Skip to main content

Sunshine for affordable housing? Homelessness plagued with unimaginative response from policy pundits

By Moin Qazi*
There is a new burst of sunshine for India’s affordable housing sector with the Finance Minister announcing in the course of is budget promises the setting up of an affordable housing fund under the National Housing Bank (NHB). It will be funded from priority sector lending shortfall and fully serviced bond authorised by the government of India.
With the objective of boosting the supply of rural housing and augmenting the supply of affordable housing in urban areas, the government will build in 2018 about 195.1 million homes in rural areas and 3.7 million homes in urban areas.
The budget proposed to assign infrastructure status to affordable housing and facilitate higher investments in line with the government’s aim to provide housing for all by 2022. The proposed financial assistance of Rs 2.04 lakh crore) to 99 Smart Cities will ease the pressure on the existing urban centres. The National Housing Bank will refinance individual housing loans worth Rs 20,000 crore in 2017-18,.
One of the most challenging problems of our times is homelessness. While we continue to record improvements in dealing with poverty, homelessness has been plagued with an unimaginative response from policy pundits. The apathetic approach of successive governments is symptomatic of the disease that ails India’s housing system. Fewer and fewer families can afford a roof over their head. This is a pressing issue and acknowledging the breadth and depth of the problem changes the way we look at poverty. We have still not recognized how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty.
Affordable housing has assumed great importance because it generates direct and indirect employment in the medium term and sustained consumption in the long term. A 2014 study by the National Council of Applied Economic Research indicates that every additional rupee of capital invested in the housing sector adds Rs1.54 to the gross domestic product (GDP) and every Rs1 lakh invested in residential housing creates 2.69 new jobs in the economy. At the national level, the demand for affordable housing alone could be 25 million homes by 2022, which is four times the entire current housing stock-India Ratings forecasts.
There is little more critical to a family’s quality of life than a healthy, safe living space. However, this section of India’s poor lives in inhuman conditions and is often under the threat of displacement, harassment and arrest. Over the last decade, India has substantially expanded its net of welfare policies, aimed at lifting millions from poverty. It seems that the time has come for the ‘right to shelter’. Priority for housing ought to be higher than education and health. Sustainable and inclusive housing solutions can bolster large economic growth efficiently.
There was a time when landlessness, which inevitably accompanies poverty and its attendant ills, affected a smaller chunk of the population. However, the number of landless people has been rising. The ones without land join the ranks of the worst ones in extreme poverty and the task of poverty alleviation became even more difficult. Considering the links between landlessness and poverty or the need to score better successes against poverty, it is important to put a hard brake on the process of becoming landless.
Landlessness and the lack of secure property rights among the poor are among those inequities that perpetuate poverty, hold back economic development and fan social tensions. Demographic shifts, combined with poor or non-existent land ownership policies and insufficient resources have resulted in a surge of slum creation and further deteriorated living conditions.
Hernando de Soto in his book, "The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else", observed, “The hour of capitalism’s greatest triumph,” declares the famed Peruvian economist, “is in the eyes of four-fifth of humanity, its hour of crisis.” Soto explains that for many people in the developing world, the land on which they live is their only asset. If that property is not publicly recognised as belonging to them, they lose out that is, when men and women do not receive recognised legal rights to their land and can, thus, easily be displaced without recourse —development efforts flounder, undermining conservation efforts, seeding injustice and conflict and frustrating efforts to escape poverty.
The lack of official land titles is a major impediment to the acquisition of housing finance. People do not have documentary proof of being owners of the piece of land on which they live. Many low-income villagers have owned their land for generations. Community-recognised institutions can help legitimise claims to land that have been long tenured by a household.
Several State Governments have provided a degree of tenure security to poor households, which grant residents of unauthorised settlements specific period licences for their land or an official assurance that the user will not be forced to vacate the property. It also provides evidence so that usual and customary local practices support this assurance. All these rights entitle the occupant to presumed ownership.
It’s the supply part of the equation that is at the root of trouble. The growing migration of people to urban areas has overwhelmed infrastructure, pushed up land costs, result in housing shortages.
Building costs have also risen in recent years and developers have concentrated mostly on affluent sector where margins are very high. The Government's social housing programmes have largely targeted the rural sector.
The policy pundits and legislators are finally waking up to the seriousness of the issue. Odisha government recently took a revolutionary decision by providing urban poor residing in 3,000 slums land rights for residential use that are heritable, mortgageable and non-transferable. Endowing slum dwellers with mortgageable titles can open gates to many opportunities for improving health, education, employment and providing entitlements to social programmes.
There have also been a few policy sops: builders of affordable housing received 'infrastructure status', making them eligible for tax benefits subsidies, state incentives, and institutional funding; interest-rate rebates and waivers have been extended to households and laws are now in place to protect home buyers and tackle building delays but the solution will remain elusive. It appears impossible if enough land is not released for the creation of affordable housing. Land is a very price-sensitive commodity, and its current shortage in most city-centric areas is a major impediment to the development of affordable housing in areas where it is most direly needed.
The Government must adopt an out-of-the-box approach to break down the thickets of red-tapism. What are actually needed are revolutionary and cutting-edge reforms that rip through the dense jungle of paperwork and documentation. Given the scale, the need for adequate and affordable housing presents significant business opportunities for the private sector, especially for developers, investors and financial institutions.
Growing housing deficits have made it amply clear that this issue has not received the priority it deserves. The need of the hour is for the partners in the housing ecosystem to develop out-of-box solutions. The time is ripe for policy makers to focus on the right to shelter and bolster sustainable and inclusive housing solutions for better economic growth. This is one tide that can lift all the boats.
---
*Author of "Village Diary of a Heretic Banker"

Comments

TRENDING

Tracing roots of Hindutva Zionism: cannon fodder for 'warped' nationalist pretensions

By Shamsul Islam*  Those who believe in a world free of hegemonic ethno-nationalism, racism, religious bigotry and hatred have rightly taken note of Zionism and its ally Christian Zionism, major perpetrators of ethnic cleansing of ‘Others’. However, the civilized world with its core belief in multi-culturalism and peaceful co-existence is oblivious to a no less dangerous threat to the present human civilization: the Hindutva Zionism. As the term reads it is part of the Hindutva world-view which stands for an exclusive Hindu India minus Muslims and Christians. The other religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism will have no independent status but treated as part of Hinduism. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Volunteer Organization) is the most prominent flag-bearer of the Hindutva politics whose cadres presently rule India, the largest democracy in the world. RSS was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1889-1940) in 1925 who was disillusioned with the Indian freedom st

'Blatant violation' of law by Central government in making NREGA payments

By Our Representative  In September third week, NREGA workers across the country were mobilised for two day so raise their issues and submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister. Organised the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM), a collective of groups that work with NREGA labourers across the country, workers from 13 states -- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal -- carried out Kaam Do Abhiyaan, staging demonstrations and rallies against what they called blatant violation of law by the Central government in making NREGA payments. While NREGA has had very positive impacts, it has lately become fruitless, exploiting labour, even though workers who have put in honest hard work have to wait for their wages endlessly, it was suggested.  In such a situation, there is a need to firm up NREGA implementation and end systematic corruption to ensure that workers get their basic NREGA entit

Shocking? No Covid vaccine trials conducted on pregnant, lactating women: RTI reply

By Rosamma Thomas*  A Right to Information applicant who sought details of safety trials conducted in India on pregnant and lactating women for three Covid vaccines in use in India – Covishield, Covaxin and ZyCov-D -- was shocked to learn from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) that Serum Institute, manufacturer of Covishield, and Cadila Healthcare, manufacturer of the ZyCov-D vaccine, had not sought permission for such trials.  Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, had sought permission for trial on pregnant women and later withdrawn its application. This response , provided after the applicant was initially unsatisfied with the response and went in appeal, is from the joint drugs controller, CDSCO. It was dated September 13, 2022. One researcher closely following the vaccine rollout, however, is of the opinion that the lack of a trial on pregnant and lactating women is a blessing; potential trial participants and their unborn babies thus escaped harm. Aruna Ro

Fascism on prowl? Religious meet 'deeply pained' at silence of Church, bishops, priests

Counterview Desk  The ‘Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace’which held its 17th National Convention at the Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad, Telangana from 22 to 24 September 2022 on the theme “Deepening our Identity as Religious: Responding to the Signs of the Times”, has expressed concern “at the deteriorating situation of our nation on every front”, especially stating, “Fascism seems to have come to stay” in India. At the same time, the convention, which took place with the participation of 60 persons from 16 states representing 20 religious congregations, in its unanimously-adopted statement added, “We have reached abysmal depths on every parameter: be it social, economic and political”, underlining, “The poor in India become poorer every day; the rich and powerful continue to profiteer at their expense and amass scandalous amounts of wealth.” Text: We, members (63 women and men Religious, from 16 states representing 20 Congregations) of the Forum of Religious for Justice

Rajasthan cops 'halt' Gujarat Dalit women's rally: homage to untouchability victim boy

By Our Representative  In a surprise move, the Rajasthan police stopped a Dalit women's rally from Gujarat on the borders after it crossed Gujarat alleging that it would "disturb peace" in village Surana, Jalore district, where the gruesome incident of death of a Dalit boy took place on August 13 after he was brutally beaten up by his teacher on touching the drinking water pot. Sources said, while the Gujarat government had "no objection" in allowing the rally, which originated from the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), an empowerment-cut-technical institute for teens founded by human rights leader Martin Macwan, on September 24 morning, the Rajasthan police stopped it for two and a half hours before allowing it to proceed to Surana. The decision to take out a women's rally was taken at a DSK meeting on September 5 following a condolence meeting of the NGO Navsarjan Trust, also founded by Macwan, activists committed to work against caste-based discrimination, orga

Introducing non-native cheetahs is 'not equivalent' to restoring pride in the nation

By Bappaditya Mukhopadhyay*  The Cheetahs from the African continent has finally been introduced to India by the Indian Prime Minister on his 72nd birthday. The process had started with the previous Government in 2009. However, the Supreme Court clearance was pending owing to the objection by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) plea to reintroduce cheetahs. Finally the clearance was obtained in January 2020 and thereafter Kuno National Park (KNP) was chosen for the reintroduction of first set of Southeast African Cheetahs. In the near future, depending upon the success story of the current reintroduction, more cheetahs from South Africa may also be introduced. This exercise has generated a lot of interest among various stakeholders with opinions on both sides galore. It is important to pose some questions that surround the whole exercise. Let us evaluate some of these arguments. The first set of arguments are quite detached from the issues of conservation as they most

'Military diplomacy': US praises Bangladesh Army for leadership role in UN operations

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder* As the Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity, the Indian Ocean today is becoming the centerpiece of all geo-strategic play. Cooperation in the region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major powers like the US have enhanced and deepened their strategic engagement and leadership roles with countries in the region. The Indo-Pacific Army Management Seminar, or IPAMS, is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiated conference that is aimed at facilitating and enhancing interactions among the armies of the Indo-Pacific region. This year's 46th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS)-2022, co-hosted by the Bangladesh Army and US Army Pacific (USARPAC), concluded in Dhaka. The objective of IPAMS is to promote peace and stability in the region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship. It is the largest confer

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Grave error? Scholar blames ex-Gujarat babu for anti-Christian riots 'citing fake report'

By Rajiv Shah  A few days back, I received a message from one of the finest former Gujarat government bureaucrats, PG Ramrakhiani, a 1964 batch IAS official, who retired in November 2000. I would often interact with him in 1997-99, even later, after I was sent to Gandhinagar as a Times of India man to cover Sachivalaya. Those were turbulent times. Shankarsinh Vaghela was the Gujarat chief minister, under attack from two sides – from the BJP, which he had left to form a separate breakaway party, Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), one one hand, and the Congress, which was supporting him from outside, on the other. Ramrakhiani, in his message, referred to the book authored by Ghanshyam Shah and Jan Breman, both top-notch scholars who have known Gujarat in and out. Called “Gujarat, Cradle and Harbinger of Identity Politics: India’s Injurious Frame of Communalism”, I reviewed the book in January 2022.  It claims that Muslims in Gujarat have been turned into “new untouchables”, thanks to the Hin

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.