Mainstreaming Sustainable Social Housing in India


Housing is one of the fundamental requirements for a society. It is a fundamental human right which ensures access to a safe, secure, habitable and affordable home. In India, severe housing shortage has been a persistent issue. According to a report submitted by a technical committee to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MHUPA), India's urban housing shortage is estimated at nearly 18.78 million households in 2012. Skyrocketing prices of land, growing urban population and real estate in urban areas have induced the poor and the economically weaker sections of the society to live in slums and squatter settlements.

Government Efforts: Current Policies to Bridge the Gap

Given the existing extent of the housing challenge in India, numerous policies and 'missions' have been enacted at the national level. Their limited impact has been attributed to some degree to their lack of interconnectedness and policy disincentives towards an urban economy. Through the 'Housing for All by 2022' programme, the Indian government intends to close this gap by aiming to construct 20 million units, through a combination of slum upgradation projects in partnership with the private sector, direct government-led housing delivery, a credit-linked subsidy scheme, as well as support to beneficiary-led construction. Since housing is by definition an energy and resource intensive sector, this will require not only human and financial resources at an unprecedented scale, but natural resources too. This represents both, a grave danger in terms of environmental degradation, and also an opportunity for introducing life-cycle thinking into the building sector and promoting economic inclusion for millions.

Mainstreaming Sustainable Social Housing in India Project (MaS-SHIP)

In this regard, Development alternatives is a part of a consortium between four partners along with Oxford Brookes University (Oxford, UK), The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) and UNHABITAT(UN-H), with support from United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as part of their 10 Year Framework of Programmes (10YFP) on Sustainable Consumption and Production to promote sustainability in terms of environment performance, affordability and social inclusion as an integral part of social housing.

Aim and Approach

The primary focus of the project is to enhance sustainability in the construction of social housing through adoption of suitable construction, as well as operations and management practices, with the goal to promote sustainability in urban social housing in India.

This will be achieved through evidence generation and establishment of baseline performance of a range of best practices with respect to sustainable building materials and construction technologies. This is done by documenting the manufacturing phase of building materials, the construction phase and the usage phase of a building through a series of surveys with manufacturers, developers and homeowners. The findings are then shared and discussed with the construction industry stakeholders to develop an overall understanding of the changes required in institutional mechanisms to mainstream sustainable social housing.

To implement the required measures, policy/practice briefings for policy-makers and practitioners would be developed. These would be based on the key findings of the study with respect to required mechanisms to mainstreaming sustainability aspects in affordable urban housing at the national and sub-national levels.

Task at Hand

The primary task for any such endeavour is to, in fact, find the gaps and bridge all the aspects related to the habitat industry and effectually achieve holistic development. MaS-SHIP studies the existing scenario through the lens of various sectors of the industry to understand the existing potential. In order to use this potential, all the different sectors of the construction industry need to recognise it and come together to successfully tackle the housing shortage. Accommodation of these needs can be done by influencing all the different stakeholders and the policy reforms which improve the implementation structure. With the nation actively prioritising the housing issue through initiatives such as PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna), such opportunities can be effectively utilised.

Astha Saxena
Research Fellow, Policy and Planning Domain
Development Alternatives


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