EghtesadOnline: With the planned construction of 13 towns by New Towns Development Company, the number of Iran's satellite towns will reach 30.
The new satellite towns will be Tis in Sistan-Baluchestan Province with a population ceiling of 150,000, Siraf and Pars in Bushehr with 120,000 and 60,000 respectively, Houra in Hamedan with 120,000, Amirkabir in Markazi with 100,000, Kharazmi in Tehran with 35,000, Tabnak in Fars with 60,000, Koushak and Mokran in Hormozgan with 120,000 and 200,000 respectively, Samangan in Kerman with 100,000, Sanandaj in Kurdestan with 50,000, Eyvanaki in Semnan with 50,000 and Shahryar in East Azarbaijan with 170,000.
Currently, a total of 17 satellite towns have been established in 11 Iranian provinces, Hibna reported.
The optimal population of the satellite towns is estimated to be around 3.8 million residents, although almost 80% of their capacity currently remain unused, Financial Tribune reported.
The estimated population of first-generation residents of new towns was put at 280,000 in March 2006-7, 420,000 in March 2011-12 and 776,000 in 2016-17.
New towns have experienced an 8.8% population growth between the fiscal 2006-07 and 2011-12, and 12.6% between fiscal 2011-12 and 2016-17.
Their population is estimated to increase to 1.3 million in the fiscal 2021-22 and over 2.5 million in the fiscal 2026-27.
The concept of next generation towns with decent and pleasant dwelling places has long been present in Iran.
In the face of monumental challenges, namely population explosion, large numbers of people displaced by the brutal 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war and the alarming rate of rural migration, those in charge initiated housing construction projects on an industrial scale in the 1980s. The new places that emerged came to be known as new towns.
Mehr Housing project launched in 2007 infused billions of dollars into building homes for those at the lower end of the economic ladder. The plan was to provide people, mostly the youth, with affordable housing. As such, 2.2 million housing units were to be built, 401,000 in the new towns. Reports say 246,000 units in the new towns have been delivered so far.
However, despite the non-stop efforts of successive governments and urban planners, people living in the new towns reportedly make up less than 3% of the country's total population.
Difficulties in Existing New Towns
According to Habibollah Taherkhani, deputy minister of roads and urban development, there are two main reasons behind the inability of existing new towns to achieve their population projections.
The main reason is lack of infrastructure. For instance, proper public transportation is among the critical needs of new towns worldwide, but when the housing projects were launched in Iran, it simply was not a priority for the government.
The focus then was “build, build, build” and everything else would come afterwards.
"The other reason is that urban policies in big cities were not in tandem with those of new towns. All big cities have undergone expansion over the years. That (expansion) was not supposed to be the case because the new towns were being built," he said.
The new towns built in the past are mostly seen as dormitories, meaning there is no sense of community among the inhabitants. This is largely due to topological inefficiency and the inability of towns to attract businesses, according to Mahmoud Rahimi, a member of the board of directors of New Towns Development Company.
The next generation of new towns will focus on proportionate growth in infrastructure, superstructure and utilities, says Zohreh Davoodpour, another member of the NTDC board.
The towns will have a different topography compared to the existing ones because they will not be built in close proximity to the big cities but rather in the coastal areas of southern Iran.
What is strongly stressed is that the next generation towns will be safe, eco-friendly and smart with a focus on 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, something that is conspicuous by its absence in the existing towns.
Funding for the new projects will be different from the old ones in that the authorities are considering issuing sukuk (Islamic bonds) for securing funds from the private sector rather than begging for money from the government(s) that are almost always running budget deficits.
"Additionally, BOT [build-operate-transfer] contracts are being considered for a part of the projects in the next-gen towns. Projects that can create reasonable profit in the foreseeable future can be passed on to investors as BOTs, such as projects like hotel, hospital and mall construction, based on feasibility studies," says Sadeq Akbari, another NTDC board member.
The next towns will be resident-oriented, with the government functioning only as the overseer, and the private sector in charge of and responsible for all things related to services, amenities and maintenance.