Urban Housing Adequacy Frameworks

Briefing papers on the framework for housing adequacy and how formal efforts are yet to meet adequacy criteria in India

1) A Framework for Housing Adequacy

SDG 11.1 (Sustainable Development Goals) by 2030 seeks to ‘ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services, and upgrade slums’. Urban local governments are critical to the realization of the SDG 11.1. As housing is a decentralised subject. In India, the shift in the housing delivery from the national to local governments was marked in 1992 through the 74th constitutional amendment. Since then, housing is a State subject and local governments instituted with the power to implement housing programmes. This means that although policies and programmes focused on the urban poor are still framed nationally, local government has an important role in making land available, ensuring access to municipal services, identifying housing demand and planning for future growth. We discuss the framework for adequate housing through 5 sections: housing challenges for cities, governance and housing, the changing view towards housing, the role of local governments in housing delivery and opportunities for co-production.

This paper was initially written by Inhaf as a 10-page country brief for an Asia Regional Report put together by the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) on the Role of Sub-National Governments in the Provision of Adequate Housing and in particular, the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 11.1. The Asia report went on to inform the United Cities and Local Government’s report on ‘Rethinking Housing Policies’ (2019). INHAF went on to produce an expanded version of this paper that covers more aspects of the framework within which housing adequacy is produced in India.

PDPL is an exploratory study initiated by INHAF in Pune to involve the urban poor in defining the poverty line themselves. Pune has several dynamic unions and organizations of the urban poor who are sensitive to the impact that the poverty line has on their entitlements, benefits and development. With these member-based unions and organizations of the poor as partners, INHAF piloted the Poor Defining Poverty Line Initiative in xxxx, inspired by the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights that conducted a similar study in 6 Asian countries between 2013 and 2014.

This work is seen as a special contribution to the poverty debate as also a rethink on the strategies, plans and projects for poverty reduction. It is possibly one of the first such efforts in the country’s urban sector and is meant to:

a) highlight the need for and the virtue of the bottom-up way of defining and measuring poverty, a subject of national concern and development planning and action (the poor who live poverty are well equipped to define it )
b) develop and demonstrate a participatory, consultative and community engaging methodology in doing so
c) contribute to demystification of the poverty line, at the top and the bottom, at the government and the city level
d) highlight the known deficiencies and inadequacies of the existing definition and the measuring method—the uni-dimensional, nutrition-based poverty line—to ascertain that poverty is a multifaceted and multidimensional phenomenon. 


2) De-constructing the Parameters of Housing Adequacy

In 2012, the Technical Group Report on Urban Housing Shortage in India put the figure at 18.78 million units, consisting of 3 forms of adequacy: congestion (80%), obsolescence (12%), non-serviceable houses (5%) and homelessness (3%). This is an incomplete understanding because among other things, it does not talk about security of tenure nor about the vast stock of ‘formal’ housing that have transformed into vertical slums. A broader set of conditions for assessing housing adequacy was recognised in the 1948 Universal declaration of human rights and in the 1966 International covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These were further ratified during the Habitat III conference in 2016. We have used these to assess slums (13.92 million slum households, 65.5 million slum dwellers in an urban population of 377 million: Census 2011), understood as the most visible manifestation of housing poverty and also housing produced under various schemes in the last decade hailed as ‘solutions’ for the urban poor but now instigators of another kind of crisis. We refer to National schemes implemented over the last decade: BSUP (Basic Services to the Urban Poor under JnNURM, 2005-12), RAY (Rajiv Awas Yojana, 2009-14), PMAY-urban (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, 2015-ongoing) and some State schemes that have gained prominence. This is not an argument against formal housing – what we found through these parameters – is what is still lacking in formal solutions, the potential that slum settlements have and what needs to improve as we dream of ‘housing for all’.