Rajiv Awas Yojana will help Tackle the Urban Land and Housing Shortages : Selja

Kumari Selja Hopes Rajiv Awas Yojana Would Provide an Opportunity to Obtain Positive Response From States on Urgently Needed Reforms Directly Connected With Providing Long Term Policies to Tackle the Urban Land and Housing Shortages
The Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister Kumari Selja has said that Rajiv Awas Yojana(RAY), would provide an opportunity to the Centre to obtain from States a positive response for urgently needed reforms directly connected with providing long term policies to tackle the urban land and housing shortages, and to creating mechanisms that will build again small housing for the poor. She was speaking at the first meeting of the sub-committee of the National Development Council (NDC) on Urbanisation here tody. She said, RAY is being designed to provide support to cities to put all their slum population into decent housing with basic services.
“The decision of the NDC to set up this Committee on Urbanisation has been practical and timely. Our country is at a point where Urbanization has to be supported if we are to ensure that the economy continues at the expected high rates of growth. The focus of planning must shift to include urban India along with rural India. In the next two decades, 50% of the country’s population will live in urban India, and from the chaos that we see around us in almost all our cities, we are ill prepared for this demographic shift.
We need to recognize and acknowledge that we are confronting as a primary issue an urban land and housing shortage of growing proportions that has skewed the market with asymmetries resulting in excluding the aam admi from either owing or renting a decent house for himself.
The Committee on Slum Statistics/Census (2010) chaired by Dr. Pranob Sen has estimated the slum population at 26.3% of the total urban population in 2001 and has projected an increase to 9.5 crore for India by 2012 and to 10.5 crore by the year 2017. The Technical Group on the Estimation of Housing Shortage under the Chairpersonship of Prof. Amitabh Kundu estimated the total shortage of dwelling units in urban areas in 2007 to be 2.47 crores growing currently at a rate of 36 lacs per annum. 99% of this pertains to the EWS & LIG segments of the urban population. The McKinsey Global Institute reports that over the next 20 years India will need a total capital expenditure of $1.18 trillion, the majority of which will be in the field of housing and transportation. Housing alone is estimated to require $ 395 billion.
No country can build a stable economy and a stable society with a rapidly growing urban population on such weak foundations.
We need to recognize also that we have in our arsenal no cogent solution to tackle this alarming situation. In the first three decades of Plan development, the states had a well functioning institutional structure that focused on promoting housing for the aam admi, especially the economically weaker sections. By the 1990’s policies changed to exploiting land value and this structure became, by and large, defunct. For the last two decades, in defiance of all natural laws of physics, nothing has stepped into the vacuum created by their withdrawal.
As a result, the faster growing cities, which have the higher GDP growth and which need a larger work force to man the jobs they create, have also created for themselves the bigger slum colonies and slum populations. Cities of Kolkata, Faridabad, Meerut, Mumbai and many more – have almost or more than half their populations living in slums.
We have responded, from the Centre, with the JNNURM, and now with the Rajiv Awas Yojana. With both these schemes, our aim has been to help states and ULBs with a substantial sum of money, to focus on the issues of urban management and urban governance and to find policy and administrative solutions for them before growing urbanization makes them intractable. Under BSUP, our focus was on the 3 pro-poor reforms of 20-25% reservation of developed land for EWS/LIG in all housing projects, earmarking of 25% of the municipal budgets for the urban poor, and the implementation of the 7-point charter for basic services. That 50 cities have issued instructions for reservation of land and 55 cities out of 65 mission cities have done the internal earmarking of funds is no mean achievement, as these are the cities which account for the majority of the existing slum population. However, we now need to build on the pro-poor foundation created by BSUP, and now move to the 2nd generation of reforms. With RAY, we hope that we will obtain from you a positive response for urgently needed reforms directly connected with providing long term policies to tackle the urban land and housing shortages, and to creating mechanisms that will build again small housing for the poor.

To put right the existing inequities, and to ensure, for the sake of orderly, steady economic growth of the country, that every citizen, regardless of which state or region within the country he belongs to, who has begun living in our cities and is contributing his manpower and productivity to it, is given a stake in democracy and equal opportunity to growth, we believe that it is necessary to guarantee them access to basic service, decent shelter and property rights over their dwelling space. We need to recognize that it is our policies of urbanization of urban land pricing and land use, that has been responsible in the first place for forcing them into slums and become encroachers.
RAY is being designed to provide support to cities to put all their slum population into decent housing with basic services.
But RAY is not only about existing slums. No programme or policy can be successful if it is designed only to be reactive. RAY asks for construction of affordable housing for the future households of the city, and for you to address the issues that have led to the poor being ruled out of the housing market. These issues I would list as follows:
One, the existing approach to urban planning and the existing legislative framework for it. Our Urban Development Policy & Authorities were created in the 1970’s following the Urban Land Report of 1962 from the erstwhile Ministry for Urban Development. The chaos and shortages around us and the peri-urban confusion surrounding each city, are clear testimony that we need to relook this paradigm. We are not acquiring land for urbanization at the pace we need to Acquisition faces many financial and legal hurdles and much delay. When land is finally obtained, the up rootedness of the dispossessed farmer creates social and economic issues. We need to adopt such approaches that enable quicker, easier and happier urban expansion.
Second, in planning the land we decide to urbanise, we need to revise our land use modeling, and search for one that will allow capitalization on urban land. With the existing land use pattern of low densities and FARs, land values ensure that the poor cannot afford a house. Other developed countries before us have given up this elitist Model we continue to follow. We need to study how inclusion & equity are being tackled successfully elsewhere and make urgent changes.
. Third, we keep talking of regional planning but we need to move to it in earnest. We need to reorient the existing focus on expansion of towns in isolation of their hinterland. Within the region, the aim should be to identify the towns or growing villages or new sites with locational or natural resource advantages in order to focus future socio economic and spatial growth in such nodes, by the guided investment of funds for infrastructure and industrial growth in them, under rural development scheme such as PURA, Schemes for industrial estates, PPP townships and other urban sector schemes. Spatial planning should also include operationalising the Town & Country Planning legislation, for the rural hinterland of towns, by laying down clear and simple guidelines for the country or the Panchayat areas, most especially in the peri-urban areas. You will appreciate that the uncontrolled growth in villages especially in the peri-urban areas that are bought within a municipality comprise the slums that the municipality has to notify and redevelop. We need to ensure some measure of planning on them, through country planning guidelines for the Panchayats to operate, to change this pattern.

Four, we need to acknowledge also that the urban development authorities and other structures that we have created are not playing a role that can be called facilitative of quick construction. Once they decide the areas that will be urbanized, our urban development authorities are unable to acquire the land quickly. Nor they do not obtain the consent and sanction for the development of these areas from departments, such as, environment, forest, Archeological Survey, mining and so forth. Sometimes they do not even draw up the master plan or zoning plan for several years. This leaves each individual developer to grapple against the whole mammoth government machinery, to get the consent and sanction from each of them, raising his transaction and pre-approval costs of development considerably. I have had many different voices come to me to represent that our urban expansion policies are still based on the ‘inspector raj’. We need to reorient to make approvals for development projects and building approvals simpler, and our authorities responsible for proactive facilitation. Our aim should be a single window with approvals within 2 months.
Talking of institutional structures and moving on to housing, I may add as my next point the need to revive with a new design the State Housing Boards. There is urgent need for an institutional structure to build up and create a flow of small and affordable housing for the poor, because in my view, while we need to put in place policies to encourage the private sector to make small housing also, not just premium housing, the needs of the poor are ultimately the responsibility of the government and will continue to remain so. An institutional structure that joins hands with the private sector with financial and facilitative support would be the ideal solution.

Lastly, I would urge that you to acknowledge that the legislative framework for rental housing is now obsolete, and put in place a new one that does not discourage the construction of housing. We need, in my view, to separate the issue of residential tenancies from that of commercial tenancies as the latter is very complex. For residential tenancies, we can look at two frameworks. One for all housing, which we need to place within a liberalized regime in which leasing is done as per agreement between landlord and tenant, and a separate adjudication structure is created for disputes. We will be shortly circulating a model bill for your consideration and I hope you will agree to adopt it. The other framework could be for social housing, created with substantial government subsidy, for slum dwellers, urban poor, single migrants and homeless who do not want to own a house or have the capacity to do so, but are still entitled to a safe shelter for themselves. In RAY, we would like to support rental housing. We would urge you to put in place a PPP mechanism operating under an autonomous regulatory body that places the rental housing manager and tenant under fair and reasonable obligations & rights.
I have not said anything new. All these points are given in the Plan of Action of the National Habitat & Housing Policy, 2007, which was announced after wide consultation with all of you and with your concurrence. It is your chance now, taking advantage of funding under RAY, to take action for urban sector reform.
The length of the list I have made already should underline how badly the urban sector suffers from neglect, and the urgency for reformatory action. We will dither and procrastinate at the expense of the economy.

I have not said anything on the urban transport or urban infrastructure, because my colleague, Shri Kamal Nathji, has already drawn your attention to the major issues concerned. But I would like to add my voice to his, to the need for strengthening the ULBs. We have a Constitution that asks for devolution of 18 items to the ULBs, on the incontrovertible rationale that a participative approach to these items is the best way to ensure satisfactory planning, and responsible and accountable delivery of results. By keeping these functions centralized and by depriving the ULBs of the finance and functionaries necessary for effective governance, we do a great disservice to our democracy and the ‘Aam Admi’. I would not repeat the arguments that have already been made and would end at this point, commending to you the issues I have raised for your deliberation, so that we work together to define the way forward and a time table for action.”

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