By Leo Kendrick
Across Turkey, residents of major cities have struggled this year with skyrocketing rent prices driven in large part by the pandemic, as well as related factors such as high inflation, high interests, and diminished housing sales. According to Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜIK), housing sales declined 53% between July 2020 and July 2021. In the first quarter of 2021 alone, research firm Knight Frank reported that rent prices in Ankara and Izmir rose over 10%.
Medyascope spoke with renters, realtors, and residents in the cities most affected by these changes, who expressed their perceived drivers of these increases, as well as the way it has affected the ability of locals to make ends meet amidst uncertainties such as an unstable currency and an ongoing pandemic.
According to Sahibinden’s Housing Market Report, Turkey’s capital city has seen an overall 30% increase in rents compared to August 2020.
Medyascope spoke with Ankara real estate consultant Ferhat Şahin, who expressed that although the cost of living is still lower in the capital compared to Istanbul, rents have been on the upswing. Şahin, who characterizes Ankara as a city of students and civil servants, said that many rentals sat empty for a year and a half due to the pandemic, and that the return of students to campuses and reopening of schools this fall has caused rent prices to rise significantly.
Ümit Taş, a realtor from Ankara’s Cebeci district who also spoke with Medyascope, said that in the past, a 2+1 (two bedroom) unit in walking distance from the metro used to be 1100-1200 Turkish Liras per month, but this price has now risen to 1800-2000. Other residents criticized the government’s inability to control prices or institute any type of mechanism to keep prices down.
Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city, has been faced with the additional challenges stemming from an October 30th, 2020 earthquake, in addition to the ongoing pandemic. The city has seen an overall increase in rents of 24.1% compared to August 2020 according to Sahibinden. Another study by Knight Frank placed Izmir number one as the city with the highest rent increase in the world, comparing the first quarter of 2021 with the same time the previous year.
In the case of Izmir, the primary factors cited have been the October 2020 earthquake, foreign currency exchange rates, the pandemic, a low-interest housing credit campaign by public banks, and finally the city’s overall housing shortage as the main reasons for rising rents.
Evrim Evyapan, whose home was affected by the earthquake on 30 October 2020, told Medyascope she was forced to stay in her car for four months following the earthquake due to concerns over the structural integrity of her old home, as well as the difficulty in finding a new one.
Diyarbakir, in Turkey’s southeast, has seen rents in some districts increase by 100% in the past year, placing the city among the highest in Turkey in terms of housing price increases.
Mustafa Koç, President of Diyarbakir Realtors Association, spoke to Medyascope about the increase, saying: “Normally the government institutes a set price-hike for property values. In previous years it was 11-12%. This year it was set at 15% but we are already seeing increases of 100-150%.” Koç also said Diyarbakir’s skyrocketing rent prices are attributable to changes in government issuance of development and construction permits. As fewer and fewer permits have been issued, space for new housing has become more limited, driving up prices. Koç also cited the increased price of housing materials as a reason for the increase.
Others cited family size changes. Mehmet Ayata, a Diyarbakir renter who spoke to Medyascope, said “In the past this region had a lot of big families. Now family structures have changed, and there are more small families. This has affected the supply-demand balance, from which some opportunists are profiting. It must be brought under control.”
In Antalya, a focal point of Turkey’s tourism industry, rent prices have been significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Realtor Osman Gündoğdu, who spoke with Medyascope, said that the pandemic caused a high increase in demand for rentals in Antalya: “A property that was previously 2000 TL/month is now 2500-3000 TL.” Because Antalya is host to many foreign vacationers who pay their rents in Dollars of Euros, rent prices in Turkish Lira are also driven up in turn.
Khalida Aghazada, a student at Akdeniz University, said students have struggled with the rising rents, saying it has become impossible to find houses for under 3000 TL: “We are able to find houses under 3000 Lira when we search on the internet, but then we find that they are already taken and the listing has not been removed. We also struggle with imposter realtors.”
Architect and home owner Nuran Esengil said that increased demand and construction costs have driven up rents. Due to the pandemic, Esengil said, increases in the prices of vacation facilities has driven people to the rental market. Because of the increase in home prices, those who would otherwise buy are also driven into the rental market.
The combination of these factors has contributed to the overall rise in rents in Antalya.
The high cost of living in Turkey’s largest city has long been a source of complaints among local residents, especially in recent years. According to Sahibinden’s Housing Market Report, rents in Istanbul have risen 42.3% compared to August 2020. According to Knight Frank, which lists Istanbul’s average increase at 28.8%, the city ranks third in Turkey in terms of rent increases, behind Izmir and Ankara. While some districts have experienced a modest increase, others have seen rents triple this past year.
Residents in İstanbul’s Beşiktaş district told Medyascope that while a single day’s earnings was enough to pay rent ten years ago, it now takes 15 days of earnings to pay a month’s rent. “Our lives now go to rent,” one resident said.
According to realtor Esra Orga Çalışkan, the rise has been driven in part by renters choosing not to give up their homes and rental contracts due to the pandemic.
Some cited changes in construction practices; while new construction in outlying districts such as Pendik, Tuzla, Esenyurt, or Beylikduzu was previously able to keep pace with rising population and increasing demand, this has stalled, causing the rents even in those previously affordable districts to significantly increase.
In addition to previously affordable districts, previously affordable unit types such as ground floor or basement units have also become unaffordable, especially for students, singles, and other residents who tended to choose these relatively less-expensive spaces. As these spaces have become more expensive, these residents have struggled to make ends meet as rent eats up an increasing portion of their paycheck.