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European Planning Studies

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Concentrated Urban Poverty: The Case of Izmir Inner Area, Turkey

Ipek zbek Snmeza a City and Regional Planning Department, Faculty of Architecture, Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey

To cite this Article Snmez, Ipek zbek(2007) 'Concentrated Urban Poverty: The Case of Izmir Inner Area, Turkey', European

Planning Studies, 15: 3, 319 338 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/09654310601017026 URL:

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European Planning Studies Vol. 15, No. 3, April 2007

Concentrated Urban Poverty: The Case of Izmir Inner Area, Turkey IPEK OZBEK SONMEZCity and Regional Planning Department, Faculty of Architecture, Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey

ABSTRACT In Turkey, poverty has been a main subject of debates since 1960s. It used to be a serious problem for both rural areas and the big cities that gained migration. In Turkey and world-wide since the 1980s, however, there have been more research interests in the concentrated urban poverty, especially along with the increase in levels of impoverishment around the world. With the help of a case study in Izmir (Turkey), this paper aims to examine the process of concentrated urban poverty from different points of view in the literature. This is a case study developed at the peripheries of the traditional city centreor inner areasof the city of Izmir, Turkey. The paper, rst, discusses the parameters of concentrated poverty according to the literature. Then it introduces the study ndings of the author, which point out the macroscale, micro-scale and ecological dynamics that are important in the development of concentrated urban poverty. The macro-scale dynamics suggest that poverty in inner areas of the city are related to the unbalanced development trends within the country, such as the overgrowth of metropolitan cities, economic restructuring processes, migration trends and the development of informal economy. The ecological dynamics address to the housing and job location preferences and invasion-succession processes in the city, which emphasize that socio-economic characteristics of inner areas of the city are different from those of other city parts. Micro-scale dynamics are related to poors ability of developing solidarity relations among themselves, which is also related to the spatial characteristics of inner areas of the city, according to this studys ndings.

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Introduction Inner areas of the city have long been under the gaze of the scholars in sociology and geography. The social-economic changes since the development of industrial cities in the nineteenth centuryespecially the concentration of poverty and unhealthy living environments resulting from the concentration of low income labour forcewere driving these scholarly interests in developed countries. Meanwhile, similar discussions in developing countries also started along with the urbanization and industrialization trends in these countries.

Correspondence Address: Ipek Ozbek Sonmez, Dokuz Eylul Universitesi, Mimarlk Fakultesi/Sehir Planlama Bolumu, Tnaztepe Kampusu, Dogus Caddesi, No:209, 35160, Kurucesme, Izmir, Turkey. Email: ipek. ISSN 0965-4313 print=ISSN 1469-5944 online=07=03031920 DOI: 10.1080=09654310601017026 # 2007 Taylor & Francis


I. O. Sonmez

Such contextual differences have resulted in the emergence of different approaches to concentrated urban poverty. This paper discusses these approaches, and examines how relevant they are to the case of Turkey, drawn from the case study ndings in the Metropolitan City of Izmir. The study site includes the areas next to the traditional city centre of Izmir, which this paper calls the inner areas of the city. The study has data at both the city and the neighbourhood scale, drawn from the data from the State Ofce of Statistics and from my extensive eldwork in inner areas around the city centre of Izmir, respectively. The data at the eldwork comes primarily from interviews with 323 households in 12 neighbourhoods that have been completed since 1998 (Figures 1 and 2 and A1). From each neighborhood 10% of the interview subjects were chosen by random sampling. The next part of the paper introduces different theories and approaches to the concentrated urban poverty in the literature. Within relation to these approaches, the third part of the paper discusses how the dynamics of concentrated urban poverty in Turkey and particularly, in the city of Izmir develop. The last part concludes with some remarks about the concentration of poverty. In contemporary developed and developing world, poverty is concentrated in urban areas. Overall, the reason for concentrated poverty mainly relates to the macro-economic factors. However, the process and structure of concentrated poverty might differ from city to city. Therefore, this paper aims to contribute to the discussions on concentrated urban poverty by studying the dynamics of poverty as experienced at a particular place. The paper also develops a historical perspective and looks at how the study site has been portrayed through the decades. The study site and the city of Izmir in general have some commonalities with other parts of the world. In many historic cities like Izmir, tourism is a driver for the physical upgrading of central-city areas. The problem for these cities is that such physical upgrading might trigger gentrication to and, thus, displacement of the urban poor from these areas that are close to some job opportunities for the poor. Studies about the central areas of metropolitan cities indicate that social upgrading also leads to gentrication in Turkey. The development of gentrication seems to correlate with degrees of integration to globalization processes. Istanbul, for instance, is a city that is highly integrated to globalization processes. Various analysis of Istanbul points out that mostly central areas experience gentrication. Uzun (2001), for instance, describes the new-environmentally-conscious and community-oriented lifestyles that

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Figure 1. Location of survey area within the Great City of Izmir

Concentrated Urban Poverty: The Case of Izmir Inner Area, Turkey


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Figure 2. The traditional city centre of Izmir (inner city) and the survey area

develop within the historically rich areas of the city. Yet she also points out that gentrication in inner areas of the city threatens low-income communities to be displaced from their neighbourhoods. Different Perspectives on the Concentrated Urban Poverty Since the industrialization movements of the nineteenth century, scholars and politicians have heavily debated the poverty and social segregation in inner areas of the city. Along with the growth of cities in the twentieth century, geographers and sociologists have tried to identify and explain variations in cities spatial patterns. In the twentieth century, three main schools of thought developed about urban poverty. The ecological approach put forward several models of the city. The model of Burgess (1925) is composed of socioeconomic groupings of the inhabitants of Chicago, Illinois. One of the basic assumptions of Burgess is that low-income residents have to live near to their workplaces in the city centre because they could not afford high housing and transportation costs. According to the Concentric Zones Model, the central business district is surrounded by a transition zone, at which old housing units are either deteriorated into slum properties or invaded by the light industrial uses. This model in some respects also explains the development of slum housing in the inner areas of the cities in developing countries. Modernization and industrialization trends in these countries after the 1960s have caused millions of people to migrate from rural to urban areas. Especially the pull factors of the metropolitan city economies and the push factors of rural areassuch as the changing structure of agriculture and the high number of population without any land ownershiphave been parts of these trends.


I. O. Sonmez

Poor migrants have had usually two options for housing. They need to live either in inner areas or peripheries of the city after building their shantytowns. Almost in all of the metropolitan cities in the developing world, the inner areas have been close to job opportunities and the housing stocks around the city centre. Similar to th