1Squatter housing in Turkey has been subject to one of the most impressive transformations in metropolitan settlements during the second half of the 20th century. In the past 50 years the gecekondu phenomenon has been effective on the urban quality of life. It has ‘floated’ among different spaces of the city, abstract and physical, establishing interesting interrelations and leaving observable traces in each.
2This study, which aims to review the multi-faceted ‘voyage’ of squatter housing during the past 50 years, will be based on the assumption that one of the main determinants of evolution of the squatter housing problem has been relations in the labour market. Labour market, in turn, is structured with reference to the economic model adopted. This is not to claim that the squatter housing problem is a sole derivative of the function and position of its inhabitants in the labour market although this may be the general impression because the problem is discussed from the point of view of relations with and in the labour market.
3Certain economic development models have been introduced to the developing countries by the West after the Second World War, backed by large-scale finance institutions. Within the national scale, implementation of these models and structuration of their relevant labour markets have been further shaped by governmental policies, politics and public responses. In this study, the formation and transformation of squatter housing problem will be discussed within the context of this external framework.
4The squatter housing problem has been reflected to the outside world through four main channels:
government approach and policies translated into implementation,
the media, which has reflected government policy along with general public reaction to the problem and to different stages of it,
certain branches of art, especially literature and music, which reflect the view from inside the squatter neighborhoods,
academic studies which have contributed to the identification and evaluation of the issue through questions posed and answers searched empirically. These studies also reflect the relevant framework of current scientic approaches.
5The adoption of the liberal economic development model in 1950 will be accepted as the starting point for this discussion and other refraction points in this process will be 1960 and 1980 models. So discussion will be presented in three consecutive refractive periods: 1950-1960, 1960-1980, and post 1980.
6The new Republic had taken over from the Ottoman Empire a weak industrial sector, mostly concentrated on production of food. The incentives and support provided to the industrial sector in the economic congress of 1923 within the context of the central government model of the Republic, failed to stimulate the flourishing of industry. With the available limited sources, the new Republic could not provide the support necessary to initiate changes in the cultivation and ownership patterns to rural areas in the 1940-50 period. Therefore, American financial aid, which came in the middle of the 1940’s especially to shield developing countries from communism, was welcome.
7The agricultural impact of Marshall Aid, which in essence was to serve military aims, not only resulted in the reduction of rural labour force - the marginal productivity of which was low generally due to outdated cultivation methods - but also led to the absorption of small farms by large landowners, who now needed extensive areas to cultivate with tractors. The Agricultural bank did provide credit to small farmers but required security in return, which small farmers did not have. So, the rural labour market ‘pushed off’ the extra labour force and 1950-60 is the decade when migration to urban areas reached a peak.
8The 1950’s started with a multi-party system and a liberal economic development model where priority was given to rapid industrialization and urbanization. The recommendation for the developing countries emphasized promotion of agriculture, small scale manufacturing and consumer goods manufacturing. Yet in this decade, the newly forming urban labour market was limited. Both for the rapid improvement of the urban industrial and service sectors and the orientation to export markets, there was need for trained and skilled workforce. Therefore, the incoming unskilled, inexperienced, untrained, ‘alien’ labour force remained in the margins of the labour market.
- 1 The share of urban population in the total, which was 25.1% in 1950, rose up to 31.9% in 1960. The (...)
9As migrants piled on urban borders in unprecedented quantitative dimensions1, building in very short periods of time, neighborhoods of shanties, hitherto unaccustomed in cities, the first public reaction to them in all developing countries of the world was ‘shock’.This ‘shock’ at first centered not so much on the incoming population itself, but on the makeshift barracks that they built with discarded material that they collected from around. This negative attitude was also shared by authorities. The only optimistic expectation was related to the supposedly temporary character of the phenomenon which therefore could be solved by the authorities.
- 2 For Turkey, see also Toker, M. in Cumhuriyet, 28 September 1948 and 2 November 1949 ; Arpad, Burhan (...)
- 3 Discussions focused on measures like imposing controls at main city entrances or the use of passpor (...)
10The negative public attitude towards these shanties - mostly expressed by the media - expanded in time to include the builders themselves. The concern was that the failure of authorities to cope with this problem was going to erode government power and prestige, increasing the confidence of incomers in their own power to challenge authority, leading them to react against urban culture and governments (Johnson 1964; Fitzgibbon 1967; Gutkind 1968)2. This negative attitude led to discussions and to the implementation of measures to stop and to redirect migration flows3 It may be asserted that this negative attitude mainly originated from the quality of migrant labour, for which there was no demand and use in the labour market. Thus, migrant labour was ‘marginal’ in economic space, unwanted in social space, and therefore failed to receive ‘acceptance’ in physical space.
11What would have happened if the labour markets had not expanded during the first half of the 1950’s to take in a different quality labour? Would the negative attitude towards migrants by especially the older urbanites prompted governments to take sterner measures? Within the context of the new economic model; credit and surplus value were invested in urban areas, the construction sector flourished, and rising of urban commercial markets resulted in need for cheap labour in view of mostly imported and therefore expensive inputs. Slowly the untrained and unskilled but cheap migrant labour started to ooze into this new but still narrow channel of the labour market. Since economic sectors, especially service sectors, were not completely organized then, this labour could move among the not yet tightly organized sections of these sectors, filling in vacancies cheaply, until their place was taken up by thorough reorganization.
- 4 It may be asserted that the unique character of a squatter house as a type of shelter is not illega (...)
12This intra and inter sectoral mobility in the labour market resulted in a) the creation of a new type of shelter which reflected this mobility in its flexibility4, and b) the provision of cheap labour input for all sectors of the economy the price of which could be controlled through its dimension. This contribution to the labour market changed the status of this specific labour from ‘unfunctional’ and therefore ‘marginal’ to ‘functional’, and obtained increasing permanency for them in urban physical space. The migrant labor responded to their acceptance in the labour market, to services received and to achievement of legality in space, by political support of the authorities ; thus, the channel to political patronage was opened.
13For governments under the influence of modernization trends, cities of the West were models for Turkish cities. In this context interest reshifted to the type of shelter which seemed to be ‘the problem’. Now that those who had arrived so far were to stay, if they could be moved to regular urban housing types and if further migration to the cities could be controlled, the problem would be solved. Governments issued series of laws to fulfill this aim5.
14In the meantime, the task of asking questions and seeking answers for them through area studies in order to define and to comprehend the phenomenon and to propose solutions was taken over by the academia. The first field studies centered on determination of identity. First of all, who were these migrants? Were they ‘Peasants Without Plows’ (Suzuki 1966), or were there ‘Urban Peasants and Village Peasants’ (Suzuki 1964), or were they ‘protoproletariat’ (Mcgee 1973)? The style of life they led in the city was another point to clarify. These valuable, mostly descriptive, early studies reflect in general a positive impression related to these migrant communities (Sewell 1964 ; Yasa 1966 ; Hart 1969 ; Levine 1973 ; Kongar 1973a, 1973b). The shelters were in bad condition, but in them lived an industrious population who was ready to work in any employment opportunity, kept proper family relations, was courageous, determinate, progressive and enterprising.
15An important break for the squatter population came with the 1960’s as developing countries adopted planned development models. The previous liberalization model had failed to achieve equal distribution of benefits of development and had resulted in serious unemployment problems due to slow industrialization. Therefore, most developing countries transformed their previously export oriented economies to import substitution models. In this model the emphasis was on the internal market protected by the government mainly through customs and in general only factors of production were to be imported. In this model, the squatter population took over vital functions in economic space and in turn obtained permanency both in economic and physical urban spaces.
16As underlined in several squatter housing studies, the primary aim of squatter population was to be able to integrate to urban life. The three important components of this integration process involved a) a well-paying, steady urban job, b) a proper shelter and c) the achievement of urban lifestyle, in other words, the adoption of the lifestyle of middle and high-middle income groups, with whom they were in closer contact mostly in economic but also, although in limited areas, in social space. Adoption of consumption trends of middle income groups was a strong indicative reference to their lifestyle. The prevalent consumption trends of higher income groups could be observed in retail markets, but were not affordable for migrant family income. So squatter population participated in ‘secondary production’ circles producing cheaper replicas of whatever was in fashion currently and opened up new, widespread, accessible, mobile, internal markets, mostly informal, of which they were willing and avid customers as well. Their contribution to maintenance and repair of imported capital goods also increased their importance in the labour market.
- 6 Gecekondu Law No. 775 is still in effect.
17Thus, in the 1960-70 period, squatter population earned permanency in urban economic space as they now performed an important function as sustainers of internal market, in addition to the effective pressure they gained in political space. The government finally recognized this permanency by issuing a comprehensive law in 1966 attempting to organize spatially the squatter housing phenomenon6. The law implies that the phenomenon is perceived as a stock of homogeneous, unauthorized, and unwholesome housing. The solution offered categorized this stock spatially in a general attempt to authorize it, which then would be upgraded through services brought, and new additions to it would be closely controlled. In the meantime, negative attitude toward the squatter population continued yet in another space. The economic and politically stronger positions now obtained by the migrants were being challenged in social space, which the old urbanites ‘defended’ in the name of urban culture. In the West, the Lewis theory of ‘culture of poverty’ not only shifted the blame of poverty on the poor, but also relieved governments of too much involvement in the poverty issue (Lewis 1953).
18An interesting turn of fortune occurred for squatter housing in the 1970’s. The global petroleum crisis which led to the restructuring of production organization brought a new approach to the squatter housing problem in the world, through an interesting partnership of science and international funding. Criticisms had started against the import substitution model. Modernism and positivism had failed to eradicate the increasing poverty and inequality manifested especially in urban areas. The general assumption was that these urban problems were causes of underdevelopment, thus had to be solved with priority.
19This assumption brought the largest financial institution of the western world, the World Bank, to the field of urban problems and especially to squatter housing areas which represented spatial manifestations of poverty and inequality. The pessimist ‘culture of poverty’ approach was abandoned and The World Bank which had the largest development funds, adopted the Turner approach, which was based on the positive constructive energy of migrants (Turner 1963, 1972). In this perspective, a widespread ‘site and services’ implementation started in developing countries. In this period, squatter dwellers continued to support the internal market. The increase of subsidies to the agricultural sector slowed down migration to urban areas and out-migration to Europe, which had started in the 1960’s, helped to release demographic pressure on the urban system.
20 Increasing evidence related to the permanency of squatters in the city, along with the new financial sources channelled by the World Bank, stimulated the academia to concentrate on further area studies in squatter settlements (Kıray 1970 ; Kıray, Hinderinck 1970 ; Gökçe 1971 ; Drakakis-Smith, Fisher 1975, 1976 ; Drakakis-Smith 1976 ; Karpat 1976 ; Tekeli et.al. 1976 ; Tekeli 1970, 1977 ; Erdoğmuş 1977 ; Paine 1978 ; Şenyapılı 1978 ; Sencer 1979 ; Eke 1981). Comparatively more studies were developed in this decade. Although identity problems were still being discussed, especially at the beginning of the decade, emphasis shifted to the subject of integration and to measures to be taken to achieve this integration. These studies were mostly based on analyses of single squatter neighborhoods but there were also others which included comparison of a number of neighborhoods.
21Studies of this decade were more developed in methodology, including statistical analysis, and were handled in more comprehensive frameworks. Structural approaches and interpretations appeared especially in the second half of the decade. These individual studies continued to reflect the positive energy of the inhabitants, the orderly social life in these settlements, mechanisms they had developed for successful adaptation to urban life, their economic contribution to cities, and how these positive aspects were being reflected in the improvement of physical environment as time spent in urban environment increased. Time spent in the city was considered as the most important criteria to measure change and transformation in the lives of the inhabitants. The beginnings of relational analysis method are also visible in academic studies of this decade.
22While academicians evaluated the potential and ways of integration to urban setups with impartial academic criteria and proposed solutions for quicker and more feasible ways for it, the ‘view from inside’ reflecting the ‘dark’ side of squatter housing settlements was presented by literature and by music. A specific music type born out of these settlements expressed the pain of disappointment and of pessimism in view of harsh and cruel aspects of urban life. Writers, some of whom lived in these settlements, relayed in sensitive terms the extreme poverty, oppression, injustice and especially the ‘horror’ of demolition of the squatter house (Akçam 1973 ; Fikri 1974 ; Dinamo 1976 ; Izgü 1976 ; Ateş 1978 ; Apaydın 1981).
23The radical break came in the 1980’s along with three important impacts : a) the new privatisation-based, export-oriented economic model adopted by developing countries which had deep, disrupting impacts on the urban labour markets, b) the slowing and finally closing down of worker migration channels to Europe and c) the forced migration from the east and south-east regions of Turkey due to political unrest.
24The global reorganization of production and change in economic models recommended to developing countries brought concomitant change in development philosopy and approaches. The housing sector which so far had been termed as unproductive was now attributed the role of initiative of development. The private sector, after rapid profit, entered the field of housing construction, building large-scale, mostly luxurious housing complexes. With the failure of the project-based ‘site and services’ approach, the World Bank adopted a comprehensive approach to the housing sector, aiming to increase the housing stock, also emphasizing land policy and measures to eradicate poverty. Therefore, new policies and concepts like governance, participation, transparence and new institutions like the Mass Housing Directorate were adopted.
25There were important transformations in global political space as well. The religious fundamentalist approaches America promoted after the Vietnam War to protect developing countries from communism, stimulated growth of religious patronage in Turkey, as political patronage channels had already been clogged. In the meantime, neo-Marxist approaches, which valued not objects and agents, but interrelations between them, and relational analysis methodology became popular in western academic circles. Structuralist writers like Harvey and Castells were underlining the fact that the source of urban problems should be searched in economic relations (Harvey 1973; Castells 1977).
- 7 Laws No 2805, 2981, 3366, 3290, 3414. Laws 2981 and 2805 are amnesty laws opening gecekondu areas a (...)
26The multi-faceted transformation after the 1980’s made a great impact on squatter housing as well. The squatter housing stock was commercialized through a set of amnesty laws7. Failing to reproduce itself, this stock became an important source of rent and was opened to different models of transformation.
27The increasing internal organization in industrial and service sectors throughout the 1970’s, especially in the union-protected Fordist sector, and their economic collaboration with some sections of the peripheral, small-scale work sectors, had reduced labour mobility. The earlier, comparatively more frequent and widespread intra and intersectoral labour mobility was now limited to the far narrower, less organized and less specialized sections of the sectors. Reduced mobility, increased family incomes through more family members entering the labour market and through benefits acquired by the family during the time spent in the city, now coupled with the post 1980 rent-acquisition opportunity provided to squatters through amnesty laws, resulted in the transformation of some of the squatter housing stock into low class apartment environments.
28In Turkey, government protection of the market ended along with reduction of subsidies to the rural sector, reduction of social aid and of union activity, and freezing of wages. This change of policy in addition to political unrest in the east and southeast of the country once again stimulated increase of migration to cities, including migration of ethnic groups. Forced migration due to security reasons caused increase of a new type of absolute poverty in cities. Some of these groups, who now had no support from the rural area and who have had no chance for making material and psychological preparations prior to migration, settled in abondoned buildings in or around commercial centers, creating transition areas in desolate condition, or entered peripheral, untransformed squatter housing areas, mostly as tenants.
29In academic circles, a stage of new studies, based on comprehensive structural approaches to the problem, underlined internal differentiation in squatter population and settlements (Ayata 1989; Güneş-Ayata 1986, 1990; Gökçe 1993; Erder 1996, 1997; Rittersberger-Tılıç 1997; Erman 1998a, 1998 b; Işık, Pınarcıoğlu 2001). In the 1950’s when squatter housing was still a new and not completely identified phenomenon, academic approaches attempted to determine and analyze its common characteristics which would help to diagnose the problem. On the other hand, the squatter population also tended to underline its common characteristics in order to receive attention and support from the authorities as a whole. Yet in time, increasing populist approaches as a criteria in allocation of public resources and benefits, led the population to accentuate their demographic and socio-cultural differences. Increasing groupings in space - also diminishing in size at times, as resources decreased - and ethnic migration after 1980’s emphasized internal differentiation. So the general two characteristics of post 1980 squatter housing studies include the setting up of comprehensive structural frameworks in which the problem is analyzed with relational methodology, on an internal differentiational basis.
30The labour market model before the 1980’s may be described as a crude pyramid and a ‘block’ alongside it. The top of the pyramid was occupied by union protected formal Fordist work, high level bureaucracy, and high level service work. The middle section was occupied by peripheral small-scale manufacturing, small-scale clerical and service work, and the bottom section was occupied by a large group of informal workers. There were different degrees of permeability among the sections of this pyramid. There was a certain degree of permeability between the top section and the peripheral section. There was some functional continuity in the top section as eg. a retiring skilled worker would leave his post to a coming up family member, or a worker from peripheral section, where he has earned skill and experience could enter the top section ; or the top section did receive new trained workers from occupational schools. There was almost no permeability between the informal section and the top section. Probably with the exception of few low skilled service workers, the top section was closed to the bottom one.
31On the other hand, there was a high degree of permeability between the peripheral section and the informal section. Small-scale work could easily go out of market during fluctuations of the economic conjoncture, in which case the owner and his employees mostly passed to informal work, or informal workers could find work in small-scale workshops or businesses.
32Along this roughly shaped pyramid there stood a ‘block’ of illegal and criminal sector. This ‘block’ also had its own internal, hierarchial relations and organizations and different degrees of permeability existed among its components, yet since these aspects are not known clearly, in this case it is termed as a ‘block’. This ‘block’ strecthed alongside the pyramid and established relations with the components of it.
33In the post 1980 years, the pyramid disrupted. The top of it, now occupied mostly by new rising high level, white-collar CBD administrators, managers, and professionals, seems to have been torn off the pyramid and occupies a separate, independent location in the labour market. The spatial correspondence of this position in urban space is probably reflected in the gated communities outside or at the peripheries of cities. The peripheral section of the pyramid is in turmoil and is shrinking, as small-scale businesses go out of the market along with narrowing down of government and of industrial sectors and with the increasing standardization demands of the European market.
- 8 The term ‘cycles of poverty’ corresponds to the Turkish term ‘nöbetleşe yoksulluk’, borrowed from I (...)
34The reorganization that the informal sector is now going through is probably the ‘security valve’ of the labor market. This sector is not only enlarging, but its internal organization is being restructured in view of increasing pressure from the peripheral section of the market, from new enteries to the market and from the illegal/criminal ‘block’. Although its present internal organization is not known, it may be asserted that at one end there is a small group who have succeeded to enrich their positions exploiting the rest of the labour market. This concept has been termed as ‘cycles of poverty’ by some researchers8, indicating that poverty may be shifted through exploitation after suffering it for a time. On the other hand, there are newcomers to the city ready to take over the poverty shift, especially those who come through forced migration, which severes security and ‘buffer mechanisms’ ties with the rural area, who cannot expect much support from their own social groups who have arrived earlier but who are not much better off. Probably this group now constitutes the new ‘marginal’ workers of the labour market. They may be located in the section of the market most closely intertwined with the illegal/criminal sector. They are the most prominent ‘absolute poverty’ group in the cities.
35One new aspect of this informal market is its increasing inclusion, penetration, collaboration, interconnection with the illegal/criminal ‘block’. The media reflects how extensively especially children and young generation, along those who have lost their jobs, or who are entering the labour market and those who are disappointed with employment conditions that are open to them, are being drawn into this sector. Small-scale businesses in almost daily struggle to stand firm on shaky economic ground are ready to collaborate. With ethic concepts weakening within transformation in the economic space, interconnection of the illegal/criminal ‘block’ with the informal section of the labour market probably increases accessibility. The media also discloses collaboration between the top of the old pyramid and the illegal/criminal sector, but this collaboration is more selective, secretive and involves huge amounts of money, power and/or prestige.
36It would be interesting to see how the informal sector has been able to absorb, although intermittently, rising numbers of the unemployed laid off from the shrinking government sector and from the fluctuating peripheral sector plus incoming migration to cities in view of closed down European labour markets. This absorption is not perfect as manifested through increasing poverty and inequality. A pessimistic assertion would be that at present the internal reorganization of the informal sector, which includes its intertwine with the illegal/criminal sector, seems to have protected the system so far from more widespread and more devastating reactions.
37One concluding remark will include the following points briefly discussed so far;
38- the evolution and transformation of the urban labour market through different development models Turkey adopted in the context of recommendations and concomitant financial support from the West directed to developing countries, left its imprint on urban space. One striking and conspicuous imprint in space has been the formation and evolution of squatter settlements in relation to the position of their inhabitants in labour market.
39- changes in the position of squatter dwellers in the labour market, achievement of permanency and taking on of important functions in economic space had impact in political space as well. The first negative reaction in political space was related to potential radical position of the then ‘marginal’ workers in the system. Transformation of the status of squatter work force from ‘marginal’ to ‘informal’ and then to ‘peripheral’ labour status was paralleled by amnesty laws providing legality and finally opportunity to extract rent, which in turn enabled them to obtain permanent location in political space as well. It may even be asserted that in time they have established relational networks in this space independent from the labour market.
40- Internal structure of the former pyramid shaped labour market provided mobility to the peripheral section and mostly to the informal section. The existence of opportunities for mobility was important for the system as it bred hope for the future. Squatters personally lived and saw examples in their close social and employment circles of how work conditions, occupational prestige and most important of all, income could be improved through mobility. It may be assumed that this aspect of the labour market has been the main source of general compliance in squatter neighborhoods up till the half of 1970’s. The increasing industrialization and organization of economic sectors under planned development approach limited intra and intersectoral mobility and opportunities obtained through it. Especially the second and third generation squatter dwellers realized that this mobility, which in fact was the only open channel for improvement and transformation of their lifestyles, failed to fulfill this expectation, as increasing specialization in the labour market ‘squeezed’ them in certain sections of the market where opportunities were similar. This erosion of hope in the labour market led squatter settlements into political radicalism of 1970’s.
41- The acceptance squatter populations received in economic and political spaces may be contrasted with the negative reaction they have always received in social space. The old urban population was ready to collaborate with this cheap labour in their work places and welcomed their political support. But this population brought to the cities a culture which was not ‘acceptable’ within the context of traditional urban lifestyle, which has always been modelled after the West. So from the 1950’s on, when squatter population has been termed as cultural ‘pollutants’ of the urban environment, and from 1960’s on when they constituted a hopeless case with their ‘culture of poverty’, the old urban population renounced the squatter population in social space and carefully kept them away from their socio-cultural area. In general, the media has been stressing the difference of life style and of culture.
42- A new channel and a source of hope came in 1980’s for squatter dwellers through opportunity for obtaining land rent. But urban land is limited, and in view of the restructuration of the labour market which has affected all income groups, land rent came to be coveted by all income groups. So this opportunity was threathened by competion from politically and economically more powerful income groups. The negative impact the squatter population suffered through the disruption of the older labour market in addition to increasing demographic pressure through reduction of subsidies to rural areas, the shrinking of government sector, the closing down of migration channels to Europe, and forced migration which hit the coastal cities after 1990’s increased the number of and pressure from participants hoping for a share in urban land rent. Rapid reduction of rent to be shared led to increasing social fragmentation based on religion, regionalism and ethnicity, opening the way to inner conflict and to increasing enmity with others. Increasing limitations in the labour market through complete exclusion of certain groups and holding of certain groups only intermittently, mostly through reorganization of the informal section, is leading to deep poverty in certain areas and to rising anger in the cities. Whether reorganization of the informal sector in economic space and/or changes of policy, the introduction of new opportunities and hope in political space will be able to reduce and redirect internal tensions, is to be seen.