Economy, Business And Markets

Iran’s Housing, Urbanization Policies, Performance Outlined

Habitat III, underway in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito has more than 45,000 mayors, ministers, policymakers, and urban planners in attendance.
Habitat III, underway in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito has more than 45,000 mayors, ministers, policymakers, and urban planners in attendance.

The third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, known as Habitat III opened on Monday with more than 45,000 mayors, ministers, policymakers, and urban planners in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, to discuss how to make cities more “sustainable, inclusive and resilient.”

The meeting takes place every 20 years, and its action-oriented outcome, known as the New Urban Agenda, was formally presented to delegations shortly after the conference got under way.

Abbas Akhundi, Iran's minister of roads and urban development, on Tuesday outlined plans initiated by the Islamic Republic to raise the quality of urban life.   

"In the field of urban management, one of the most important approaches adopted by the government during the past two decades has been the integration of decision-making processes," Akhundi said in comments published on the Road Ministry's website.   

"The approach has been pursued to reduce the role of government agencies in the management of cities and their devolution to the municipalities."

Akhundi noted that another important development during the recent two decades–since Habitat II was held in Istanbul, Turkey– in the area of urban management that allowed a new organized capacity of communities and grassroots in the management of cities in Iran was the establishment of Islamic councils both in cities and rural areas. The councils are directly elected by the people and have assumed a part of municipal functions.

Warning about the challenges posed by rapid urbanization, Akhundi  said access of different groups of the society to "adequate and decent housing" has been one of the focal points of the government in the five-year development plans of the country.

"Since Habitat II, four five-year development plans were prepared and implemented in Iran. Among the important goals of these development plans for the housing sector was improving access to adequate and decent housing and provision of basic services for all households."

He also discussed the government's new plan to promote affordable housing for low-income groups known as the "Social Housing Program.”

"With direct collaboration between all agencies involved in social and supportive policies, the program seeks to design and carry out housing projects for low-income groups within the framework of social welfare and empowering programs," the minister said.

New Approach

Akhundi said the government in Tehran had taken a new approach in its housing policies that consists of three main tenets: "Developing housing provision plans within the framework of a comprehensive social welfare policy, optimum use of market mechanism and government intervention only in case of market failure and, finally, promoting savings and loans system in order to enhance the access of middle-income groups to adequate and decent housing.

Akhundi also made recommendations to ensure that urbanization contributes effectively to sustainable development, warning about challenges that "need to be addressed."

He called for due attention to challenges and opportunities posed by rapid urban growth, saying that "quality of life" should be at the center of efforts to develop sustainable human settlements. "Efforts should be made to increase he sense of belonging among the people."

New Urban Agenda

At the center of the conference is the New Urban Agenda, a 23-page document that lays the groundwork for policies and initiatives that will shape cities over the next 20 years. It lists 175 commitments and principles that reflect an ambitious vision in which cities drive sustainable development around the world and where “all persons are able to enjoy equal rights and opportunities.”

The agenda calls for sustainable consumption to address climate change, for example. As part of the vision to make cities work better for people, the agenda pushes for safer and more efficient public transit systems. There is also a commitment to end extreme poverty and discrimination among underserved groups including women, children, and refugees.

Addressing the opening ceremony on Monday, the outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-Moon said “transforming our world for the better” means re-making towns and cities through sustainable development.

Cities are “remarkable engines of growth, centers of diversity and hubs of creativity” that will only get more important, he said.

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