The 2B land covers 4.1 million acres. These are areas where construction and agricultural activity were banned by the state. Currently, however, there are public buildings, farms, meadows, graveyards and housing on these lands since individuals and firms used or traded these lands without any deed and without paying any rent or fees to the state. This is a longstanding problem that led to unhealthy urbanization due to the ignorance of state authorities. Under the new law, 2B land eligible for construction -- land that has not been built upon yet -- will be allocated to mass housing, while 2B land that is already used by individuals will be sold to the current users for 70 percent of the land's current value. Parliament earlier suggested this rate be 50 percent; however, some deputies opposed, saying the state would lose substantial amounts of money. Selling the land at half of its price would mean condoning illegal occupation of state lands, others argued.
The government had earlier introduced plans to build new cities in some of Turkey's largest provinces, a countrywide urban transformation initiative. The 2B arrangement is expected to create more open spaces for newly built cities. The planned transformation of disaster-risk areas focuses on the urbanization problem in such mass-populated cities as İstanbul in particular.
A large number of people migrated to İstanbul over the last three decades, and people in need of homes built relatively unsafe houses on 2B land, making use of loopholes in laws. Besides, there was no sound state initiative to build mass housing for public use back then. Discussing the new law with Today's Zaman, İnanlar Holding CEO Serdar İnan said the decision to sell the 2B land for 70 percent of its value “is understandable.”
“At the end of the day, there is a serious problem with regard to ownership of 2B land, and the state would not just let it go without charging any money." One critical problem is some 2B land owners may not be able to afford to pay the price. The cadastre registries office has already determined the identities of the occupiers of 95 percent of 2B land, and these include villagers as well as occupants of shanty houses -- people from relatively lower income classes. “We expect the government to introduce some incentives for the 2B landholders. The state could become a shareholder of the land or encourage banks to extend support in the form of loans for owners who lack enough money.” The new law enables the state to split repayments by 2B landholders into eight separate installments for a four-year term.
Landholders who prefer to pay the money all at once will benefit from a 20 percent discount, while the state is offering a 10 percent discount to those who pay half of the money in advance. The sale of 2B lands is expected to bring $30 billion in revenue to the Treasury. According to İnan, this amount could be retrieved in five years. Evaluating the 2B law on Wednesday in Ankara, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said the government did not set a specific income target from 2B land sales. The minister said some of the money from sales will be allocated to new infrastructure projects.
A total of 90 percent of such land is located in Turkey's coastal provinces, including İstanbul, Muğla, Antalya and Mersin. Balıkesir and Adapazarı are also on the list. A healthy urban transformation is a serious challenge for Turkey, particularly for such large cities as İstanbul, where 89 percent of the settlement areas are located in first and second-degree earthquake danger zones. İnan said the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) could take the initiative to build quake-resistant houses on 2B land, which will be opened for construction. “People living in houses that are under major risk of collapse in an earthquake should be encouraged to switch to safe zones where new houses will be built; 2B lands create a good space for this,” he noted.
The issue of opening 2B lands for construction has been on Turkey's agenda for the past decade. The ruling and opposition parties, however, had failed to come to terms on the issue. Parliament's decision on Wednesday to pass the law is anticipated to bring an end to discussions on 2B in Ankara. Environment and Urban Planning Minister Veysel Eroğlu said on Wednesday in Ankara that Parliament had “exerted a great effort” to solve the issue, adding that the cadastre survey for all forest lands in Turkey will be completed by the end of 2014.
In 2004 the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) tried to sell the 2B land, but its efforts were thwarted by former President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and the Republican People's Party (CHP), which petitioned the Constitutional Court to cancel the sale. Speaking on Wednesday in Ankara, CHP parliamentary group deputy chairman Akif Hamza Çebi said they will not bring the new law to court.