‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ sparks housing poverty debate

‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign has also brought the focus back to the slowly receding programme of ‘Housing for All by 2022’ launched by the Prime Minister in 2015.

Published: 14th August 2022 08:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th August 2022 10:50 AM   |  A+A-

Housing, House

Representational Image. (Express illustration)

Express News Service

An Independence Day meme that’s doing the rounds, and has gone quite viral, features two bureaucrats being confronted by a ‘common man’. The junior officer explains the situation to his file-pushing boss, thus: “Sir, he wants to put up a ‘tiranga’ at home; and he has a flag too. But now he wants a house!”
The ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign by the government, which involves printing and distribution of millions of flags, has inadvertently set off a debate on homelessness. It has also brought the focus back to the slowly receding programme of ‘Housing for All by 2022’ launched by the Prime Minister in 2015.  
Almost as an admission of not being able to reach declared targets, the flagship housing scheme – the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban (PMAY-U) – has been extended up to December 31, 2024. The ambitious programme, aimed at providing a roof over everybody’s heads by the time the country celebrated its 75th year of Freedom, initially set a target of constructing 50 million homes. Of this, 30 million units would be for rural areas and 20 million in urban areas. Lack of shelter has always been more serious in the urban sector, because of the high and unaffordable cost of urban land; and therefore the Urban rehab plan – the PMAY-U – has always attracted more attention.

Targets go abegging

Habitat For Humanity, a global tracker of the problem of housing poverty, estimates that India’s housing shortage is currently around 73.6 million units, of which 26.3 million is urban. In addition, over 93 million people live in urban slums without adequate access to clean water, sanitation and security of tenure.

Given this huge problem of shelter, Housing-For-All remains a distant dream. Even the scaled down targets have slipped by about 50%. The Urban programme – the PMAY-U –was scaled down from 20 million units to 11.2 million units in 2017. A government statement on 10th August said 12.2 million units had been sanctioned, of which 6.2 million have actually been completed.

The financial performance too is similar. The government note says Central Assistance approved since 2015 is Rs 2.03 lakh crore, of which Rs 1.18 lakh crore has been released till March 31, 2022. These figures show the will to transform the large swathes of slum colonies in urban centers is palpably lacking.

The PMAY programme has two main legs. One, the Credit-linked subsidy scheme (CLSS) wherein those seeking a housing loan are entitled to interest subsidy of 6.5%, 4% and 3% on loans upto Rs 6 lakh, Rs 9 lakh and Rs 12 Lakh, respectively. The second leg is the In-situ Slum Redevelopment Programme (ISSR) wherein central assistance of Rs 1 lakh is offered per house for all units built for eligible slum dwellers.

Ground experience shows the incentives don’t work for projects in Tier-I cities. Applicants can’t qualify as the high price of land and expensive construction costs scale up prices beyond the subsidy ceiling of Rs 12 lakh. In Mumbai, for instance, even a one-room hovel of 300 square feet is priced nearly Rs 40 lakh. The slum redevelopment subsidy by the central government of Rs 1 lakh per unit similarly is too small an incentive to make it work as a business proposition on a large scale.

The result: PMAY is not able to integrate into private sector housing projects in the metros. The PMAY units we see invariably come up on the outer periphery of satellite towns where transport and commuter services are poor, and civic facilities non-existent. This ensures there are no takers for even completed units.

Possible answers

The answer to this mess is for the central, state and municipal governments to create land pools for affordable, mass housing in the city precincts at subsidised rates and at locations accessible to the transport arteries of the city. For speed and quality, both the private sector and the state-run housing organisations can compete for these land pools with the proviso that the price of the dwelling unit is affordable and controlled; and buyers have to be from the economically weaker sections (EWS).

Policy-making on affordable housing also fails to understand the crying need to develop a large stock of accessible rental housing. Millions of job seekers flood the cities, and some come for short terms. At the bottom of the pyramid, rental housing is grossly lacking. It is high time more subsidies and incentives are provided to both private and state sectors to develop rental housing.

Finally, it must be remembered that in cities two-thirds of the workforce are in the informal sector. People do not have even a proper address, leave alone collateral for a home loan. In this situation the creation of Affordable Housing Finance Companies (AHFCs) can be the route to develop special loan products and easy terms for the poorest.Extending PMAY to 31st December of next year is welcome; but a more holistic approach to affordable, mass housing is necessary if we don’t want Housing-For-All to become another mirage.

Housing for all by 2022

Habitat For Humanity, a global tracker of the problem of housing poverty, estimates that India’s housing shortage is currently around 73.6 million units, of which 26.3 million is urban. In addition, over 93 million people live in urban slums without adequate access to clean water, sanitation and security of tenure. Given this huge problem of shelter, Housing-For-All remains a distant dream. Even the scaled down targets have slipped by about 50%



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