From the 19th century, many developing countries imitated slum eradication schemes of the developed countries. Models and master plans were borrowed and applied in the underdeveloped or developing countries, but it only resulted in shifting the slums around the city. The western world followed public sector replacement apartment blocks, and when this was imitated in Mumbai it resulted in unaffordable housing. As a result of both, the number of homelessness increased to a very high number.
People living in Mumbai or willing to buy/ rent a flat in Mumbai often describe Mumbai as ‘Land of the expensive housing market.’ It is hard to believe that the Financial capital of India; Mumbai, has been addressed by the Reserve Bank of India as the highest among major Indian cities to have a house price-to-monthly income ratio. 60% of Mumbai’s population resides in slums with semi-pucca or kutcha houses. On the other hand, there are 1.09 lack unsold apartments in Mumbai, mostly in the upper-middle-class segment. Despite many discounts and promotions done by the builders, the houses are unsold and have hit the highest mark.
With the increase in migration of people towards the urban cities, the need for residences increased. As relocation kept increasing the future planning and development of the city was laid in the hands of builders who made it a ‘profit-based approach instead of affordable cluster development. Mumbai , having faced only linear expansion, being surrounded with water from all sides, the demand for land became more than the supply of land, and urban sprawl gave rise to transferrable rights.
Cotton Mill Industry in Mumbai
Mumbai as a city has always been a production-based city with a blooming cotton mill industry. The textile Mumbai as a city has always been a production-based city with a blooming cotton mill industry. The textile had strong connections with Europe and exported Cotton textiles to them through the famous Mumbai port. With the increase in the textile mill’s profits, many people started to migrate to Mumbai, and many more industries were set up seeing the potential of the textile industries.
There were no specific schemes or development strategies proposed by the government which led to a chawl system of housing for the mill workers in Girgaon. Due to lack of intervention, the cotton mill textile started to collapse, and the mill workers had to face heavy rates of living in the island city. This led to people giving up their lands and selling them for higher profit.
Today, the Mills have been occupied by shopping complexes, restaurants, and higher class buildings, and there is no trace of the industries at all. Government-appointed MHADA to build transit camps that are living in dilapidated buildings. 12 MHADA buildings were sold to the mill workers but most of them are rented out to pay off the home loan. Some of the mill workers sold the provided flat and purchased affordable housing in suburban Mumbai.
Also, the residents of the MHADA building recreated their old lifestyle using the corridors as common spaces, water drums, sofas, clotheslines, etc. During festivals, they tend to celebrate the event in these common passages.
In my opinion, the residency provided by MHADA helped the mill workers in terms of paying off their home loans or in some cases getting a roof over their heads but it did not satisfy their lifestyle or culture of routine life. The housing also did not fit their pockets, and by default, they had to shift or find new homes for themselves. Other than the financial drawback the living condition is also not fit for a healthy lifestyle.
The buildings are tightly packed with the least wind circulation and sunlight to reach the ground. The building is placed in a locality with High Income Group residences in the surrounding which makes all the amenities available to the mill workers more expensive and thus, the livelihood becomes furthermore expensive.
In my opinion, housing strategies in Mumbai are based on only providing homes but ‘homes for whom’ are not catered to. Any housing strategy cannot be successful just by providing financial aid and construction of the structure; the community space, open space, light and ventilation, neighborhood, and needs of the residents also have to be studied carefully. Typical modular layouts do not work out for all buildings in Mumbai, and vertical stacking is not the only solution to the lack of housing. The contextual analysis and stakeholders should be given attention to, and then a housing scheme should be proposed.
There should be only one governing body working on the laws and development schemes to avoid confusion. The schemes should be based on cluster development and future expansion. If the schemes continue to propose repetitive modular units there would come a time when the history of the city would be lost, and only boxes of the building would be seen with no satisfied resident.
“Little boxes on the hill side, little boxes made of ticky-tacky.
Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one, And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky, And they all look just the same
And the boys go into business, And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky, And they all look just the same”.
— Malvina Reynold
Mass housing is an urgent need for cities around the world. Dense and repetitive living blocks will only be a temporary solution to the problem. Architecture housing is the need of the hour with proper parameters of the cultural lifestyle of the end-users, and contextual analysis of the plot is given attention to. Also, an attempt to sustain the richness of the place along with eradicating the problem of housing from its root should be taken.