by Burak Akinci
ANKARA, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Low-income families in Türkiye started submitting applications on Wednesday for a massive social housing project that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described as the largest such initiative in the country's history.
The five-year project was announced by Erdogan on Tuesday, as the Turkish government battles rising housing and rental costs as well as a 24-year-high inflation rate of more than 80 percent in August.
Under the project, 500,000 homes and 250,000 residential plots will be provided to eligible applicants whose monthly income is less than 18,000 Turkish liras (990 U.S. dollars) in Istanbul and 16,000 liras in other provinces. According to local media, the project will cost the government close to 50 billion U.S. dollars.
Priority would be given to pensioners, young people, newlyweds, army veterans, relatives of soldiers killed in combat and the disabled, according to Erdogan. More than 250,000 people have submitted their applications on the first day of its launch, according to Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change Minister Murat Kurum.
In Istanbul, Türkiye's largest city of 16 million people, long queues of applicants were seen outside public banks.
The project was launched at a time when housing and rental costs throughout the country, particularly in the major cities, were rising rapidly.
Housing prices increased by 160 percent in June compared to a year earlier, according to the Turkish Central Bank's latest Housing Price Index. The growth rate was 184 percent in Istanbul and 165 percent in Ankara.
According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, around 820,300 homes were sold in Türkiye from January to July this year, a 24.2 percent increase year on year despite high borrowing rates and rising home prices.
Many Turkish households invest in homes, cars, and durable household goods amid the Turkish lira's depreciation since the beginning of 2021.
Interest rate cuts by the central bank, demanded by the Turkish president who supports low interest rates, have had a profound impact on the country's economy and increased demand for real estate projects.
"This is a good opportunity for families like us, otherwise it is impossible to own an apartment in today's conditions," said Cagdas Erol, a 33-year-old accountant from Ankara whose income is just above the minimum wage.
"My wife and I have been looking for a house for two years, but with our combined income, it is impossible to buy a house at current prices, as they are steadily going up," he said, adding the project was "a great program."
As Türkiye is heading toward its presidential and parliamentary elections in June 2023, some analysts believe the launch of the housing project will help win the low-income households' votes for the upcoming elections.
"It seems like a project to win the vote of low-income citizens for the next elections as the cost of living in Türkiye is soaring day by day," said Yalcin Karatepe, a finance professor at Ankara University. ■