A legal provision known as Article 6/A, in Turkey’s Law No.6306, the Urban Transformation Law, is attracting significant attention for its potential impact on property rights, particularly in earthquake-prone areas. The article, added in 2019, allows ex officio decision-making in the matter of the sequestration to the Treasury of private property in the public interest, and has sparked debate about its implications for homeowners and the process of urban redevelopment.
A 1.6-hectare area in the centre of Samandağ town in Hatay was designated a “reserved area” (ie. reserved in the public interest, usually because of safety concerns) four months ago by implementation of article 6/A. Habip Yapar, who owns two houses in the designated area, but was only recently informed by text that the designation had been made on the basis of a November 2023 amendment to Law no.6306, expressed surprise that it had been implemented before then. He also said that the local authorities had informed him that the consent of the people had been obtained before the designation. He expressed bewilderment as to why an area with stable buildings, where people lived and ran businesses, had been designated a reserved zone.
Journalist Bahadır Özgür, writing for Gazete Duvar, has recently provided a comprehensive critical analysis of the new Urban Transformation Law, focusing on its implications for property ownership and redevelopment in Istanbul.
The Urban Transformation Law has been in effect for 11 years and since 2019 includes a clause known as 6/A, distinguishing “buildings at risk of collapse” from other risky structures. This specific classification also allows the Urban Transformation Department to take decisive action without homeowner consent, including forced entry and police support for assessments.
Upon determination that a building is “at risk of collapse”, a notification is posted on the property and announced at local administrative offices. Homeowners are given a mere two days to object, with a three-day window for the administration to review objections. The short time frame raises questions about the feasibility for residents in earthquake zones to respond effectively.
The law’s most controversial aspect arises when a property is deemed a risk. The land is then registered in the name of the Treasury, and the Treasury is authorised to issue construction permits and occupancy licenses. Homeowners are offered compensation for their pre-transformation property value and are required to cover the difference for a share in the new project. Failure to pay the difference results in the loss of property ownership, enabling an easy property grab for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
The legislation, enacted shortly after repeated Istanbul local elections in 2019, escaped public scrutiny and lacked engagement from professional associations, NGOs, and political parties at the time. The application of this law in various urban transformation projects across Turkey, including post-earthquake reconstruction in Izmir’s Bayraklı and urban redevelopment in Istanbul neighbourhoods, has now brought it to the forefront of public debate.