Essay: Upgrading underserviced neighborhoods

The aim of the UUHRP was to pilot-test and refine an integrated approach to upgrading underserviced neighborhoods and to initiate reforms in the public management of the housing sector toward a market-led structure. The project eventually delivered a set of hardware and software upgrading subprojects [not clear; please rephrase] in the informal settlements of Kermanshah, Zahedan, Bandar Abbas, Sanandaj, and Tabriz based on community priorities. Perhaps more importantly, it succeeded in bringing about a new government direction in dealing with informal settlements in Iran. The National Enabling Taskforce for Informal Settlements was formed separately but in connection with the project to coordinate upgrading activities in the informal settlements through the establishment of provincial taskforces across the country. The Fourth Five-Year Development Plan (MPO [please insert page numbers]) called for regularization of informal settlements through an enabling approach. It further required the government to carry out the Comprehensive Housing Plan (MHUD, 2005[page numbers?]), which was prepared separately but in connection with the World Bank project and contained a multipronged and relatively comprehensive approach to addressing the housing problems.

Due to various reasons including the impact of international sanctions on Iran, the UUHRP was able to pay only around half of its loan amount and did not enter its second phase with the assistance of the World Bank (World Bank, 2009 [page numbers?]). Furthermore, the research outputs of the project concerning the housing sector reform failed to influence the Fifth Plan (2010-14) prepared during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the Comprehensive Housing Plan prepared for the Fourth Plan, certain strategies were formulated, among a number of other things, to manage the cost of land in the price of housing. These strategies were turned into a program called the Mehr Housing in the Fifth Plan, which was given full support of the government as the main low-income housing initiative. The Mehr initiative has entailed constructing medium-height buildings on publicly owned land and exempting them from construction taxes and fees. In this way only the price of construction is reflected in each housing unit, which then becomes affordable for low-income households when provided with a subsidized bank loan. Around 2.18 million units were planned for 2010 through 2012, 56 percent of which were ready for delivery by the end of the period (Fardanesh, p. 28). Furthermore, calling informal settlements by the outdated term ”?iya-ne??ini, Article 172 of the Fifth Plan states that such areas when inside the city boundaries and designated by the Supreme Council of Urban Planning and Architecture should be regularized with the participation of residents through the formulation and realization of legal, financial, cultural, and enabling mechanisms. It then calls for provisions to prevent formation of settlements outside city boundaries by controlling the expansion of peripheral villages and destroying illegal construction with the assistance of the Judiciary (VPSPS).

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