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This article was originally published on Financial Express’s website on 03 February 2024, to read the article on their website please click here :  

Copyright of the content and image used in the article belong to the author and Financial Express, respectively.

Author, Jagan Shah is an advisor to My Liveable City, we have his permission to repost the article with due credits on our website. Jagan has authored this article in his capacity as CEO, The Infravision Foundation.


The Union government’s commitment to providing “housing for all” has been reaffirmed in the Interim Budget 2024-25. Housing is a basic and sustained need and is infrastructural, like water, sanitation, and connectivity. The finance minister states that to achieve the goal of Viksit Bharat by 2047 “we need to improve people’s capability and empower them.” Housing is fundamental to empowerment and building human capability. 

The Centre has extended the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) Rural scheme and declared a target of 20 million houses over the next five years to accommodate the natural growth of rural population. For urban areas, it will launch a new scheme for “housing for middle class” that will target people living in rented houses, slums, chawls, and unauthorised colonies, and support them “to buy or build their own houses.” Assuming that the announcements for rural and urban housing will receive due deliberation before implementation, here are a few suggestions.

To shift people out of slums and unauthorised colonies, the proximity of land to livelihoods must inform our approach to urban planning. Urban-planning dogma in the last century stipulated that cities be divided into separate zones with singular land uses. These spatially segregated housing, commercial, institutional and recreational areas have repudiated the timeless wisdom of juxtaposing activities, which is conducive to a low-carbon lifestyle. Urban planning must be informed by transit-oriented development, the necessary integration of land use and public transportation. In metropolitan areas, where the bulk of new beneficiaries will be located, the scheme should recognise housing units within mixed-use buildings.

The choice of the planning approach is crucial to preventing urban sprawl, informality, vacancy and environmental degradation. Housing policy should guard against the inadvertent impact of promoting only self-owned houses. While these will help the real estate industry in offloading unoccupied units, it is not a panacea. The government should not withdraw from its earlier commitment to ensuring that migrants and young workers entering the workforce, especially women, are able to find rented accommodation in cities while they secure their livelihoods and can buy a house.

Cities are the appropriate entry point for dealing with the housing issue, both because of their salience in the economic growth story and because of the role of the middle class, often incubated in rural areas, in fuelling urbanisation. The rural scheme should learn from the urban scheme. The PMAY-Rural currently identifies beneficiaries on the basis of the Socio-Economic and Caste Census of 2011 and provides for new houses 25 square metres in area. The scheme could include the model of ‘beneficiary-led construction’ that has been highly successful in PMAY-Urban and provides support for the addition of new room of 9 square metres area to an existing house, to house a family member or a tenant. The ongoing transformation of the rural economy and agricultural supply chains will attract migration, which is currently accommodated either in peri-urban areas or in rented accommodations. Similarly, the “credit-linked subvention” scheme of PMAY-Urban has attracted almost half the beneficiaries. It could help to promote the development of housing estates located close to agri-processing clusters.


To shift people out of slums and unauthorised colonies, the proximity of land to livelihoods must inform our approach to urban planning



Progress may come by recognising that future-ready housing policy requires integration along many lines, a principle that is well-understood in the Union government. The success of the Aspirational Districts programme, where each district was ‘saturated’ with the simultaneous and coordinated implementation of the entire gamut of schemes, is often attributed to the principles of integration and convergence. The rooftop solar scheme announced recently by the Prime Minister can be linked with the creation of housing units. The same can be done with the Vishwakarma Yojana, which supports masons and carpenters among other craftspeople, the Skill India mission and the MSME scheme. Converging their implementation with the creation of massive numbers of housing units can improve the quality of construction, introduce creativity and innovation and formalise the teams practising different building crafts into small enterprises. 

The Housing Technology sub-mission under the PMAY was devised to promote innovative low-carbon and speedy construction, but the impact has been patchy. The small-scale construction industry is a hydra-headed perpetuation of outmoded technologies and resistant to change. State governments and Union Territories must come together to future-proof housing construction, but the industrial, technological and financial innovations that are required to achieve this goal are complex and require systematic reform. 


Progress may come by recognising that future-ready housing policy requires integration along many lines, a principle that is well-understood in the Union government. 


The role of urban and rural local bodies—municipalities and panchayats, respectively—needs continual strengthening. Rather than asking the local bodies, urban as well as rural, to merely implement a time-bound scheme, they must treat housing as a core function and ensure that every local ‘resident’ resides in a proper house. While the spirit of ‘housing’ is embedded in several clauses of the 12th Schedule inserted into the Constitution of India through the 74th Amendment—urban planning, regulation of land-use and buildings, economic and social development, basic infrastructure, etc—the word itself is glaringly absent. This error ought to be rectified. Rather than promoting the “improvement and upgradation” of slums, India needs to promote their substitution with proper housing. This requires local bodies to improve land management. It is their responsibility to identify land close to economic activities and reserve it for construction of houses in the future. It will help them prepare for public-private partnerships like the “affordable housing in partnership” model in PMAY-Urban, which has seen slow progress because of land availability and location.

The elements that we have touched upon might persuade the incoming government to draft a new housing policy for the country to replace the now-outdated National Housing & Habitat Policy of 1998. This could be one of the subjects on which the Union government  can provide handholding to states for the implementation of reforms, for which the finance minister has made available a large cache of funds. Using Rs 75,000 crore to push reforms in states will give credence to the finance minister’s claim that “we focus on outcomes and not on outlays.” Viksit Bharat needs outlays for housing to be accompanied by reforms in housing policy.

- Jagan Shah, CEO, The Infravision Foundation. Views are personal.



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