Housing for all

| Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on March 25, 2016

We need a holistic policy to address India’s housing shortage issue

With the Union Cabinet clearing a ₹81,975-crore plan to build one crore houses in rural areas over the next three years under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)-Rural, the Narendra Modi government has given concrete backing to its promise of achieving universal coverage in housing by 2022. While providing housing for all has been the dream of virtually every government since Independence, achievement has remained far short of the target. While estimates by the technical group on housing shortage constituted by the Centre put the gap at around 2 crore units in urban areas and a little over twice that number in rural areas, these numbers have been questioned by a number of researchers. A study by Shamsher Singh and others for the Indian Statistical Institute, which projected sample survey findings on Census 2011 data, puts the actual shortage at thrice the official estimate, while consultancy KPMG estimates housing demand to rise to 11 crore units by 2022.

Given the scale of the task on hand, the current plan, of constructing one crore houses in rural areas, appears relatively modest. Nevertheless, it may make a bigger difference to the situation on the ground than previous schemes, since some of the implementation bottlenecks appear to have been addressed while formulating the scheme. The biggest challenge — meeting the Centre’s additional financial requirement of ₹21,975 crore — is to be met by borrowing through National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), which will be amortised through budgetary allocations after 2022. However, 40 per cent of the funding will have to come from State Budgets, which casts a question mark over funding. Other weaknesses in previous schemes, like identifying beneficiaries, are proposed to be addressed by using the Census 2011’s socio-economic and caste survey data. A National Technical Support Agency is also being set up to provide technical support.

That said, both the urban and rural arms of the PMAY continue to focus on only one solution — of providing ownership housing. Finding adequate land for this becomes a huge problem, particularly in rural areas, where public land stock for housing presents many challenges. In cities, housing without access to livelihoods has found few takers, even among the very poor. Unless we have a holistic housing policy which addresses the full spectrum of requirement, ranging from ownership to rental accommodation and shared housing, and adequately incentivises public private partnerships, universal housing will remain a distant dream.

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Published on March 25, 2016
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