Why finding a flat in Tehran is as hard as in London and NYC - Part I

Why finding a flat in Tehran is as hard as in London and NYC [A story published by: The Guardian] 

You could read the beautifully described experience of a foreigner scrambling to find a suitable flat in the Iranian capital, Tehran city. Due to its’ length, we have quartered the main article.

Part I

The lease on my old 55-square-meter apartment in Tehran is up, and that means another long, arduous search for a new place. My landlord’s excuse for driving me out this time was that his daughter, who is coming back to Tehran from Canada in May, needs a place of her own. As the Persian New Year begins, I begin my search for a better place than the one I’ve just been kicked out of: a ground floor unit in a 40-year-old, three story, 11-unit building on Daman Afshardar Street near Vanak Square. In Iran, like many other big cities, people generally rent apartments by paying both a monthly rent as well as a security deposit. Some landlords prefer to get most if not all of the money up front. In Tehran, for every 30,000 tomans of monthly rent, a 1 million toman - or 10 million rials - security deposit is generally required [$300 US]. Renting without a security deposit is virtually unheard of. The monthly rent on my quiet apartment on Daman Afshardar Street was 1.95 million tomans, for which I had paid a 15 million security deposit. I’m now willing to pay up to 2.4 million a month for a bigger place (70 square meters at least). I have also managed to save up an additional 15 million tomans over a one-year period to double the size of the security deposit I can afford to put down for something in an acceptable neighborhood. Neighborhood is key. In Tehran there is a widely held belief that substantive differences exist between those who live in the north and south. Many see this issue as a historical one. When Iran was modernizing in the early to mid-20th century under Reza Shah Pahlavi, the aristocracy and the moneyed classes largely moved to the northern parts of town, whereas the poor and working classes (and many traditional ones) stayed put in south Tehran. Valiasr Street, the longest north-south street in Tehran, serves as the most frequent point of reference when asking where in Tehran a new acquaintance lives. A lot hangs on the answer, too, and it can even have implications among friends and loved ones. Tehranis derive a sense of respectability from being able to provide the right answer to this question, to strangers at parties, whose smiles grow wider and wider depending on how far north an address is located. Even at work, the question is not uncommon, and people use it as a standard to judge others and rely on it as an indicator of how they can expect to be treated. My adventure to secure a new home began just two days after Iranian and western negotiators hammered out a framework agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. Unfortunately, however, the news that brought Tehranis out into the streets in celebration didn’t have the intended effect on the housing market, and rents in Tehran shot up. While I’ve never had a great deal of patience for socialists rambling on about living in a classless society, I’ve also never entertained fantasies about living on Elahieh Street, Zafaranieh, Aghdasieh, Farmanieh, or any of the other more glamorous spots in north Tehran. For me, a car, occasional trips, decent clothes, and cologne are much higher priorities than a trendy location. But the problem is that Tehran has a way of convincing you that location really is everything, and it leads many to allocate ever-larger portions of their monthly income to rent. together, my girlfriend has also played a role in my present predicament. She occasionally complained about my place, saying that if it were up to her, she would never have guests over. So in hopes of securing a bigger, newer place - maybe one near Vanak Square - I’m prepared to pay around 90,000 extra tomans per month. I’m looking to score a place on Molla Sadra, Gandhi, Vozara, Mirza-ye Shirazi, Karim Khan, Argentine, or somewhere near the beginning of Africa Street. Altogether there are three major pros to living on these streets: first, you have easy access to other areas of Tehran, the main squares, and the rapid bus and metro stops. Second, even though they don’t have quite the prestige of streets like Mirdamad and Jordan, they’re still respectable areas that are mostly home to educated, middle-class people. Third, rents there are much lower than in some adjacent, more luxurious areas.