In a report by Ham-Mihan newspaper, the increasing number of families living in terminals, tents, parks, and more is highlighted. Let’s delve into the details.
Mrs. F and her two teenage daughters sleep on the waiting room seats at Tehran’s Azadi Terminal at night because they don’t have a home. Saeed, his mother, and three sisters sleep in a tent near a park in Tehran because they don’t have a home. Mr. M and his wife sleep in their car at night because they don’t have a home. Mr. R and his family live in a tent in the courtyard of one of the hospitals in Hamedan at night because they don’t have a home.
These are just four narratives out of hundreds of homeless people in Tehran and other cities. These stories reflect the lives of men and women who were not part of struggling families or sleeping on cardboard until recently, but now they don’t have the money to pay rent. Now, the sky is their roof.
The story of homelessness
At the West Terminal (Azadi), Mrs. FR and her two young daughters spend their nights on the waiting room seats. She has been separated from her husband for a while due to his addiction, and now she is the caretaker of her 18 and 13-year-old daughters. Until a few years ago, Mrs. F and some of her friends had a small leather workshop, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they had to close it with significant debts. After paying off the debts, she couldn’t afford to rent or mortgage a new home, so she got a job as a caretaker in a building. However, eventually, the landlord asked her and her family to leave, and they were forced to leave the house overnight. Mrs. F worked as a nurse, but her income was not enough to support their lives and afford a suitable home. That’s why she and her two daughters had to spend some time in one of the parks on the outskirts of Tehran, but now they think sleeping at the terminal is safer.
This is not the only homeless family at this terminal; field observations by “Ratingperson” show that many families live at the Azadi Terminal. They came to Tehran in search of a new life and more income but all their efforts in the capital did not even lead to renting a 12-square-meter room. Now, they have accepted the reality of working harder and sleeping at the terminal every day. Some choose their cars as their shelter, while others opt for tents or the roof of a terminal or underpass. Just like Saeed, who came to Tehran from North Khorasan with his mother and three sisters two years ago due to the lack of living conditions and unemployment. At that time, he started working in one of the railway station hotels, and in return for his mother and sisters’ work, the hotel manager provided them with a room to live in, and gave Saeed a percentage for bringing in each passenger. Saeed says that after a year of work, their savings only amount to 20 million tomans. At the end of last year, with a change in the management of the hotel, the family was forced to vacate the room. However, with the little amount they were able to save, they couldn’t find a house to rent. This led Saeed, his mother, and his sisters to return to their hometown again in the hope of finding work and renting a house for their family, but they were still unsuccessful and ended up pitching a tent in one of the parks around Tehran.
In this field report, we come across families who have never been homeless before. They are heads of households who strive every day to make a living, but their efforts are not enough to afford the skyrocketing rents in this city. The average price of housing in Tehran has been on the rise since the beginning of 2022 and reached 40 million tomans per square meter of residential units in July. This upward trend continued until December and reached 48 million tomans. However, no recent report has been published by the Central Bank. The latest available statistic is from the Statistical Center of Iran, which shows the average price per square meter of houses as 52 million and 800 thousand tomans in December. Despite the lack of up-to-date reports on the housing market, “Ratingperson’s” investigation indicates that prices are still on the rise.
The Role of Banks in the Chaotic Housing Market
Abdollah Ayatollahi, a housing market expert and member of the Iranian Consulting Engineers Society, believes that the housing crisis is no longer limited to the capital and has engulfed the entire country due to flawed economic policies. He states, “Even thinking about families affected by the housing crisis tarnishes one’s soul. This issue has both economic and sociological consequences. Economically, it is affected by economic developments, changes in economic indicators, and inflation rates. The housing market is an attractive sector that attracts investment at the right time and makes investment decisions based on economic conditions.”
Therefore, this issue is related to the overall economy and requires a scientific and specialized solution. Emotional and non-expert opinions should not be taken into account. He continues, “The country’s housing problem means the country’s economic problem. If there is a solution to these economic problems in the country, the housing problem will also be solved. There are a set of factors that have led to the imbalance in our economy. There are also many indicators that measure a dynamic and powerful economy, but we are far from them. We must think of ways to approach these indicators. We must use the knowledge and experience of international experts and economists who are knowledgeable in this field. We must trust their knowledge and experience, rather than dealing with this problem based on emotional theories. Economy cannot be managed with promises and hopes that cannot be fulfilled. Economy is a science. Imagine medical science; you cannot improve a patient’s condition with promises and management instructions. Instead, you need knowledge and awareness to treat the disease. It’s the same with the economy.”
The Stark Role of Banks in the Chaotic Housing Market
Abbas Zinali, a housing market expert, also emphasizes the significant role banks play in the housing market and its surrounding problems. He says, “One of the misfortunes of our country is the banks because they invest people’s money. Essentially, no market is as profitable as the housing market in their eyes. Instead of paying people’s interest from the masses of mortgage companies, they buy residential units but do not supply them to the market. Banks ensure their profits by hoarding residential units and selling them in more expensive market days. One of the reasons for the high cost of housing is this lack of supply. There are laws and regulations in place, but they consider this method the best way to meet their own resources. No sector has the guaranteed profits as much as in the housing and automobile industries.”
Zinali believes that banks should only provide facilities to people and gain profits from those facilities. Unfortunately, in the 60s and 70s, it became customary for banks to invest people’s money. When all their capital has been invested, it is obvious that they can no longer provide loans to people as they should. The money should not stay in the bank’s possession; it should circulate among the people and the economic actors and generate income, eventually returning to the bank. Many of these capitals are confiscate people’s deposits. The banking system is one of Iran’s economic calamities that has never served the country’s economy. If it has provided any service, it has been negligible compared to the damages it has caused. The government is not exempt from blame either because it is the economy, and we cannot give orders to the economy. These problems need to be solved with economic activities and precise economic formulas. We should not expect the rising trend of rent prices to stop or decrease. It is not and will not be like that.”
He further explains the increasing social problems surrounding the high cost of housing, stating, “Criminal tendencies and delinquency in society are the result of these issues. Society witnesses discrimination and inflation every day. When you cannot improve your own and your family’s conditions, it is natural to turn into a criminal in order to survive. In a society where everyone witnesses social and economic inequalities daily and is under pressure from inflation, but still hopes to continue their lives with advice and preaching, it is evident that this society will become angrier and more dissatisfied every day. Some become stronger and wealthier every day, while others remain homeless without even being able to meet their minimum living needs. Countries facing similar situations like Mexico or Brazil, all these are the consequences of these inequalities and ransoms. No society can escape the negative consequences of corruption.”