An Institutional analysis of the transformation of informal housing settlements in Turkey : a case study in the Şentepe neighbourhood of Ankara

Özdemirli, Yelda
Transformation of informal housing settlements by urban renewal and redevelopment has become one of the major tasks of Turkish urban policy in the last decades. Nevertheless, in some cases urban redevelopment could not be facilitated due to low level of investments; and moreover most of the transformed settlements are still problematic with added difficulties brought out by urban transformation itself such as lower levels of physical quality, gentrification or dislocation. Understanding the sources of these implications and incompetence would be an important step for developing more successful policy and planning tools. To serve this aim, hypothesizing that there would be available regulatory tools including planning besides policy options relying on finance for local and central authorities and planning institutions on the basis of their political and regulative power and resources to overcome most of these bottlenecks; I have carried out both a theoretical and an empirical research to discuss the relevancy of this hypothesis. First, I have developed an institutional model of urban transformation to unravel the constituent shaping factors and actors of the process. Secondly, I have implemented this model for the analyses of urban transformation in informal settlements in Turkey with a case study in Şentepe and carried out surveys with households and interviews with developers to focus more on household and developer perspectives in terms of their aims and the implications they have an impact upon and are subjected to. Thus, this thesis includes an institutional analysis of urban transformation in informal settlements of Turkey, outlines the major problems of implications, discusses the links between factors, actors, events and their implications and accordingly searches for clues of efficient policies and better practices in urban transformation with a case study in Şentepe Neighbourhood. The findings of the empirical study revealed that first and foremost, the problem of disinvestment and very low levels of transformation in the area have been solved dramatically by a new 'project' by the local authority in 2005, after almost twenty years passed since the first redevelopment plans were prepared. Moreover, the results indicate that the Şentepe Transformation Project could also managed to avoid the well-known unintended or undesirable social outcomes of a typical redevelopment like dislocation of residents or social integration of initial and new residents. These findings of the research suggest that local authorities and planning institutions could avoid some but not all of the bottlenecks and drawbacks of market mechanism in urban redevelopment even by making minor changes in the institutional environment such as providing information flow, easing the procedures for investors and developers, changing subdivisions and planning additional green areas for increasing the attractiveness of investments by builders in that area, and adoption of more participative approaches for developers and households. On the other hand, if the complementary housing and non-housing policies for redevelopment; such as affordable housing, employment or rent assistance are lacking, some of the outlined problems remain hard to solve. For local authorities and planners, these findings suggest the importance of accommodating policies, which are more responsive to the locality, to the needs and perceptions of local residents, local developers and local economy as well as of considering vulnerable sections of the society. For central authorities, on the other hand, the findings underline the cruciality of upper scale policies both directly and indirectly related to housing such as affordable housing and employment in the overall success of any local urban redevelopment practice. Once we have the institutional model to imply on various urban renewal processes, it would be helpful to carry out comparative studies for future research to better understand and evaluate various policy tools.