Demir said all illegally constructed edifices in Turkey will be demolished by the year 2015. “The idea of illegal construction in a country that will enter the European Union cannot be accepted. We will erase this concept even from people's minds.”
In order to realize this, the ministry has been working on a number of new projects and regulations. Demir told Today's Zaman that these projects will be announced in the upcoming months. He said the ministry has proposed significant changes to zoning laws, adding that a new bill would be passed this year.
According to data from the Ministry of Public Works and Settlement, 65 percent of buildings in Turkey have been built in contravention of the country's zoning laws. This figure is as high as 95 percent in the metropolis of İstanbul. Twenty of İstanbul's 35 districts are swamped with gecekondu -- a Turkish phrase used to depict homes constructed without permits, which literally translates as “built overnight.” Again, according to data from the ministry, 761,000 of the approximately 1.5 million buildings in İstanbul were constructed without building permits. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants these gecekondus demolished and replaced with housing available under urban transformation projects.
In addition to the violation of zoning laws, illegally constructed housing poses a serious threat in Turkey, where a devastating earthquake on Aug. 17, 1999 claimed nearly 20,000 lives and left thousands homeless. Only 15 percent of the houses in the earthquake risk zone have been insured against earthquake. In the Marmara region, where experts warn an earthquake even more devastating the 1999 quake is imminent, only 13 percent of the buildings have been reinforced. One of the primary reasons behind the government's plan is the expectation of another disaster.
The ministry estimates at least 700,000 houses bear the risk of collapsing by themselves even without an earthquake. The Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) has been building housing complexes all over the country in the past seven years, but Turkey has not yet been completely saved from being a country of gecekondus. In Turkey, five people on average live inside one house, while that figure is two in Western European nations. Turkey needs to build 496,400 houses annually in line with its rate of population growth. An estimated one in every 10 people owns a house in Turkey, although the age of home ownership has fallen from 45 to 35. The government is seeking to bring Turkey's home ownership rates closer to the European average.
Zoning pardons to be a thing of the past
The ministry has established that Turkish governments have issued amnesties for illegal houses 15 times since uncontrolled illegal development began in the '50s and accelerated in the '70s. Minister Demir says the ministry's bill plans to make sure that no other pardons will be issued for illegal construction or zoning violations. In addition to new zoning legislation, the ministry will be introducing changes to its own organizational structure.