Controversial "Disaster Law" takes effect amid property rights debate

Controversial "Disaster Law" takes effect amid property rights debate
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New Turkish legislation enables the designation of any area as a reserve building zone, sparking an outcry over seizure concerns.

By Osman Cakli

A new Turkish law has sparked fierce debate over property rights as it came into force, published in the Official Gazette. The Law, referred to as the "Disaster Law," has been contentious due to its provision that allows the government to declare any location as a reserve building area, raising concerns over potential property seizures.

Despite reassurances by Mustafa Demir, an AKP (Justice and Development Party) Istanbul Deputy for Local Governments, that existing streets or neighborhoods cannot be declared reserve areas, experts argue that the Law suggests otherwise. Esin Koymen, President of the Istanbul Chamber of Architects Metropolitan Branch, and Pelin Giritlioglu, President of the Istanbul Chamber of Urban Planners, have both highlighted that primarily illegal or unlicensed buildings in risky areas could be subject to this designation, regardless of the existing building stock.

In response to the Law's enactment, the AKP Beyoglu (Pera) Municipality has already begun preparations for an urban transformation strategy document. It plans to hold an informative meeting for local mukhtars' offices. This move signals a swift implementation of the Law, potentially affecting numerous areas and properties.

Demir, a former Fatih Mayor, clarified that a reserved area within a built-up area would refer to empty spaces devoid of buildings. However, Koymen and Giritlioglu countered that the Law's provisions could allow for broader interpretations, potentially targeting areas with a majority of illegal and risky buildings and not just empty spaces.

Giritlioglu further criticized the use of reserve areas in the past, pointing out that they were often not used for their intended purpose and led to new zoning permits on citizens' land. She emphasized that the Law has nothing to do with disaster management and suggested that it is aimed at infringing on property rights.

The new regulation, which amends the Law on the Transformation of Areas under Disaster Risk (6306) and other related laws, has removed the phrase "new settlement area" from the original Law, a key element in the ongoing debate over property seizure.

Critics of the Law argue that it lacks any real focus on disaster prevention. Instead, it appears to prioritize construction and the transformation of city centers, potentially at the expense of residents' rights and social structures. Giritlioglu warned that the Law violates constitutional rights and eliminates mechanisms for citizens to seek redress.

As the "Disaster Law" takes effect, tensions continue to rise, with property owners and urban planners bracing for the potential implications of this sweeping legislation.