by Burak Akinci
ANKARA, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- Serkan Mestci is busy looking for a new rental home in Ankara, Türkiye's capital city, as his current residence has become too expensive for him to afford.
The 40-year-old mechanic earns slightly above Türkiye's monthly minimum wage of 8,500 liras (about 452 U.S. dollars). As the lease contract for his flat in Sincan, a large town 27 km away from the city of Ankara, is about to expire in a couple of weeks, there is not much time left for him to find a modest flat to accommodate his family of four.
"The rent of our current flat was 1,500 liras per month, and the landlord wants to double that to 3,000 liras for this year. We have to leave, but we cannot find an apartment within our budget," Mestci told Xinhua.
In Türkiye's big cities, rents and housing prices have skyrocketed amid rampant inflation, which recorded a 57.68-percent annual increase in January, already the lowest in 11 months.
According to the Rental Housing Market Outlook December 2022, which was released by Istanbul's Bahcesehir University Center for Economic and Social Research, rents increased by 147.7 percent in Istanbul, 150 percent in Ankara and 160 percent in Izmir, Türkiye's third largest city.
In Ankara, the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom flat is about 7,000 liras, while in Istanbul, the price is around 12,000 liras, according to Türkiye's real estate platform the Association of Real Estate Investment Companies (GYODER).
To protect low- and middle-income citizens, the Turkish government set a cap of 25 percent on rent increases in 2022, but few landlords are apparently abiding by the rule, which is set to end in July amid an increasing number of legal disputes between homeowners and tenants.
According to statistics released by the Confederation of Public Servants Trade Unions (Memur-Sen) in September last year, the number of civil servants looking to move away from metropolises to smaller cities has tripled in 2022 compared to that of 2021 or 2020.
"I had applied for a position in a small town, but unfortunately I was appointed to Ankara, and renting a home here is a pain," said Serkan, who declined to give his surname.
"Our purchasing power has declined heavily in 2022 because of inflation, and I had to allocate a bigger part of my budget to cover the rent," he said, stressing the difficulty to find affordable housing.
Property prices in Türkiye also soared in 2022. According to the Turkish central bank, the average residential property price for one square meter in Ankara is about 12,445 Turkish liras in November last year, an increase of 181 percent compared to the same period in 2021.
To address exorbitant housing prices, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in September last year a major social housing project for low-income citizens, aiming to create 500,000 housing units and 50,000 workplaces in the upcoming five years.
The move was followed in December by another scheme offering cheaper mortgages for mid-income citizens.
To help the ailing economy, Türkiye also campaigns to lure foreign investment in the property market.
The number of properties purchased by foreigners in Türkiye increased by 15 percent in 2022, with Russians being the biggest buyers, having bought more than 16,000 units, according to data from the Turkish Statistical Institute.