PTI's hous­ing ini­tia­tive

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

The gov­ern­ment has set up a com­mit­tee to ex­plore op­tions for im­ple­ment­ing PM Im­ran Khan'sfive mil­lion houses ini­tia­tive to ben­e­fit those with­out shel­ter, slum dwellers and other ur­ban and ru­ral low-in­come groups. It is en­cour­ag­ing that hous­ing is be­ing ac­corded high vis­i­bil­ity on this gov­ern­ment's list of pri­or­i­ties. Given that the pro­vi­sion and fa­cil­i­ta­tion of hous­ing is one of the most com­plex so­cial de­vel­op­ment un­der­tak­ings, many are look­ing for­ward to see­ing how this un­folds. The de­mand for hous­ing - es­pe­cially for apart­ments in large cities such as Karachi, and sin­gle unit vil­las in var­i­ous other ur­ban lo­ca­tions - is in­ten­si­fy­ing due to chang­ing so­ci­o­log­i­cal dy­nam­ics. For ex­am­ple, the joint fam­ily struc­ture in cities is break­ing down and nu­clear fam­i­lies are grow­ing. An­other im­por­tant con­trib­u­tor to the swelling hous­ing de­mand is the ex­pand­ing hous­ing back­log. Ac­cord­ing to some stud­ies, a back­log of more than 11m hous­ing units ex­ists as per cur­rent es­ti­mates. About 450,000 for­mally built units are con­structed an­nu­ally with a pre­dom­i­nant fo­cus in ur­ban ar­eas, and the back­log con­tin­ues to mount.

Hous­ing de­mand is also af­fected by mi­gra­tions to the cities for bet­ter health­care, ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment, and safety and se­cu­rity rea­sons. So­cial dis­lo­ca­tions caused due to geopo­lit­i­cal fac­tors and ter­ror­ist and anti-ter­ror­ist cam­paigns dur­ing the past three decades also need to be stud­ied in or­der to eval­u­ate their im­pact on cities. Re­place­ment of hous­ing stock is an im­por­tant de­mand fac­tor in the con­text of ur­ban Pak­istan. In the past, land was con­sid­ered a so­cial as­set. Now it is traded as a saleable com­mod­ity. Ur­ban land has be­come a prod­uct at­tract­ing in­vest­ments in ex­po­nen­tial pro­por­tions. Hence its prices rise to high lim­its where its avail­abil­ity and ac­cess be­come im­pos­si­ble for hous­ing, par­tic­u­larly for a low-and-mid­dlein­come clien­tele.

The al­lo­ca­tions of land to var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal favourites at less than mar­ket price, cre­ation of large real-es­tate de­velop­ments in sub­ur­ban lo­ca­tions, un­ap­proved land sub­di­vi­sions and de­vel­op­ment of hous­ing schemes by real­tors in Karachi, La­hore and Is­lam­abad are some ex­am­ples of this.The rise in in­for­mal liv­ing and over­crowd­ing in Karachi's low-in­come res­i­den­tial ar­eas is a vis­i­ble re­al­ity. The emer­gence of katchi­abadis in Is­lam­abad also re­flect the fact that bet­ter con­trolled and man­aged cities have not been able to ex­tend af­ford­able op­tions to the ur­ban poor.

Hous­ing fi­nance is an im­por­tant sub­sec­tor. Stud­ies in­di­cate that at present, not more than two per cent of fi­nances are ar­ranged through for­mal hous­ing fi­nance in­sti­tu­tions. About 10pc lend­ing is fa­cil­i­tated through in­for­mal sources while the re­main­ing is fa­cil­i­tated through per­sonal sav­ings and other re­lated means. State Bank re­ports have lamented the fact that the to­tal hous­ing fi­nance mort­gage mar­ket is around 1pc of GDP, one of the low­est in South Asia. High risks in trans­ac­tions, poor gov­er­nance and a break­down of law and or­der on a rou­tine ba­sis im­pacts the sce­nario.

Some so­lu­tions have been rec­om­mended by ex­perts in the past. Estab­lish­ing hous­ing re­source cen­tres at the district lev­els is one op­tion. Th­ese in­sti­tu­tions may be em­pow­ered to gather and pack­age up-to-date in­for­ma­tion about public and pri­vate sec­tor hous­ing op­tions. Pi­lot projects may be launched for de­vel­op­ing hous­ing on co­op­er­a­tive ba­sis for low-grade gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees, public or­gan­i­sa­tions and for­mal pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tions.The House Build­ing Fi­nance Com­pany must un­der­take in­no­va­tively de­signed pack­ages to en­hance clien­tele and ex­pand ac­cess of hous­ing to more needy groups.

Feed­back can also be drawn from the ex­pe­ri­ences of other coun­tries in South Asia. For in­stance, Sri Lanka launched a Mil­lion Houses Pro­gramme some three decades ago. Its key com­po­nents in­cluded pro­vi­sion of small loans, en­sur­ing com­mu­nity par­tic­i­pa­tion in hous­ing de­vel­op­ment ven­tures, re­vi­sion of tech­ni­cal stan­dards to con­form to needs of the poor, tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance by the im­ple­ment­ing agen­cies, ex­ten­sion of sub­si­dies for lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture pro­vi­sion and ca­pac­ity build­ing of the ad­min­is­tra­tive and tech­ni­cal staff. De­spite chal­lenges, this ini­tia­tive be­came a use­ful mile­stone in ad­dress­ing the hous­ing is­sues in Sri Lanka.

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