Sunday, April 01, 2012

Housing India's urban poor

India's urban poor live overwhelmingly in slums- this is true of half of Mumbai's population. How do we provide housing for them? One answer is low cost housing provided by government, as in Singapore, Hong Kong and other places. Not feasible, alas: government lacks the resources or the ability to get this done. Another answer: hand over slum land to developers on condition that they earmark a portion of low-cost housing. This was tried in Dharavi. The housing that got built is of poor quality. Besides, many of the projects are caught up in lawsuits.

A report in the FT suggests a third way. Allow the poor themselves to upgrade through innovative construction:
Some experts, dismayed at the slow progress and disappointing results of more grandiose government redevelopment plans, believe these informal slum upgrade schemes could form the basis for a longer-term plan to help India’s more than 170m slum dwellers.......   “The best option may be for the government to focus on providing the basic trunk infrastructure of water, sanitation and so on, and then let the people themselves invest in upgrading their own houses,” says Ashish Karamchandani, head of the Mumbai office for Monitor Inclusive Markets, a consultancy that has spent a number of years researching low-cost housing markets in India.
 Is this indeed the way to go? Well, it cannot be that individuals do whatever they like. There has to be a process of approval for any construction. That would immediately involve the municipal bureaucracy and the concomitant hurdles. Typically, what happens is that people build as they please and then pay up to legalise the construction. The trick may be to set up local associations comprising the community, one or two NGOs and municipal representatives. These associations can bring about upgradation in a planned manner. Whatever works is worth trying.
 

15 comments:

Ekla Chalo Re said...

Sir. I don't remember the name but there was an architect from Ahmedabad who had done slum development work of the kind u suggested in Indore and had planned it for Ahmedabadin late 90s. I saw the pictures and the transformation was remarkable. I remember him saying that "we underestimate the resources people living in shanties have. We just need to get them to put heart in to it." I think its time to adopt a new model...

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wisdomjobs said...

In India most of the percentage of poor people living without shelter.so the government immediately take action and give Shelter to the poor people.

Astha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Astha Agarwalla said...

Sir, I am glad you took this issue up. Housing for urban poor is one of the imminent challenges for India, to keep pace with economic growth. We need not look very far for successful examples of low cost housing and infrastructure provision, Ahmedabad's slum-networking project has been a success(at least according to print media) and awarded on several international fora. The key to success is multi-stakeholder approach, with municipal corporation providing land and linking it with existing trunk network, NGOs mobilizing the community and contributing towards O&M, Private party involvement in project financing and implementation, and community participation in cost recovery (partial) and supervisory responsibilities. Brazil's Prosanear is another example of success of this approach. However, I agree that success of such initiatives ultimately depends upon dynamism at the urban local body level and presence of a champion, which is hard to find in Indian context.

chandramouli said...

Immediately after independence, in Mumbai, Chawl system was predominant. The govt actively supported the formation of co-operative societies, with easy registration of societies, 999 years land lease, cheap finance etc. The movement was a success. Today, we have two problems: (1)the slums and (2) those building that were constructed in the co-operative segment having become old. With the increase in FSI, these older societies are redeveloping the same with agreements with the builders. As regards the slums, the same can be solved with the active participation of the people with the government, financing agency and the builders. There is a lack of sincere leadership as was existent immediately after independence. There is no need to imitate any other country. Mumbai itself has shown the way in the 50s. The same co-operative movement can work even today. The political class has no foresight and the people have no sincere leaders with initiative and a co-operative spirit. The problem even today can be easily solved, if we have the will to do so. Do we have the will?

chandramouli said...

In continuation to my comment on the subject, I feel the main problem today is the LACK OF TRUST. Immediately after independence, there was trust among the government, people, and builders. The people trusted the govt and the builders, the govt trusted the builders and there was enthusiasm both among the govt and people(especially middle class) to extricate from bad living conditions and give a good life to the future generations. Thus we could get rid of the chawl system with common amenities and make a success of the co-operative movement with independent flat system. Today this trust is lacking. The people do not trust either the govt. or the builder. The builders do not trust the govt or the people. The govt has no leaders, no thinkers, and are content with status quo. In any constructive activity, today each of the players look for profit element, power etc. with the total absence of co-operation and trust among each of them, thereby resulting in a failure of most of the projects. In the 50s there was necessity to improve standard of living and there was an enthusiasm backing it. Today all these factors are missing. People in power prefer status quo for their own ulterior and selfish motives. This is what I mean when I said there should be will to bring about the change. We should generate the same will, desire and enthusiasm as was existent in the class of 50s. Whatever models we may try to copy from abroad, unless the basic framework, as enunciated above, does not change, no project will be successful. The govt. should play a major role in instilling this confidence and trust amongst people.

sujatha said...

Chandramouli, I read your post with interest.Successive govts and elected representatives come with an expiry date. A project of slum up gradation is a long term process.
I think what would work is an independent committee just to look into this. Needless to say one of the major stake holder should be ones benefiting from this.
But the question that arises in my mind is how far will these people be able to generate the funds for housing when they have to shell out a sizable amount every year for its upkeep.

chandramouli said...

In answer to Ms. Sujatha, the problem you are comprehending is how far will these people be able to generate the funds for housing when they have to shell out a sizable amount every year for its upkeep. The same problem was comprehended when the co-operative housing society movement was started in the 50s. How are these people whose salary is so low will be able to contribute to the society’s maintenance. This problem was effectively addressed in the co-operative society act and its bye-laws which clearly plan out how the monthly contribution from each member must be collected including sinking fund accumulation, major maintenance accumulation etc. It is very comprehensive and clear. When you improve the living conditions of the people by giving them self owned, decent, self contained accommodation the problem of monthly contribution will get automatically solved by the co-operative will of the residents. You may think I am speaking subjectively, but this has been the experience in Mumbai during the last 60 years in the co-operative housing segment, which has raised the standard of living of the members. The member is the owner of a flat. The society is the owner of the land. This is the reason why redevelopments of old societies are happening in Mumbai today though it may appear to be an expensive proposition.

chandramouli said...

Ms. Sujata, Mr. Ekla Chalo Re, who has earlier commented on the article by Professor contains the answer to your comprehension when he says "we underestimate the resources people living in shanties have. We just need to get them to put heart in to it."

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