The passing of a new urban transformation law in Turkey, as reported by journalist Bahadır Özgür of Gazete Duvar, is raising significant concerns over what he describes as “the largest property grab in history”. This law, according to Özgür, sets the stage for drastic shifts in property ownership and urban redevelopment in Istanbul, particularly targeting the city’s high-value centres.
Özgür emphasised the severity of the situation, arguing that the law will lead to the displacement of those who cannot afford to stay in their homes, with city centres being redeveloped to cater to the elite.
Delving deeper, Özgür criticised the government’s approach, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to urban redevelopment. “Erdoğan wants to upheave Istanbul’s land once again,” he noted, describing the current plan as more comprehensive and destructive than previous initiatives. This approach, according to Özgür, signifies a movement beyond the geographical and economic limits set by the 2012 Law on Transformation of Disaster-Risk Areas, targeting the city’s most valuable areas for redevelopment.
Özgür also focused on the controversial aspects of the law, such as the ‘reserve building area’ concept, which allows the government to declare existing residential areas as reserve areas, effectively suspending property rights. “The essence of the law proposal is the ‘reserve building area,'” he explained, detailing how this change removes protections for existing settlements.
As he continued, Özgür pointed out the historical pattern of the government exploiting ‘risk’ and ‘reserve area’ declarations for profit, often at the expense of low-income residents. He argues that this history provides a clear reference for understanding the potential outcomes of the current law.
In Beyoğlu, one of the most valuable property areas in Istanbul, the immediate implementation of the law by the local municipality, as reported by Özgür, shows the urgent and far-reaching effects of these changes. The municipality’s assignment of a private company, Marmara Urbanism Urban Transformation Project Development Management Inc., to oversee the transformation, has raised questions about transparency and potential conflicts of interest, he concluded.