Istanbul residents move to remote seaside areas over COVID-19 concerns

The concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic are causing more and more residents in Turkey’s largest city Istanbul to move to the city’s remote seaside districts along the shores of the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea.

Sile, a small fishing town some 70 km from Istanbul, has become one of the most popular escape zones for Istanbulites thanks to its low number of coronavirus cases.

Havva Ersoy, a retired woman in her 60s, has recently moved along with her husband to Sile permanently from the crowded Besiktas district in Istanbul for fear of the pandemic there.

“The pandemic forced us to take this drastic measure, and last month we decided to quit the city center for good as we feel safer in this coastal town,” Ersoy told Xinhua.

An ancient village, Sile is popular for its historic castle, a 150-year- old lighthouse, sandy beaches, and seaside cafes and restaurants. It is also home to a special type of fabric known as the Sile gauze, which is 100-percent cotton.

Ersoy noted that a state-run mobile application, which tracks the density of COVID-19 cases across the country, usually displays Sile as a low-risk area.

“At least we know that we are not in a very high-risk location as it is the case in most parts of Istanbul,” she said, adding her family owns a house in the seaside town.

But not everyone was as lucky as them. The rents in Sile skyrocketed in autumn, and it is now almost impossible to find a vacant house for sale, according to the Ersoy family.

“When the summer was over, people realized that the pandemic was continuing and even getting worse, especially in Istanbul,” said Ali Ersoy , Havva’s husband.

“Therefore, those who have summer houses here did not go back to the city, while others started to rent or buy one,” he added.

A recent article published on emlakgundemi.com.tr, an online real estate news platform, said Turkish people have started to adopt different life styles under the pandemic, and Istanbul is one of the provinces that keep up with this change.

It said the demand for houses with gardens, terraces, and balconies near beaches is significantly high among Istanbul residents, and many people have been seeking to rent or buy a house in residential areas far from the city center.

Emel Akbas Idikut, founder of Projekspert Real Estate, pointed out that the sale prices of villas and apartments increased by at least 20 percent in the last three months in the resort towns of Istanbul, including Sile.

The for-sale price can go up to 10 million Turkish liras, or 1.3 million U.S. dollars, for a luxury villa in Sile, according to real estate agencies.

Suleyman Mutlu, owner of a restaurant in downtown Sile, told Xinhua that the town remained crowded even after the summer months and there is almost no place left for rent or sale.

“I used to close my restaurant when winter arrives. But this year, despite the pandemic, my delivery services continue uninterrupted,” he said.