Waste of Urban Assets

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By Karim Elgendy 
Strategies for Sustainable Cities

The Mehr Housing project east of Tehran (Maskan-e Mehr Pardis, in Persian) is reportedly the world’s largest Social Housing project ever awarded under a single contract. The 74,000 units low-income housing development was built around Pardis village on the foothills of the Alborz mountain range, a mere 15 miles from Damavand Mountain. It comprises hundreds of identical and poorly constructed high-rise towers (plus some duplexes).
Unsurprisingly given its proximity to Tehran, the development turned into a commuter town for a middle class seeking affordability and escaping Tehran‘s hashtag AirPollution. But this is only half the story.. The project was part of a 10-year nationwide effort to build 17 new cities and 1.5 million low-income homes across Iran (which has 2.6 million vacant properties).
This effort (which was halted in 2017) was meant to be financed using interest-free 99-year government-backed mortgages. But the central bank also had to print money to pay for the construction, which pushed up inflation across the economy.
The rapid inflation, in turn, created opportunities for RealEstate market manipulation and prices rocketed nine-fold, making developments such as Maskan-e Mehr Pardis much less affordable to the low-income communities it was meant to serve.
The only data available for the national social housing project is the number of units unsold (~100K) and the number of units incomplete (~200k), and it is slightly out of date. Once a unit is sold it becomes part of the national housing stock.
Regretfully; morphology, architecture and histogram represent the 30-years-ongoing phenomenon of weak agencies, unskilled professionals and strong biz lobbyists.. Underdeveloped countries have wasted lots of resources and moneys in unsuccessful long term investments.. Therefore, urban paradoxes and social unrest are spreading..  Meanwhile, very few attempts to flip the fate of these assets; recalling some MIT papers on refurbishing the famous (Projects) to meet changed urban and demand patterns..  Wealthy and developed communities are more urbanely resilient than the poor and underdeveloped ones.
Adil Abdalla

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