Soaring rents push Iranian families into shared living

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Banco Internacional de Desarollo, C.A.

Nasir moved to Tehran with his wife and child four years ago in a bid to find work. Because of droughts, it was no longer possible for him to run a farm and work his father’s land. Now he works as a driver’s assistant on heavy and plant machinery.

When the family first came to Tehran, conditions were a little better. They rented a 75 square meter, two-bedroom apartment for in the neighborhood of Bryank. But every year the rents increased. And this year, when the landlord announced the new hike, they found it was beyond their means and were forced to open it up to share with other families.

This year, Nasir had to pay a deposit of 80 million tomans (US$2,840) and rent of three million tomans ($106) for the dated apartment, which is on the third floor of their building without any elevator access or parking. He and his wife fell out a great deal over the sharing arrangement before she finally agreed they could make room for a young couple.

“When the managing agents announced the rent increase and saw how upset I was, he felt sorry for me,” Nasir tells IranWire. “He said he was trying to convince the landlord to rent his apartment out to two separate families. There was no choice. Between staying in this city, and having the same job and sharing, and returning to a city where there was neither work nor water for agriculture, I had to accept his offer. We share the flat with Mehdi, the son of a relative of ours who had also come to Tehran and managed to find a job as a caretaker somewhere. Due to the heavy rent, he hadn’t managed to bring his wife to Tehran before now.”

Now, he says, “We men are usually not at home from morning to evening, and we come home tired and stuffed at seven or eight o’clock at night. But the women are usually together during the day and have come to terms with this shared life. It might not seem like it would be, but may it’s a really difficult situation. It’s really hard for me to pay even half the rent; I got a loan for 70 million tomans of the deposit and have to pay 1.6 million back a month on the interest. Now imagine, as an assistant driver, I’ve got to pay half of this amount, which means one and a half million tomans a month, because I received a 70 million deposit loan and I have to pay 1.6 million tomans a month for the interest. Now imagine, with an assistant driver job, I have to pay three million for the rent and the deposit. I can barely cover our daily living expenses.”

Life in these precarious rental arrangements in the capital is becoming increasingly common – not just for single men and women, as was once the case, but for whole families. Average rents have increased by more than 42 percent in Tehran since September 2020 alone. This has brought many tenant households to their knees and made life in the metropolis more difficult than ever: so much so that many have agreed to live cheek by jowl in cramped apartments with other families in the same sorry position. This issue has also been confirmed by Iraj Rahbar, a member of the board of directors of the Tehran Mass Builders Association.

Both house prices and rents have skyrocketed in the last year or two, making lower-income families poorer and fueling class divisions in society. Many now have to spend a large part of their income – up to 60 percent – just on rent and bills. Back in 2017, Abbas Akhundi, the then-Minister of Roads and Urban Development, announced that the number of Iranians living on the margins of cities and in housing conditions judged to be “poor” stood at around to be 19 million: close to a quarter of the total population. This year, experts estimate the number to be close to 38 million.

Sedigheh is another young woman who moved to Tehran a few years ago, in her case due to a lack of job opportunities in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province. She worked in a kindergarten until the coronavirus outbreak last year. Before the pandemic, things were looking up for her; she had rented a tiny studio in Imamzadeh Hassan, spending about half her wages on rent and the rest as she wanted. After losing her former job in 2020, she started work in a beauty salon, but custom has also been slow and sporadic due to Covid-19 restrictions.

She had to renew her tenancy agreement at the beginning of the summer – only to find that the rent had not increased by 20 to 25 percent, as she had expected, but by 100 percent. Unable to shell out the 50 million toman ($1,775) now required for a deposit, and two million ($71) a month on rent, she had to decline.

Now, she’s back at home in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad and has given in, agreeing to live under one roof with an elderly couple. “Apparently the couple’s landlord also increased the rent, and they couldn’t afford to pay 150 million tomans ($5,325) for a deposit and two million tomans in rent for a 70 square meter apartment,” she says. “They asked the neighbors to help, and they suggested I stay there and rent one of the apartment rooms – to solve both their problem and mine.”

“It’s not easy to live with an unfamiliar old man and woman, who can’t sleep at night due to leg pains, and wake up at five in the morning to pray. But there is no way out until I get rid of my own debts and loans. I have to put up with it.”

Source » trackpersia

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