Rapid urbanization in India has not only boosted the country’s housing sector but also presented complex affordability challenges that need to be resolved to harness economic, social and environmental opportunities associated with urbanization. Our country requires more than five million units to meet the aggregate annual demand in the affordable segment. To plug the gap in the supply chain, which is merely 10% of the total demand, we as developers need to bolster our execution capabilities to tackle not just the challenge of access to affordable housing, but also delve to improve living conditions on a macro scale.
It is safe to say that efforts have been made to privatize, deregulate and promote private sector to stir things up in the affordable housing market space, but the reality could not be further from the truth. In the article that follows, I explore why innovation is critical to affordable housing projects in current times.
Broadly speaking, “Affordable housing refers to any housing that meets some form of affordability criterion, which could be income level of the family, size of the dwelling unit or affordability in terms of EMI size or ratio of house price to annual income.”
When we talk about affordability, the land component is fixed whereas the building component requires continuous research and innovation in incremental building practice. Besides, India as a country is big on self- construction. Urbanization is happening in places where people are constructing with a contractor or a mason. A greater stake in innovation, especially in large-scale social housing projects, has to begin with mason training, material usage, improving densification plans at city level and inclusive zoning in the master plan. In the existing political landscape, if the state can step in and arrive at clear guidelines as to what affordable housing should be and provide approvals without any constraints, then the onus is on us developers to apply ideas and deliver truly affordable houses to customers.
However, for affordable housing to flourish, three critical factors need to come together. First is capital in real estate, second is ability to deal with the local reality in India (land, approvals, sand mafias and so on varying in each state) and third is mindset for affordable housing, where low cost and high volume production is the focus. Additionally, without proper data on rural affordability and urban affordability it is unscientific to design a solution.
To repair the affordable housing ecosystem, we need to have long- standing dialogues between our decision makers to voice innovation in affordability as a pressing social need and an opportunity for all.