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Iran Mulls Forcing Owners To Rent Vacant Property Amid Housing Shortage

Iran -- Construction sites are seen in Tehran, October 22, 2016.
Iran -- Construction sites are seen in Tehran, October 22, 2016.

Iran’s rental housing shortage has become so acute, a group of MPs has proposed a law requiring owners of empty residential properties to offer them for rent within one month.

“There are currently 2.6 million residential properties sitting empty in Iran, which is three times higher than what we see in developed countries,”Abolfazl Abutorabi, an MP and member of the parliamentary Legal and Judicial Commission, told state news agency IRNA. Abutorabi accused property owners of leaving their units empty until they find tenants who can pay high rents or purchase the property for a high price, something he says has lead to skyrocketing rental prices.

The draft law includes provisions for the creation of a special website that will track empty properties and where vacant properties can be reported.

Rental prices in Tehran have gone up by a whopping 45 percent since last year, according to a July report issued by the Central Bank of Iran.

Fereydoun Hassanvand, head of parliament’s Energy Commission, says the high rents are not exclusive to Tehran, and people across the country are facing the same difficulty finding affordable housing.

“There is no balance between people’s incomes and rents, neither concerning the stock of housing for rent, nor home purchase prices in the country. Therefore, state management of home prices and rental rates is an urgent matter,” said Hassanvand.

Based on the draft legislation, if owners of empty properties fail to rent them within the one month deadline, district prosecutors will be authorized to rent the properties on their behalf on one-year contracts.

There is also a proposal before parliament to increase taxes on rental property income. All motions need approval from the Council of Guardians before they become law.

In the meantime, parliament has assigned the Ministry of Road and Urban Development to “swiftly” launch the website tracking empty properties.

The number of vacant housing units in Iran increased by 63 percent between 2011 and 2016, according to state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), a figure 4.5 times higher than the number of new residential units built during that period.

The 2.6 million homes currently sitting empty in Iran amount to 9 percent of the total housing stock. The province of Tehran leads the nation in vacant units, with 18.9 percent of homes sitting empty, according to the statistical Center of Iran, followed by Isfahan and Khorasan Razavi provinces with 9.3 and 7.5 percent respectively.