Turkey has recently suffered two big earthquakes in the eastern province of Van, both within a month of each other. Unfortunately around 650 people lost their lives, and this has resulted in a major new urban renewal project.
According to the report in Sunday’s Zaman, the problem is that most buildings in Turkish cities cannot withstand a powerful earthquake, and there are worries that this tragedy could be repeated in other cities. The Environment and Urban Planning Ministry intends to demolish buildings that are likely to sustain significant damage during an earthquake, and has already prepared a draft law with help from 30 experts. Under the draft law, agreement to demolish buildings will be sought through negotiating with owners, but if nothing can be resolved the building can be seized by the Ministry of the Mass Housing Administration (TOKI).
Many buildings have been illegally constructed, and are far more likely to be unable to withstand earthquakes. Owners of these buildings will be offered financial assistance which will include interest-free loans for the purchase of apartments in earthquake safe buildings, or assistance towards renting another property. Tenants of buildings slated for demolition will receive a one-off payment.
The draft law is due to be submitted this week, and a new account for disaster preparation will also be opened at the Ministry, with the money only usable for this purpose. It is estimated the cost of these urban renewal projects could reach $400 billion, as many buildings will need reinforcing, and it is hoped that the new law could be enforced within the next three months. The law is likely to have a positive effect upon the construction industry, as there are an estimated 14,000 buildings in Istanbul alone which could need demolishing. These contravene planning procedures and are illegally constructed.