Akhoundi calls for promoting urban redevelopment

Financial Tribune- Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi has pitched the idea of pursuing urban redevelopment as a serious issue in housing planning while advising the administration to distance itself from housing construction.

“As the minister of urban development, I propose that urban redevelopment projects must enter the Iranian planning framework,” Akhoundi was also quoted as saying by the ministry’s official website.

“We will strive to make urban redevelopment projects part of the annual budget in the future,” he added.

The official, who was speaking at the Urban Redevelopment Council of the West Azarbaijan Province, stressed that redevelopment projects will be executed for each and every neighborhood ranging from historical neighborhoods to distressed urban areas.

“Such projects will be well thought-out and detailed, and not just at the level of general regulations,” he said.

“When we say cities must be prioritized, it means that we are talking at a more serious level than just devising a number of regulations, because that will limit activities at, for example, historical cities.”

Since most construction projects do not adhere to regulations in the first place, Akhoundi emphasized that coming up with a series of new laws would only serve to completely block any progress while redevelopment projects do the opposite.

According to the minister, all urban neighborhoods must have redevelopment projects of their own so that their problems would actually be solved instead of “us using big words and saying each city needs what services while ignoring neighborhoods, which will lead to how it is now when scores of people are living in bad housing conditions”.

Akhoundi said if the situation is improved for people living in informal settlements and distressed urban areas, there will be no reason for the administration to get involved in housing construction.

“Iran’s experience in the involvement of the government in building residential units, such as the Mehr Housing Plan showed that the administration must never enter housing construction because we witnessed what pains it has caused,” he said.

The controversial Mehr Housing Plan was initiated by the former administration with the aim of building thousands of residential units for low-income people.

It has drained significant resources and while it is projected to finish next year after nearly a decade, it has proved a thorn in the side of the current administration and the Roads Ministry from the start.

As Akhoundi says, massive projects such as Mehr should have been divested to the private sector but instead, the government barged in.

He stressed that cities pose the biggest problems and “if their problems are dealt with, housing troubles will be resolved” and that is why his ministry is backing redevelopment projects.

The minister referred to people living in informal settlements and distressed urban areas, as well as young first-time homebuyers who wish to form a family but do not have the means to purchase a house, and said they need to be supported by the government.