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Disasters. 2008 Sep;32(3):358-76.

Unauthorised development and seismic hazard vulnerability: a study of squatters and engineers in Istanbul, Turkey.

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  • 1Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.


Many cities in developing nations have experienced an influx of poor migrants in search of work. This population influx has often been accommodated through land squatting, irregular construction and unauthorised housing. For the urban poor, this has resulted in immediate affordable housing; however, this housing frequently has long-term vulnerability to natural hazards. This article examines the ways in which squatters in Istanbul, Turkey, understand the seismic vulnerability of their unauthorised housing. Distrust of professional engineers and contractors has led Istanbul squatters to believe that self-built housing will not only be less costly but also safer than commercially built housing. The impact of residents' risk perceptions on their vulnerability to natural hazards is examined through a comparison of social attitudes regarding safe housing and the quality of unauthorised construction. This comparison highlights how squatters' risk perceptions necessitate innovative means of reducing vulnerability in unauthorised neighbourhoods of developing cities.

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