Many Ahmadinejad Housing Projects Lack Basic Utilities

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Iranian Urban Development Minister Abbas Akhoundi said that many of the low-income housing units built in the last few years lacked basic utilities and that construction of the housing units needs to be suspended.

Akhoundi said of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “Mehr housing scheme,” “The Mehr housing units that were constructed are in need of water, gas and sewage, and the administration is heavily involved with this issue.” He added, “Several thousand units of inappropriate housing were constructed, and while this type of home construction appears to be in the interest of the people, in reality, it is trap for the future government and the people.”

Akhoundi told reporters, “This scheme needs to be suspended because a home is not just four walls and a house. People need facilities and transportation … You cannot build homes in inferior and inappropriate places. As I have said before, we are bound to previous promises, but this design is not so good that we would want to continue it.”

On whether the housing units can be suspended, Akhoundi said, “We need to have a detailed discussion in the national media about it, and see what has been the costs and benefits of it. Currently, 200,000 of the units built lack facilities, and you cannot build a country like this.”

The Mehr housing project was one of the Ahmadinejad administration’s largest construction projects and one he often used to brandish his populist credentials.

Even before yesterday’s announcement by the Urban Development Ministry, the housing project was already controversial. On June 17, Bijan Khajehpour wrote for Al Monitor that “The Ahmadinejad government’s attempts to provide housing — the so-called Mehr Housing Units — generated the wrong signals in the market. By promising cheap housing to the lower-income classes, the government absorbed some of the private capital that would normally have gone into constructing new private housing units. However, the government failed to deliver the housing units that it had promised, leading many lower-middle class and lower-income families to feel cheated.”

Akhoundi said, “Mehr housing was supposed to be for the very low earners of society, but in the end, it turned out to be in the interest of the middle class.”

Yesterday, it was also announced that one of Ahmadinejad’s employment projects, the “Mehrafarin,” had been repealed. The government project, approved in April 2013, was meant to create 500,000 jobs. Mehrafarin was a source of controversy due to the lack of oversight and the discretionary powers it gave to the administration and the governors of the provinces to hire individuals for political objectives, if they desired.

An auditory court had previously warned the governors of the provinces that implementation of the bill was a “crime” and counted more than 57 legal issues in the legislation. Parliament speaker Ali Larijani had also written a letter to Ahmadinejad about the hiring of 1,500 individuals without following due process.