Social Housing in North Cyprus
  I. Introduction

Social housing is not a novel issue for the Turkish Cypriots. Even before the First World War, we witness an important social housing scheme implemented in Nicosia. Therefore, before starting to analyse recent developments on this issue, it is important to mention the past developments.  

II. Social Housing pre-1974 Period 
  Starting in the 1930s, Nicosia, under the control of Nicosia Municipality. Rents paid by the occupants to the municipality are below the average rent in the housing market.

Following 1964 Greek-Cypriot atrocities, a significant percentage of the Turkish- Cypriot people had to leave their homes and move to more secure enclaves which were under the control of the Turkish-Cypriots. The Turkish-Cypriots lived in these enclaves, scattered all over the island. Refugees were temporarily housed in tented camps, warehouses, schools and other governmental buildings. The housing and sanitary conditions of the refugees need not be mentioned. Starting in 1965, the Turkish- Cypriot administration developed a Refugee Housing Project to upgrade the living conditions of at least some of the refugee families. Within six years, in 65 different urban and rural settlements, 1,513 dwelling units had been built and allocated to the neediest families. Of these units, 247 had one bedroom, while the rest had two. The floor area ranged from 46 m2 to 70 m2. Of the 1,513 units, 503 were prefabricated, while for the rest brick was used as the construction material. At present, most of these dwelling units are still inhabitable and are being occupied by low-income families. The government allocates these units to eligible families and collects no rent.

  Table 1. Houses built for the refugees (by Year)  
Years 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970-71 Total
No. of Units 130 206 512 424 241 1,513
  Table 2. Houses built for the refugees (by District) 
Districts Units
Nicosia 901
Famagusta 33
Kyrenia 111
Larnaca 116
Limassol 120
Paphos 232
Total 1,513
  Table 3. Houses built for the refugees (by Type)  
Floor area (m2) 70 60 54 53.5  46 46 Other Total
No. of Bedrooms 2 2 2 2 2 1 2  
No. of Units 8 580 133 110 392 247 43 1,513
III. Social Housing pre-1974 Period 

In 1974, a military coup, backed by the then-government of Greece with an obvious political intention to annex Cyprus to Greece, resulted in a military intervention by the Turkish government, which exercised its rights and obligations as a co- guarantor of the sovereignty and independence of Cyprus in accordance with the 1959 Treaty of Zürich and London. As a result, the Turkish-Cypriot population which had been living in scattered enclaves moved and settled in the northern part of the island, which was completely controlled by the Turkish-Cypriots, and the Greek-Cypriots moved and settled in the South which was controlled by the Greek-Cypriot. Population movement took place as a consequence of the Voluntary Regrouping of Population Agreement, dated August 2, 1975.

Under United Nations supervision, a transfer of population took place -approximately 65,000 Turkish-Cypriots moved to the North and an estimated 180,000 Greek-Cypriots to the South. 


A. Post-1974 Period

End of the war in 1974 led to the gradual economic development of the Turkish-Cypriot people so that by 1978 the government was forced to intervene in the housing market by enacting a Social Housing Law in that year. Since then, more than 3,000 social housing units have been built by the government and housing cooperatives in the major urban centres.

B. Social Housing Schemes

According to the Social Housing Law, citizens of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are eligible to apply for social housing if they do not own a house and do not have sufficient financial resources to build one for themselves. In addition, the sanitary conditions of the present residence, the number of children and other dependents, the ratio of existing rent to total family income and similar factors are used for ranking eligible families. Finally, eligible families are required to make a deposit of 15 or 20 per cent of the cost as a down-payment. The interest rate for social housing loans has been 68 per cent. Occupants pay 20 per cent of the interest and the government subsidises the remaining 48 per cent. As of April 1993, the interest rates reached 80 per cent, of which occupants pay 30 per cent and the government the remaining 50 per cent. Occupants have the opportunity to choose from four different repayment alternatives offered by government, so loans may be scheduled over five, 10, 15 or 20 years. Those who can afford to pay more can get their title deeds sooner. Traditionally, housing ownership has been regarded as security and immovable property as an asset in which to invest. Therefore, occupants of social housing are willing to repay their loans as quickly as possible and get their title deeds. By 1996, 1,300 families had already repaid their loans in full and become owners of their homes.

(1) Housing Co-operatives

The first housing cooperative estate was designed in Göçmenköy, a suburb of Nicosia, in 1981, by Is-Coop (Workers' Cooperative Development Society) and Türk-Sen (Trade Unions Federation). Between 1983 and 1989, 360 units were completed in Nicosia by these two organisations. Four other housing cooperatives managed to build 290 units in Nicosia for their members during the same period (Table 4). Housing cooperatives have received financial assistance and building sites at reasonable prices from the government. Many of the cooperative housing schemes suffered from inadequate supervision during construction, incompetent administration, poor design, inadequate coordination during infrastructure work, irregular progress with construction and similar problems which discouraged further housing schemes by cooperatives. Eligible families preffered the units built to satisfactory standards and delivered in time by the government. 

  Table 4. Social Housing Schemes by Cooperatives  
Name of Cooperative Construction Period Duplex Apartment Total
Is-Coop & TŘrk-Sen 1983-89 330 30 360
Teachers' Coop. 1983-85 136 32 168
Police Coop. 1984-86 40 - 40
Security Forces Coop. 1984-86 - 32 32
Soyak Coop. 50 - 50  
TOTAL 556 94 650  
Source: Department of Social Housing, Nicosia, TRNC.
Note: All units are built in Nicosia.
  (2) Government

Between 1984 and 1992, the government successfully implemented three housing schemes and built 1,528 units (Table 5). Government programmes have been more successful than those of cooperatives in terms of financing, the number of units built, coordination, administration, design, quality and timely delivery. Recent official announcements indicate that financial resources needed for the Fourth Phase have been made available by the Turkish government.

Recently, the government has also launched a new project which provides building sites and partial credit to those who want to build their homes in rural areas. By 1996, 1,384 building sites had been allocated to eligible families for this purpose. The aim of this approach is to encourage young couples to stay in rural areas and to prevent rural-urban migration.

    PHASE I: (1984-1986)
    Phase I was financed by the government -258 out of 298 units built in this phase were duplex and 40 were apartments. Nicosia ranked number one in terms of the number of units (Table 6). The average cost per unit was approximately UKú12,828.

    PHASE II: (1985-1989)
    Phaqse II was financed by the Ministry of Finance in Saudi Arabia, and completed in three parts -260, 300 and 488 units built in each part respectively. Of 1,064 units, 640 were located in Nicosia. The number of apartments is 184 (Table 6). The average cost per unit was UKú13,000 - UKú13,450 (Table 5).

    PHASE III: (1990-1992)
    Phase III was financed by the government. Of 240 units built in this phase, 104 are located in Nicosia. All of these units are apartments (Table 6). The average cost per unit was approximately UKú16,752 (Table 5).

    PHASE IV: (1993-Present)
    In Phase IV, 504 units are being financed by Turkey's Social Housing Fund and 632 units by the government of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. All the units are apartments, with 608 in Nicosia, 336 in Famagusta, 112 in Kyrenia, 64 in Güzelyurt and 16 in Lefke (Table 6). The average cost per unit is approximately UKú14,188 for 85 m2 units and UKú10,016 for 60 m2 units (Table 5).

Table 5. Cost of State Social Housing in North Cyprus 

  IV. Conclusion 
  It is very difficult, if not impossible, for a low-income family to afford such a dwelling unit even with the state subsidising the loan interest. Not surprisingly, most of these units have been occupied by families who have managed to pay 15 to 20 per cent of the cost as a down-payment and have sufficient income to repay the balance over five to 20 years. 

Ownership of a car, colour TV sets, video recorders, washing machines, dishwashers and modern furniture are reliable indicators of the material well-being of occupants. These families could easily afford to repair the units with no need of government help when required. 

The smaller dwelling units of Phase IV have enabled more families from lower-income groups to apply for eligibility. Now the government plans to build houses for rent for those who cannot afford to make the down-payment and monthly mortgage payments. 

  Table 6. State Social Housing Projects in North Cyprus 
  Social housing schemes have achieved a great deal of what was expected from them. The positive and negative sides of the implementation are lessons learned from the past to be used to create better projects in future. Design of units, concerns of energy-saving, the patterns of the building sites, emphasis on using more local building materials, quality of workmanship, coordination, administration, eligibility and similar aspects need to be analysed in more detail in order to allocate better scarce resources and create livable environments for the community. 
  Adapted from Tamer Gazioglu's "Social Housing Schemes in the TRNC"; prepared in 1993 and revised in 1996; published in the Northern Cyprus Monthly -Kibris, Vol. IV, No. 5.