Rebuilding post-earthquake Türkiye

Written by Prof. Ali Türel, EECFA Türkiye

Türkiye’s high inflation so far has continued to rise in the course of this year, given May’s election-fuelled wage increases and the state transfers to rebuild facilities in the aftermath of the February quakes. The new administration is exercising a conventional economic policy, but post-disaster reconstruction is estimated to cost EUR 100 billion and will require huge money allocations from the state this year and next.

Macroeconomic developments

Türkiye has seen a change in economic policy after the re-election of President Erdoğan on 28 May 2023. Mehmet Şimşek, the new Minister of Treasury and Finance, and Dr. Hafize Gaye Erkan, the new Governor of the Central Bank of Türkiye (CBT) adopted a return to conventional economic policies. The CBT stopped reducing the base rate, and in 3 successive months, it raised it from 8.5 base point level to 25. Bank interest rates for deposit accounts and credits grew, though they still have high real negative rates.

The Government’s lucrative policies in minimum wage and early retirement continued after the election with high pay rises for public sector employees. The enormously destructive earthquakes on 6 February 2023 in 11 provinces also raised the government’s financing obligations. These increases in money supply, coupled with the big rises in the exchange rate of foreign currencies against the Turkish Lira in 3 months after the election (36% in Euro) have led to an upward trend in the inflation rate. The yearly rise in the Consumer Price Index was 47.83%, monthly 9.49%, and in the Domestic Producer Price Index was 44.50% and 8.23%, respectively, at end July. The CBT revised its inflation forecast to about 59.5% by the end of 2023.

Building developments

The construction sector is responding to these macroeconomic developments differently in starts and completions. In Q2 2023, building construction permits rose by 43.83% quarterly and 25.6% yearly in total floor area, while completions declined by 16.6% quarterly and 28.6% yearly. House building had a similar trend in Q2 2023; construction permit-issued housing grew by 44.3% quarterly to 188,7 thousand and 43.8% yearly to 741,7 thousand dwelling units, whereas occupancy permits fell by 15.3% quarterly to 106,9 thousand and 16.6% yearly for 570,3 thousand dwelling units.  The social housing project to produce about 253 thousand dwelling units by the Housing Development Administration (HDA) announced in Q4 2022 did not lead to that much increase in the start statistics.    

Low-cost social housing (produced by the HDA and sold to households not owning a house with affordable mortgage loans) and a commercial housing project by a private developer under construction in Ankara. Photo by Prof. Ali Türel, EECFA Türkiye

Among building types other than housing, construction permits for hotels, offices and industrial buildings had a quarterly and yearly positive rate of change. Occupancy permits were negative, only hotel buildings’ quarterly change and industrial buildings’ yearly change saw positive trends.

Due to high real estate prices under the effect of negative real interest rates, there seems to be a tendency to start building development, but builders may be unsure about the marketing prospects and profitability of their projects as real incomes have been dropping owing to continued inflation since 2018.

Forecast for the Turkish construction market is available in the EECFA Forecast Report. EECFA conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries. Orders and sample report:

Housing prices, construction cost, housing transactions

This June Housing Price Index for new buildings went up by 95.8% yearly as the national average (it was 90% in Istanbul, 102.3% in Ankara and 99% in İzmir). Since residential construction costs rose by 51.8% in June 2023 like-for-like, it implies a 44-percentage point difference between housing price and construction cost. Such a great spread between housing prices and construction costs should indicate a housing deficit, augmented by the 4,9 million registered refugees mainly from Syria and many unregistered migrants from other countries. The fewer completions than starts (when the profit margin is high) can be explained by the affordability problem under inflationary conditions.

Housing transactions between January and July 2023 were 17.7% less than in the same 7 months of 2022. Mortgaged sales were 20.2% in January-July 2023, dropping by 28.2% like-for-like. Affordability for mortgage loan repayments significantly decreased when mortgage interest rates rose to 35%/year. State-owned banks provide mortgage loans at between 0.69-0.99% monthly rates to people who are not homeowners, but the total number of these loans did not greatly affect the share of mortgaged transactions.

Rebuilding earthquake-damaged buildings and infrastructure

The quakes this February in the southeast regions must be dealt with under the Law on Natural Disasters, which defines precautionary measures, government obligations for post-disaster recovery, mitigation activities and rebuilding damaged buildings. With the organizations established for this purpose, the Government has been undertaking activities in the earthquake-hit 11 provinces since the quakes occurred. The Law requires the reconstruction of collapsed and heavily damaged buildings, both housing and workplaces, with financial commitments by the Government. The money spent becomes an interest-free loan, and owners of rebuilt properties begin to repay 2 years after they move in and in 20 years. Because of prolonged high inflation, interest-free loans serve as an important real gain for those people.

As per Mehmet Özhaseki, the Minister of Environment, Urbanisation and Climate Change (the organization responsible for rebuilding collapsed and pulled down heavily damaged buildings), as of 7 July 2023 in 11 provinces 311 thousand buildings with 872 thousand independent units collapsed or were pulled down. The total number of urban and rural housing to be rebuilt is 680 thousand. They planned to rebuild 518 thousand dwelling units in urban settlements and 162 thousand housing in rural areas with stables. About 180 thousand dwelling units and 6 thousand workplaces are currently under construction. They expect to complete the construction of 319 thousand dwelling units within one year. They also offer financial assistance rather than building a home, comprised of a 500.000 TL (17.241 Euro at 19 TL/Euro exchange rate) grant and 500.000 TL interest-free credit to the eligible people for state support, to be repaid in 10 years. Similar offers are also made to all workplaces.

Tentative estimates for the reconstruction are EUR 100 billion. With the existing 253 thousand social housing under construction, there will be big financial requirements from the national budget for public projects this year and next. Demand for construction materials and qualified labour will be high if we add the construction of all types of commercial buildings to state housing projects.

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