Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Mumbai: Housing for the poor and its constant change of usage By, Sheela Patel

Whenever the state government of Maharashtra has taken up new and interesting possibilities to address the challenges of housing the poor, it gets side tracked by a paradoxical impact of poor supervision of governance architecture needed to ensure it reaches the people it was meant for.  Housing possibilities remain in a constant state of crisis because any empty space gets used up for alternative uses; and because the construction industry which explores construction opportunities in the name of the poor fails to address solutions for the bottom 40% in the city.

Six years ago, the Government of Maharashtra took a bold decision to build small tenements which would be given to the poor for rent. The rental housing scheme would be taken up by the private sector and they would get a good TDR return for tenements which in turn they would give back to the government. MMRDA would then hand these tenements over to organizations to manage according to a governance framework to be developed alongside the construction.  A total of 500,000 units were to be constructed. The initial tenements were constructed but when a new leadership took office, the MMRDA preferred to sell rather than rent the houses.

The 500,000 houses were never built. But the ones that were built remained empty since the MMRDA did not develop the management strategy and framework for supervision. When buildings collapsed these were the only tenements that were available and thus were used as transits accommodation.  Transit accommodation generally knows several generations until the time when residents forget where their grandparents were moved out from and build their lives around these localities.

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