Channel NewsAsia

Affordable housing remains problem in India

Election season is drawing to a close in India, but a key issue affecting voters has not been addressed in election rallies - affordable housing.

MUMBAI: Election season is drawing to a close in India, but a key issue affecting voters has not been addressed in election rallies.

Affordable housing is a major concern of Indians, especially in big cities.

The problem is set to grow, along with a spike in the country's urban population.

India's western Maharashtra state has about 24 million households, but according to a recent report, some 1.9 million of them cannot afford homes.

Despite the grim statistics, the issue was not much talked about during the election season, outside of other urban infrastructural issues.

Dr Sudha Mohan, professor at Department of Civics and Politics, University of Mumbai, said: "I think governments across the states in India have never factored in habitat, especially for the urban poor.

“It's like telling the urban poor, 'we need your labour, we want you to toil in the city, but as far as the dwellings and residential areas are concerned, you may have to take care of it yourself'."

By 2017, around 23 per cent of demand for urban housing will come from the top eight cities in India.

Mumbai, as one of those, will continue to feel pressure to provide low cost homes for approximately 22 million households.

But it is not just the poor who cannot afford houses in the city.

Even middle-class professionals are finding themselves in the lurch.

Media professional Dipti Satapathy said: "We have to travel two to three hours every day to get to work, because we can't afford homes near where we work.

“So that's why we have to move away (to the suburbs). And the problem for middle-class families is always the same - we can't afford to buy our own homes in the city with our savings."

Another complication is current tax regulations, which grant second-time buyers a full waiver on interest accrued on property, while offering only a limited rebate to first-time buyers.

Experts say that unless there is a shift in the way housing policy is looked at, change will be slow to come, if it comes at all.

Pankaj Kapoor, founder and managing director at Liases Foras Real Estate Rating and Research Pvt Ltd, said: "We require moderations in the prices, we want more land efficiencies. And apart from that, the larger policies also in India - I'm seeing that they're not end-user driven. They're mostly investor-driven."

Since 2005, those with surplus disposable income have tended to rent and not buy their homes, while acquiring property for investment.

Many developers also specifically target second-time home buyers when advertising new projects.

Some politicians have voiced concerns about the plight of the urban poor.

But when it comes to actually making policy changes, other considerations, mostly neo-liberal market-based ones, seem to become more important.  

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna