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Pro-gov’t company awarded housing project worth $164 mln in quake zone

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A tender valued at TL 3.1 billion ($164 million) for the construction of permanent housing in the Turkish province of Hatay, one of the areas hardest hit by powerful earthquakes in February, has been awarded to a company known for its close links to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government, the T24 news website reported.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck near the city of Gaziantep on Feb. 6 while people were sleeping, killing more than 50,000 people in the 11 southeastern provinces hardest hit by the disaster, according to the latest official figures. The quake was followed by many aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that shook the region later the same day.

Journalist Çiğdem Toker on Wednesday said in a column for the T24 news website that the Housing Development Administration (TOKİ) held a tender for a 1,546-unit housing project in the Defne district of Hatay on April 13 and awarded it to REC Construction, a subsidiary of Rönesans Holding, which had submitted the lowest bid of TL 3.1 billion.

The holding previously undertook the construction of Erdoğan’s presidential complex in Ankara and the Okluk State Guesthouse in western Turkey, commonly known as Erdoğan’s “summer palace.”

Erdoğan’s presidential complex in Ankara was at the center of criticism when it was constructed due to its large budget, expensive interiors, more than a thousand rooms and luxurious design as well as the felling of trees in its neighborhood. Over TL 1.7 billion ($244 million at the time) had been spent on the palace, twice the original estimate, when Erdoğan moved into the palace in November 2014.

The construction of the Okluk State Guesthouse in the popular holiday resort of Marmaris was completed in 2019. The guesthouse campus was built near Okluk Cove at a cost of TL 640 million between 2018 and 2021 to replace the summer residence that had been constructed during the term in office of the late President Turgut Özal in the 1980s.

According to Toker, the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change also held two tenders in Hatay for rural housing and barns.

He added that 16 tenders were held in the provinces affected by the earthquakes last week and that the total amount of bids for earthquake-related projects since Feb. 21 has exceeded TL 185 billion ($9.5 billion).

Turkey began work to rebuild homes less than a month after the major earthquakes, while architects and engineers warned that officials should carefully reconsider urban planning and building safety before a hasty rebuild.

At least 1.5 million people have been left homeless and 500,000 new homes need to be built after the devastating earthquakes, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) experts.

More than 160,000 buildings, including 520,000 apartments, were destroyed or severely damaged in the earthquakes.

President Erdoğan, keen to show that his government will do everything for those impacted as he faces his biggest political test in elections planned for May, had promised that the houses would be rebuilt within a year.

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