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This paper aims to explore the success of the recent regeneration efforts in building sustainable communities in historic housing areas of Istanbul that have suffered from growing problems of urban deprivation and poverty. It explains the interplay between conservation, community needs and sustainability, based on the assumption that finding a balance between the needs, aspirations and concerns of local communities and the conservation of the built environments will lead to the creation of more equitable and sustainable communities in Istanbul's historic quarters. After investigating the Turkish urban conservation policy agenda, and the recent changes in the urban and socio-spatial structure of Istanbul, it examines the European Union-funded regeneration initiative of Fener and Balat, a declining neighbourhood in the Historic Peninsula. Debating the strengths and weaknesses of the community-based and participatory programme, the paper attempts to give clues for future regeneration initiatives to develop sustainable community policies in the historic neighbourhoods of Istanbul.