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EghtesadOnline: Iran's capital city Tehran has reached a point of saturation in terms of construction of new houses due to a highly faulty pattern pursued in the past few years, the deputy for planning, urban development and city council affairs at Tehran Municipality said.

"If the Tehran Municipality is to remain committed to its comprehensive plan for accepting new population and if it is to adhere to approvals of the High Council of Urban Development, no new construction permits should be issued for the next five years, save for permits for renovations in distressed urban areas," Hojatollah Mirzaei added.

He lamented Tehran's lack of identity caused by following the past incorrect pattern, the official news website of the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development reported.

Mirzaei noted that the only way of guaranteeing Tehran's survival in the long term is for construction permits to be limited to just urban reinvigoration and renovation of distressed areas between the fiscal 2019-20 and 2023-24, according to Financial Tribune.

"Municipalities and other related entities must seriously refrain from issuing new construction permits," he said.

But that is easier said than done. Under the management of previous mayor, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who remained at the helm of Tehran Municipality for 12 years until last year when he unsuccessfully ran for president, the municipality engaged in controversial practices. 

A large portion of the municipality's incomes were generated by selling construction permits to curb its rampaging debts. The practice has led to a massively overcrowded city that cannot provide suitable housing to many of its residents, leading many to travel to their poor-quality houses on the outskirts of the city. 

On the other hand, the city itself is riddled with low-quality and badly built properties.

Mirzaei called on capital holders to adopt a new perspective, urging them to stop focusing just on yields when building new properties and curb their expectations.

He pointed out that improving the quality of life and lowering poverty are among the chief concerns of the government's urban reinvigoration plan. 

"The plan calls for the implementation of a new system of urban innovation, executing more transparent processes of management and policymaking and employing new technologies in business and wealth creation," Mirzaei said.

"If the plan goes accordingly, we can hope to witness positive new developments in the quality of life by 2023-24 and increase feelings of social belonging while boasting more equal opportunities." 

> Promise of New Towns

The concept of next generation towns that define decent and pleasant dwelling places has long been present in Iran. 

Twelve such towns are planned in 10 provinces with the aim, among other things, of developing urban living areas, encouraging self-sustaining activities and creating much-needed jobs. The towns are said to be far different from similar places that already exist.

In the face of monumental challenges, namely population explosion, large numbers of people displaced by the 1980-88 Iraq-imposed war and the alarming rate of rural to urban migration, those in charge initiated house building projects on an industrial scale in the 1980s. The new residential areas that emerged came to be known as new towns. 

The 30-year roadmap is still in progress, as more and more people hunt for affordable housing in or near big cities. 

An estimated 765,000 people live in 17 new towns across the country, which are mostly located near cities of notable size, namely Tehran, the industrial cities—Isfahan and Tabriz, and the main religious city—Mashhad. The largest population, 116,000, in the new cities is in Andisheh, southwest of Tehran.

However, despite the non-stop efforts of successive governments and urban planners, people living in the new towns hardly constitute 3% of the country's total population, which is a far cry from the 15% estimated in the master plan. 

There are a whole lot of understandable reasons as to why the new towns have not been able to attract the big numbers originally planned. The new generation of towns now being built is aimed at overcoming the many shortcomings seen in the design, location, amenities and facilities of the existing towns.

The next generation of new towns will focus on proportionate growth in infrastructure, superstructure and utilities.

The towns will have a different general topography compared to the existing ones because they will not be built in close proximity to the big cities but rather in the country's southern coastal areas. 

Of the 12 planned next generation new towns, only one is located in Tehran Province. 

Five will be in provinces bordering the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman with the purpose of promoting and supporting accommodation, tourism and trade. 

Four are to be located in the central provinces, aimed at providing accommodation as well as tourism and logistic services; one is in the northern province of Mazandaran near the Caspian Sea, which will also be a tourism attraction; and the last will be in the western province of Kurdestan.

What is strongly stressed is that the next generation towns will be safe, eco-friendly and smart with the belief in providing opportunities for startup businesses. 

If the vision for the new towns is realized, they will be self-reliant and inculcate a strong sense of community among its residents, which is conspicuous by its absence in the existing new towns.

The next towns will be resident-oriented, with the government functioning only as the overseer, and the private sector will be responsible for all things related to services, amenities and maintenance. 


Tehran Construction Capacity