President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed to solve ongoing housing problems of citizens of Roma origin in Turkey, saying the latter should first “form cooperatives” to deal with rising land costs in cities.
“If our Roma citizens help us solve the issue of [the rising cost of] land by forming cooperatives among themselves, we will continue to help them by building homes for them,” Erdoğan said in an address to guests from the Roma community at the presidential complex in Ankara on April 11.
His comments came after main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu criticized the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for “displacing Roma people who live in big cities” as a part of “urban renewal” projects on April 8.
As a part of such projects, residents of many neighborhoods have been referred to Mass Housing Administration of the Prime Ministry (TOKİ) housing built on the outskirts of cities. Despite low-interest mortgage options offered by TOKİ, such projects have been criticized for displacing Roma citizens from traditional homes and many low-income citizens have had trouble affording monthly expenses.
Speaking on April 11, Erdoğan said the government “unfortunately could not keep up with the housing projects because TOKİ accommodation is generally multi-storey and Roma citizens have a culture of living in single-detached houses.”
“Housing projects have taken a break because our ministry could not finance the project due to the rising costs of land in cities,” he added, calling on Roma citizens to “solve the problem of rising costs by forming cooperatives.”
He said urban transformation projects have “made all parties happy apart from a few exceptions.”
“In the past, our cities included settlements with shanty housing, no infrastructure, no social facilities and without any economic appeal,” he said.
“If you do not receive a proper service, what difference would it make to be in the city or on the outskirts? As the AKP, we have freed our cities from these problematic areas with our city renewal projects and urban transformation,” Erdoğan added.
He said the AKP has provided 5,608 Roma citizens with occupational education and course programs through the SİROMA project, conducting works on education, health, employment and social bonding of Roma citizens in 12 cities.
“Certainly Roma citizens will have better education, better health service and easily find employment. Certainly they will live in better conditions,” he added.