This week’s Special Report is a kind of sequel to last week’s on katchi abadis. Only this time we focus on housing in general alongside low cost housing because we believe one cannot really separate the two.
As we noticed last time, every time there is an issue with a katchi abadi, the need for low cost housing for poor is put forth as the solution and the state’s negligence is pointed out. It transpires that the state is equally indifferent about the housing and shelter needs for all its citizens even though they are guaranteed rights in the Constitution of the country.
The state for most part has relegated the housing needs to the private real estate developers, except in one case where the strong arm of state has itself attained this role.
Obviously, the housing for people of the lowest economic strata ought to be a priority for the state because of urbanisation or ‘social dislocation’. In Karachi for instance, we are told, the population swelled by 80 per cent in only one decade — between 2000 and 2010. Some creative solutions were tried like the Khuda ki Basti model to ensure housing for the poor. Since the state did not have many plans of its own or was not ready to implement what it had, it ought to have replicated the above model and ensured its mass implementation. Somehow, it failed to do that too.
The population explosion and urbanisation demand that the state should actively step in to solve the housing needs of its people. But just as we talk about the need for breaking large landholdings and land reforms in the rural sector, Reza Ali suggests the need for an asset transfer in urban hubs too. “Asset ownership inequality is a major challenge in providing housing to the people,” he rightly says. He thinks the state will have to evolve policies and mechanisms to get land from those who own it and provide housing to those who can not afford it.
He also talks about the sense of insecurity particularly experienced by the people in this country where every person wants to own a house. That is why, he says, there are less rent-based projects here.
A National Housing Policy is reportedly being finalised. Once it is announced, only then will we know how far does it address the housing needs of all classes and how sincere is the government in implementing it this time.