According to sources in the Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Ministry, a carpet area of between 250 sq feet and 800 sq feet may be affordable for the urban poor. The carpet area will also be defined for the lower middle income and middle income group besides EWS and LIG, the sources said, adding this proposal was recently discussed at a meeting of panel set up by the ministry to re-assess the housing shortage in the country.
In the meeting, Housing and Urban Development Company CMD KL Dhingra, however, raised concerns regarding cost of such dwelling units and whether such units are feasible to be constructed or financed for this income category. The panel has hence asked HUDCO to arrive at cost estimates of these dwellings.
The government is in the process of re-visiting the housing shortage numbers in urban areas, estimated by a Planning Commission-appointed technical group in 2006 at 24.17 million. These estimates have been disputed by many as not reflecting the correct picture. In the recent meeting, the HUPA ministry said that the figure of 24.17 million is on “the higher side as it exceeds even the population of slum dwellers on one side and people living below poverty line on the other hand”.
The rationale being that the total urban poor as per the 2001 census figures around 69 million. Given the average family size of five, this would translate into 13.8 million urban poor households, much lesser than the estimated 24.17 million. The technical group had estimated that of the 24.17 million housing shortage, EWS and LIG segments account for almost 99 per cent.
Alternatively, even if the total slum population of 62 million is considered, the number of households comes to 12.4 million, taking average size of family as five members. Even if it is assumed that all 12.4 million do not have shelter, 24.17 million housing shortage number far exceeds this, said a ministry official, according to the minutes of the meeting. “The findings of the technical group that the housing shortage in MIG and HIG category is to the tune of only 40,000 is also highly implausible,” the minutes quote the ministry official.
How will the govt. make sure that there will not be a misuse of the scheme? We all know what happens. Some urban poor may just sell it off for quick money and be back in the slums. Then the purpose is not served. And unless and untill 2 tier cities of the country are not developed with better infrastucture and integrated economy, the influx of migrants to the metros like Delhi/mumbai will go on and in the end will explode!
While what HUDCO has set out to do is laudable, the Govt must not forget that given the pressing need for housing among urban poor, the proposition may be a profitable one. This means that social business can be facilitated in this area with the government guaranteeing land title, and providing safety nets for the urban poor such that they are able to meet their obligations. This is what will be truly sustainable.