The Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Tourism Minister Kumari Selja has said, in order to improve the quality of life in urban areas, it is of critical significance that the housing stock is improved through urban renewal, in situ slum improvement and development of new housing stock in existing cities as well as new townships. In her speech at the inaugural session of National Conference on Public Private Partnership in Housing, it was said the enhancement of housing stock must be accompanied with high quality provision of basic services. The speech of the Minister was read in absentia. It said that it is a well established fact that safe, hygienic and spacious provisioning of housing duly buttressed with adequate basic services and a congenial habitat promotes significant improvement in productivity of workers. It has its social benefits too; as a nation of home-owners invariably becomes a nation of law-abiding and responsible citizens.
Following is the excerpt of the Minister’s speech read in her absence: “Since this initiative (Affordable Housing) has been taken by the developers themselves, it is evident that the Affordable Housing is increasingly being seen as a commercial opportunity, and not as a welfare programme which only the Public Sector must implement.
The urban affordable housing segment is the largest chunk of the domestic housing market, and is distinguished by being a steady and growing demand that will not shrink or fluctuate with the share markets or the global economy. Private developers need to exploit the long term entrepreneurial and business opportunities that lie locked in affordable housing. City governments need to realize that tackling the acute housing shortages and improving the quality of life of the most productive segment of their population will ensure them an increase in their GDP and a sustainable economic growth.
In the last century, our urban population grew 8.5 times, from 25 million in the early 1900s to 286 million in 2001 comprising 27.8% of country’s population. The projected share of urban households in the country’s population is likely to rise from the current 28% to 50% in the next two decades.
Already the shortages of housing are acute, as cities struggle to cope with the burgeoning population. In the coming years, the number of people devoid of basic services, shelter and security will grow and this will further increase the unmet demand for shelter & basic services. In order to improve the quality of life in urban areas, it is of critical significance that the housing stock is improved through urban renewal, in situ slum improvement and development of new housing stock in existing cities as well as new townships. Further, the enhancement of housing stock must be accompanied with high quality provision of basic services.
There are many impediments to the growth of affordable housing. The core issue of land at suitable places and at affordable prices has always been the focus of debate. Public authorities who own sizeable pockets of land have, of late, been increasingly resorted to auctioning of land at market prices, ostensibly to raise resources for funding the city. Unfortunately, this has led to a situation where there are world class buildings in a sea of slums with matching infrastructure missing. Cities depict a gross mismatch between demand and provision of infrastructure and facilities. Across States, the dimensions of the problem may vary, but the difference is a matter of degree and not of kind.
Over the last few years, a serious intervention has been made by Government policy and programmes to reverse this trend. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) has succeeded in creating interest in our urban future, and rejuvenated the debate on urban planning. We have far greater confidence today that the course of urban development can be changed, and the chaos arrested. Not only active thinking, even positive action is being taken in various cities and towns across the country for plans and projects to expand urban land availability, reduce housing scarcities, redress the norms of town planning and make cities that recognise the realities of our economic growth and its consequent dynamics. At the Centre, building on the success of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), we have moved on to the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) with the mission of making cities slum free and keeping them slum free by striving to provide affordable housing and basic services to all slum dwellers.
That is why a ‘whole city approach’ is a must. The proposed Rajiv Awas Yojana is designed to bring existing slums within the formal system and enable them to avail of the same amenities as the rest of the town; as also to redress the failures of the formal system that lie behind the creation of slums and force the poor to resort to extra legal solutions in a bid to retain their sources of livelihood and employment. Rajiv Awas Yojana will offer a RAY of hope to cities for access to decent housing and dignified living environment.
Multiple partners and involvement of all stakeholders will indeed be required in this gigantic and visionary task. Public Private Partnership (PPP) is emerging as an efficient model for delivery of services in general. In a Public Private Partnership, the strength of the Public Sector, which controls land, and its regulatory and legal power combines with the initiative and resources of the private sector and its efficiency. Thus, the strength of both can be synergized to far greater effect and productivity. The PPP approach will allow the State agencies to overcome resource deficit, improve cost recovery and increase supply of houses on a demand-driven basis.
As of now, PPP in Affordable Housing is a new concept. The policy atmosphere is right, the Governments target and motivation is high, and the demand is unquestionably growing. If at this stage, workable PPP models are shared, win-win partnerships can be formed, a new model for mass housing can emerge and progress made rapidly.”