Accommodating urban growth in the fast growing city of Istanbul encounters several problems. This paper discusses the development of greenfield sites in Istanbul by examining the institutional structure of the land development process of some recent large-scale housing projects using a framework of institutional analysis. The result reveals that the public (through both the central government and the local municipalities) has an important role in land development by acting as both regulator and investor. These roles have been empowered by the recent changes in the law. Success has been achieved in terms of the quality and quantity of housing built on greenfield sites in Istanbul over the last decade. However, the price of serviced urban plots in the legal land market remains high, and it remains difficult for the low- and mid-income groups to gain entry to the property market. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.