Affordable Housing: The Simples rules required.

06 May

Prototype residential housing system

Prototype residential housing system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In India, we have a unique habit of expressing ourselves. We mean what we say but it is not necessary that the meaning would be what the person hearing it understands. The most superb example is – “Affordable Housing“.

A million Dollar house is affordable; obviously otherwise how do those luxury homes sell all over the World ?

A million Rupee house is also affordable to many in India.The only problem being if it is being built in Mumbai, Maharashtra you would just get a 100 square feet.

Now before you think that is the carpet area, please don’t be naive. One needs to deduct the built-up and super built-up area from that. Surely one can’t deny the logic that there is an expense both in man and material to make the stair-case, the boundary wall, and the rest of the common services which say would be around 33%(actual data vary depending on typology and other regulations and guidelines). And this expense needs to be recovered. No sane person can grudge that to the developer. So the actual room carpet area, or the liveable area would be  67 ft2 in size. ( By the way in some cases the super-built up and built up has been shown as high as 55% too. I refuse to take it into my debate as the area it leaves as carpet is too embarrassing )

Now what one can do with 67ft2? So you need to multiply this 7 times to get 469ft2 which an Indian middle class family can just squeeze into. But once you do that it is no longer affordable.

So how can we end this debate? If at all ?

Frankly it requires a few simple things –

1. Political will to pass laws which are truly beneficial to the public, rather than create a web of sly rules which ultimately help in lining the pockets of those who wield the administrative power and the coterie of  unscrupulous builders.

2. A expert panel comprising the best from the structural, civil & architectural field, who should make a ready reckoner on what should be the actual cost of construction for the basic core and shell of a building. And this should be revised periodically.

3. Make specific development plans for each area and fix price of land based on it. There should be a maximum and a minimum price set for land and it should no more be left to be governed by the free market forces.

Once the cost of construction becomes uniform, it would be easy to monitor quality of construction, deduce the correct price depending on the amount of  work done and above all help the government truly frame policies which would ultimately lead to making of ‘affordable’ housing.

The next step should be educating the citizens (builder, politicians and administrative personnel are citizens too) in Sustainable living. For as long as there would be buyers for badly constructed housing colony which do not follow the five basic principles taught by Mahatma Gandhi on sustainable living, we would be trapping ourselves in creating situations which would forever keep the dream of affordable housing for all as just that – a dream. Therefore as I had mentioned in my earlier article town planning in accordance to the principles of Agenda 21 and follow the agreed criteria of C40 Cities to which Mumbai is a signatory, the dream of affordable housing would come true, not because cost of construction would become cheaper but the standard of living of the citizens of this bountiful city we call Mumbai ( Bombay) would vastly improve.


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