The Turkish prime minister announced last week that the Turkish Housing Development Administration which is better known as TOKI would construct another 500,000 homes by 2023.
The administration has already built nearly half a million homes during the last eight years, but there are concerns that even this huge number is not enough to address the need for quality homes in urban areas. The shanty towns in Istanbul are a particular focus, but TOKI and the government are coming under fire for making the poor poorer as they are driven from their homes.
The chairman of the International Society for City and Regional Planners, Ismael Fernandez Mejia said that "livability in newly urbanised areas is not solved yet." This is because other areas need to be addressed such as infrastructure and the need for public services like education, health and green areas.
One of the Prime Minister's concerns is that shanty neighbourhoods in large cities like Istanbul have to be transformed; that homes have to be made earthquake resistant and urbanised in a healthy way.
Part of the problem for urbanisation is that many people who are unskilled or low skilled are migrating from rural areas to the cities, which is adding to the unemployment rate. While all this transformation sounds admirable, some of the citizens whose homes are being knocked down under the scheme may not agree.
Many of the homes being knocked down were built quite some time ago, and have been lived in by the family ever since. These families are being forced to accept low sums of money for their homes, which is proving insufficient to buy the apartments that have been set aside for them.
Adding insult to injury; the sites of their former homes are prime spots, and expensive new homes are being built there, while they are moved to the outskirts of the cities. These developments are a big hit with international investors, but those being relocated argue that they are being driven further into poverty; that not only are they losing their homes, but the cost of travelling to their jobs will add to their financial burden as well.
The government seems to have given TOKI too much power, and a new planning introduced last year will increase this power even further.
Admittedly the scheme seems heaven sent for some areas, improving living conditions and potential even saving lives in the event of an earthquake. Meanwhile other areas and certain ethnic groups are beginning to feel discriminated against.
Perhaps the recent housing convention in Istanbul, which involved experts from around the world, will have helped TOKI to design an urban housing transformation that will address everybody's needs.