Shelter is a basic human need. Every city should strive to provide its citizens with safe, secure, and affordable homes without the burden of forced eviction and relocation. According to the Census conducted in 2011, Mumbai has over 4.8 lakh vacant houses. Ironically, a major chunk of the city’s population lives in slums and subhuman conditions, while over 5 lakh units are unoccupied as ‘investment’ stock. According to Economic Times, Mumbai is characterized by some of the most expensive real estates in the world, and properties in prime locations have sometimes fetched a price of Rs 1.2 lakh per sq. ft. In this regard, the city has been under siege by real estate agencies – landowners, builders, and developers who have dictated realty prices. The extravagant market rates coupled with the inability of the government to regulate the supply of land for affordable housing and civic infrastructure has resulted in a scenario where the underprivileged haven’t been considered as a stakeholder of the formal housing market.

Book in Focus: Chasing the affordable dream- A plan to house Mumbai’s millions
Book Cover ©Copyright 2021 Nivara Hak

According to the summary of the book, India is grappling with a burgeoning urban crisis. The promised 100 ‘smart’ cities continue on the drawing board and the promise of ‘Housing for All by 2022’ is a distant dream. Mumbai, a city with the most severe shortage of land and housing the largest slum population, has now become the pilot project for the experimentation. While various stakeholders compete for land and policy concessions, the authors of the book argue that it is possible not only to house the poor but to create enough housing stock to wipe out Mumbai’s housing shortage by reserving and exploiting land held by the government agencies and occupied by slums.

The author during the book’s official launch, covered by The Indian Express (Express News Service, 2018) stated, “The city at the moment is in a high state of underdevelopment. Most people do not have access to affordable housing, healthcare, and education. If a change has to be brought about and if the city has to develop, there’s one thing that must be done and we have talked about in great length in the book. The state must give up its dependency on a free market for affordable housing and take the responsibility upon itself,”. He also added that the new development plan (DP) hasn’t taken into account the public suggestions made earlier.

Chasing the Affordable Dream was launched at a time when at least two government policies have promised affordable housing in Mumbai. At the national level, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) plans to achieve housing for all by 2022, and its urban component focuses on constructing affordable housing either on government land or via public-private partnerships by granting monetary subsidies to developers. For the first time, Mumbai’s draft Development Plan 2034 has included “affordable housing” as a separate and new category of land reservation. However, this land is reserved only in scattered urban niches and the Development Plan envisages building a bare minimum of 25,000 units of affordable homes. But in metropolitans like Mumbai, private builders have proposed affordable housing projects which fall under the scheme only in distant satellite towns and fringe areas which will inevitably push working-class populations outside the city limits. 

Currently, the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority owns over 2,000 hectares of land in Greater Mumbai alone making it the richest and largest state land-owning agency in India. These lands and slum lands if developed with proper pricing and land-use regulations have the potential to generate more than nine lakh additional affordable homes without encroaching on any natural land like mangroves or salt pans. The book argues that to ensure housing and social amenities for all, an outlook beyond the private sector and the free market is required. The state government should reinstate control over housing availability by regulating land use and pricing. The author expresses a concern that so far, Mumbai’s development has constantly been undermined by government regulations motivated by individual interests and corruption, undermining the essence of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Act (MHADA). The book proposes two ways to move forward now: equitable land distribution and participatory planning.

In their book, Nivara Hakk’s founding members and authors PK Das, Gurbir Singh, Ritu Dewan, and Kabir Agarwal argue that Mumbai’s extreme housing shortage can be improved through provisions of price regulation, land regulation, and a comprehensive approach towards the development of government and slum land. The book showcases a detailed analysis of the affordable housing crisis in the city with India’s largest slum population using a series of maps and graphs representative of the situation, that produce a comprehensive set of recommendations on how Mumbai can tackle the crisis. One of the major recommendations is prioritizing the housing needs of low and middle-income groups over the profits of private developers. In spite of laws and regulations that make it mandatory for private developers to allocate half the land of a slum redevelopment project for affordable housing at government-regulated rates, builders often stake claim to 70% or more of the project land for their profits by selling those homes at competitive market rates. PK Das and his co-authors offer a model that would enable building more than nine lakh affordable homes in the city. The book provides a solution to this in the form of demands that any DP of a city must allocate land exclusively for affordable housing; regulating pricing for houses by removing the cost of land as a factor out of the equation of affordable housing. According to the author, if the land under MHADA was judiciously developed under its Act, around 5,00,000 affordable homes would be created over and above the units required to facilitate the existing tenements.

Bibliography

Das, P.K., Singh, G., Dewan, R., & Agarwal, K. (2018). Chasing the Affordable Dream: A Plan to House Mumbai’s Millions. Bombaykala Books. English ISBN-10: 8193642899 ISBN-13: 978-8193642894 

Express News Service. (2018, September 04). State must not depend on private parties to build affordable houses: architect PK Das. The Indian Express. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/state-must-not-depend-on-private-parties-to-build-affordable-houses-architect-pk-das-5338325/ 

Johari, A. (2018, September 19). Interview: Mumbai’s dream of affordable homes is a real possibility, says urban planner PK Das. Scroll.in, Low Income Housing. https://scroll.in/article/893561/interview-mumbais-dream-of-affordable-homes-is-a-real-possibility-says-urban-planner-pk-das 

Mahato, P., & Nayak, M. (2018, September 29). Chasing the dream of affordable Housing in Mumbai. Urban Wiz Publishing, Medium. https://medium.com/urban-wiz-publishing/chasing-the-dream-of-affordable-housing-in-mumbai-1fac6e350bf5 

Author

Designing for change has always been an aspiration. This is me doing the same through words. My interests in the field include Research, Sustainable strategies and Urban design and hope to work on similar lines in the future.

Write A Comment