Y.S. Rana : Housing for all by 2022 is an agenda of homeless prevention strategy of the Central government. It may bring considerable change in economic climate and policy environment. But there is dark side of the problem. There is an estimated total of 33,510 slums exist in the urban areas across the country. Of which, 13,761 are notified and 19,749 are non-notified slums. Around 39 per cent of slums have an area in the range of 0.05 to one hectare; 21 per cent are in the range of 1-2 hectare and 15 per cent have less than 0.05 hectare in size. Around 8.8 million households live in these slums waiting for a roof on their heads since long.
Though prevention of homelessness remains the most effective way to help vulnerable households yet it is becoming more challenging for the governments that are economically bankrupt and struggling to stay on board. The story of portents is grim in dealing with a creaking system warped priorities on resource generation and statistical sleight of hand that drained its treasury. Can these governments will be able to contribute in the strategy, is hundred dollar question?
In 1971, Himachal Pradesh has 6.99 per cent of urban population that increased to over 12 per cent compared to Punjab 34 per cent; Haryana 29 per cent and J and K 24.81 per cent. In 1901, percentage of urban population in India was 10.8 per cent that now increased to more than 30 per cent. According to official data there is a large housing shortage even in the self-owned category. It means more families are living in non-serviceable or congested homes.
The increasing number of homeless, squatters and slum dwellers reflects apathy and inadequacy of delivery of social housing by public housing programmes. Majority of the households in Himachal Pradesh have their own homes but it is not free from homeless households. According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Himachal has the lowest percentage of homeless families in the region. The total housing shortage in Himachal is 0.04 million which is 0.19 per cent of total populace of the state compared to Haryana 0.42 million (2.23 per cent of total population); Punjab has 0.39 million of homeless families which is 2.08 per cent of total population; Jammu and Kashmir has 0.13 million (0.72 per cent) and city beautiful Chandigarh has 0.02 million which stands 0.08 per cent of total population of the city.
The Ministry has further revealed that there were about 4.47 lakh houseless households across the country. In the region, Haryana tops the list with 11,860 houseless households followed by Punjab 8579. Himachal Pradesh has 1634 houseless households comprising 1356 in rural area and 278 in urban areas of the State. While J and K has 21 23 houseless households and Chandigarh has 757 houseless households.
While talking to a retired chief architect of Chandigarh said that when every government was starved of funds and choosing to be tight fisted rather than popular, it found difficult to place its housing board on a track of self-sufficient that was hitting expansion and its project plans. If land cost is excluded, social housing can become affordable and viable as land is the most expensive component of housing, she says.
Land cost and its non-availability are the main road blocks in providing housing to houseless. According to the Town and Country Planning Organization (TCPO) estimates that on an average density norms, 1. 20 lakh hectares of additional land would be required. The official of the state government, Himachal Pradesh revealed that in 2014, the state government had decided to provide three biswas land in rural areas and two biswas in urban areas to homeless families in every district of the state. He had also revealed that most of the homeless were migrants from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal and provision of houses to them would be violation of prevailing laws of the State, he said.
The Economic Analysis of States reported that 42 per cent towns of Himachal Pradesh have homeless population accounts for 61,312 against Punjab has slums in 78 towns out of 143 towns with 14.60 lakh slum dwellers. While Haryana has slums in 75 towns of the 80 statutory towns with 16.62 lakh slum dwellers.
Across the country, 65 per cent towns have slums. In 1951 there was a deficit of 2.5 million of houses in rural as well as in urban areas of the country that now increased to 18.78 millions. Of these, 95 per cent related to social housing. “The role of private sector in social (EWS/LIC) has been almost negligible. It only caters mostly to the middle income groups,” said a retired chief architect of Chandigarh.
To meet the total shortage of 18.78 million houses across the country, an investment of about Rs 18 lakh crore is required with taking into account land cost. Experts in the construction markets are hopeful that with the central government’s grant and matching contribution of the state governments, local bodies and beneficiaries, the social housing schemes can be a reality.
So, there is clearly a need not only to build affordable housing but also bring in the ever-growing stock of vacant housing to use. New housing stock is also being created by the government with schemes like Basic Services for Urban Poor (BSUP) and Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme (HSDP) with a spend of Rs 23,000 crore. Housing is intimately connected with land policy, infrastructure development and concept of planning, land use, tenure and building regulations.
The past experiences show that public sector social housing does not reach the target households. In absence of access to public and private sector housing, the homeless continue to live in unauthorized colonies. It is perhaps one of the ultimate urban ironies while those who shed their sweat in constructing ‘modern houses’ stare longing at these apartments waiting for the day to have a roof on their heads also.
* Shortage of nearly 19 million homes in urban India
* Over 90% demand is from economically weaker sections and low income families
* Incentives needed to bring vacant homes into housing market