Economy, Business And Markets

Bank Maskan Performance Commended by IMF Team

Finance Desk
Bank Maskan Performance Commended by IMF Team
Bank Maskan Performance Commended by IMF Team

The International Monetary Fund's Article IV Consultation team is in Iran to assess the country's economic health. The team visited Bank Maskan on Monday on the latest leg of their tour, which marks the second such visit by the Fund to the main housing lender.     

Martin Cerisola, IMF's Iran mission chief commended Maskan for its efforts in promoting home ownership through affordable housing projects like Mehr Housing and the Housing Savings Account which provides subsidized long-term mortgages to first-time home-buyers.

"Bank Maskan is an influential body in the economy of Iran and its towering achievements include Mehr Housing Project and the Housing Savings Account," Cerisola said.

Under Article IV of the IMF's Articles of Association, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country's economic direction and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the executive board.

Initiated in 2007, Mehr scheme is a low-cost public housing project which aims to bring home ownership to two million low-income people through free land and subsidized loans, but the nationwide scheme was recently stymied by lack of funding.

A Maskan official told the Financial Tribune that the huge Mehr Housing Project and the Housing Savings Account were the main topics probed by Cerisola and his saff. Bank Maskan is the sole lender to the Mehr housing projects through soft loans.

The Rouhani administration has declared that it will wrap up the project by March 2017. On Monday the Head of National Tax Administration announced that Mehr housing units will be exempt from taxes except for the routine value-added tax levied on building materials.

Mohsen Azizi, a board member of Bank Maskan said during the IMF visit that his bank has so far made 491 trillion rials ($ 16.3 billion) in loans to finance Mehr construction schemes.

"[Mehr] project highlights the role of Bank Maskan in promoting affordable housing and renewing the country's infrastructure," he said in comments posted on the bank's website.

The official announced alternative funding for unfinished Mehr units through a triad partnership between Maskan, the Central Bank of Iran and the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development. The plan seeks to utilize returns on Mehr mortgages to finance future projects.

Money and Credit Council, the top monetary policymaker, has twice raised the ceiling for Mehr housing loans.MCC ratified a proposal this week to increase the credit ceiling for Mehr Housing Scheme by 550 trillion rials ($18.3 billion at the official exchange rate) to 554 trillion rial ($18.5 billion).  

Abolghasem Rahimi Anaraki, another Bank Maskan board member hoped the Housing Saving Account would stimulate the stagnant real estate market.

The Money and Credit Council  agreed May 19 to almost double the borrowing limit for first-time buyers in Tehran to 800 million ($24,000 at the market exchange rate) . It also de-monopolized the mortgage market by allowing lenders other than Bank Maskan to make housing loans.  The stimulus package has elicited ambivalent responses from analysts: while some see it as a remedy for housing woes, others have panned it as a palliative that is unlikely to move the market.  

"Since at least 600,000 marriages occur every year, the one-year deposits will lead to home loans for newlyweds and this will finally expand home ownership," Rahmi Anaraki said, adding that the funding for the project will come from the returns on Mehr scheme loans and the housing saving deposits.

The special Housing Savings Account is different for its record low interest rates and its independence from the CBI.