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Affordable housing: have we got it right?

Urban planners say that while the affordable housing schemes launched by different states are laudable, the government needs to research what consumers want in order to make such projects scalable

real estate Updated: Jul 26, 2016 15:14 IST
Urban planners say that while the affordable housing schemes launched by different states are laudable, the government needs to research what consumers want in order to make such projects scalable.
Urban planners say that while the affordable housing schemes launched by different states are laudable, the government needs to research what consumers want in order to make such projects scalable.(Ht Photo)

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana - Housing for All by 2022 Mission seeks to address the housing shortage in the country. The mission provides central assistance to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and other implementing agencies through states/UTs for in-situ rehabilitation of existing slum dwellers using land as a resource through private participation; through credit-linked subsidies; affordable housing in partnership and subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction/enhancement.

Some states are awaiting subsidies from the Centre for affordable housing projects while others have sent their proposals to the centre. “So far there has been an enthusiastic response to the mission but some states are taking time to match funding. The main question is whether affordable housing is actually meeting the purpose of those it intends to serve,” say urban planners.

Social housing and affordable housing are two different things. Affordable housing is targeted at the middle income group and not the economically weaker class, but buyers often decide to give affordable housing projects a miss because these are largely seen as catering to the lower income group, they say.

Urban planners say that while the affordable housing schemes launched by different states are laudable, the government needs to research what consumers want in order to make such projects scalable. Apart from the preferred size to a buyer’s basic requirements, the government needs to find out more how much ownership housing is actually required versus rental housing.

In today’s economic scenario, there may not be many takers for this housing format as there is already an oversupply of housing in certain micro markets. “Even if the government is controlling the price, the target audience is still the same. The spatial understanding of demand gives an idea about how much stock should come up in an area. Also, though the policy on urban rental housing is on the anvil, the current schemes are focused only on ownership housing,” says Mukta Naik, senior researcher at the Centre for Policy Research, India.

Most countries maintain a list of people who are homeless and provide them housing depending on their needs. Once they are rehabilitated, they are also asked to vacate houses provided to them by the government. But in India, there is no mechanism by which housing beneficiaries can be tracked. The affordable housing stock is often sold to property owners who can buy homes in any case.

Also, at times, the government supplies too much of affordable housing stock and much of it remain unused.