First batch of houses for migrant workers likely to be ready by April
The first lot of houses under the central government’s affordable rental housing scheme, targeted at migrant workers in the cities who returned home in the aftermath of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) lockdown, may be ready by April 2021 and construction of new units will likely take two years, officials said.
Nearly 75,000 vacant, government-funded housing complexes have been identified that would be converted into affordable rental housing complexes, or ARHCs, in the first phase of the scheme. These have been built under initiatives such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) during the term in office of the United Progressive Alliance; and the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
ARHCs mark a “huge, paradigm shift in the housing rental market,” said Amrit Abhijat, joint secretary, Housing For All.
“It focuses on providing comfort and utilising government’s unutilised stock. These vacant government accommodations had an investment of nearly Rs 2,000 crore and were lying useless hence it is an important utilisation of the nation’s resources. We have also decided that these houses, given to the migrants, will not be affected by existing rental laws,” Abhijat added.
According to data from the ministry of housing and urban affairs, states having the most number of unoccupied houses built under the JNNURM and RAY include Maharashtra (32,202); Delhi (29,245), Gujarat (8,654), Rajasthan (7,045), Uttar Pradesh (5,923) and Haryana (2,545).
At least 10.6 million migrant workers left the cities and returned to their homes in the villages of states such as West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh during the coronavirus lockdown that was enforced on March 25, according to Centre’s estimate, as many factories and business establishments in urban centres shut.
The AHRC scheme was approved by the Union cabinet in July, with the expenditure estimated at around Rs 600 crore. The scheme aims to cover nearly 300,000 beneficiaries.
“Under model one of the scheme existing houses will be retrofitted and leased out. Around 1.8 lakh houses have been identified. These maybe in poor, dilapidated condition and are mainly identified in states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, UP, Tamil Nadu etc. It would take at least six to seven months for them to be ready. They will be the first ones to be ready and should be taken up by March to April 2021. We have identified 75,000 beneficiaries,” an official in the ministry of housing and urban affairs said.
“Under model two we will look at construction of new complexes, but that would take another two years depending on the funding available, land availability, local surveys etc. The construction time should be around 12-14 months. To begin with 2.25 lakh houses have been planned. We have also added a clause for technology innovation for the contractors and will provide them a grant for six to seven months,” the official added, requesting anonymity.
According to a request for proposal finalised by the ministry seeking applications from potential concessionaires, local authorities will fix the initial rent of ARHCs, based on surveys. Rent may be enhanced biennially by a maximum of 8%, subject to a maximum increase of 20% in aggregate over a period of five years effective from the date of signing a contract. The same model shall be followed over the entire concession period of 25 years.
“There has been reverse migration of workers/ poor in the country due to Covid-19 pandemic. Urban migrants/ poor consisting of workers in manufacturing industries, domestic/ commercial establishments, health sector, service providers, hospitality industry, construction or other such sectors play an important role in urban economy. They come from rural areas or small towns for seeking better employment opportunities in urban areas. … Provision of rental housing options closer to workplace will improve their productivity. Therefore providing ease of living through access to dignified affordable housing close to their workplace is an imperative,” the RFP said.