new land use law kicks into gear.
A law that allows the opening of land known as 2B -- land formerly classified as forests -- for construction is now being enforced after President Abdullah Gül approved it and it was published in the Official Gazette on Thursday.
Parliament approved the bill on April 18. 2B land covers 4.1 million acres across Turkey. These are areas where construction and agricultural activity were banned by the state. Currently, however, there are public buildings, farms, meadows, graveyards and housing on these lands since individuals and firms used or traded these lands without any deed and without paying any rent or fees to the state.
This is a longstanding problem that led to unhealthy urbanization due to the ignorance of state authorities. Under the new law, 2B land eligible for construction -- land that has not been built upon yet -- will be allocated to mass housing, while 2B land that is already used by individuals will be sold to the current users for 70 percent of the land's current value. Ninety percent of such land is located in Turkey's coastal provinces, including İstanbul, Muğla, Antalya and Mersin. Balıkesir and Adapazarı are also on the list.
The government expects to collect some $15 billion in revenue from the sale of these lands. The issue of opening 2B land for construction has been on Turkey's agenda for the past decade. The ruling and opposition parties, however, failed to come to terms on the issue.
In 2004 the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) tried to sell the 2B land, but its efforts were thwarted by former President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Gül's predecessor, and the Republican People's Party (CHP), which petitioned the Constitutional Court to cancel the sale. According to the law, 2B land can now be sold to willing parties and the buyers will get an additional 20 percent discount if they choose to pay in cash upfront. Those going for a payment in two equal installments will benefit from a 10 percent discount on the price.