Where Are The Affordable Houses?

Land is one of the major factors affecting affordable housing — be it land availability, land-accessibility or cost of land, the question always comes into the picture when plans for a housing-project are drawn up.

Land factor plays such a vital role when affordable housing projects are concerned, it only underlines the importance of planning and provision of substantial portions of land on which such housing projects may be developed. With land prices within Chennai ever on the rise, the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) had to make a few adjustments to help establish affordable housing in the city.

“While preparing the 2nd Master Plan, we have taken into consideration the high land value and construction cost. The review of space standards were made and the plot size for residential construction has been brought down from 90 square metres to 80 square metres. For EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) it is retained as 20 square metres in Chennai city and 40 square metres in the rest of the Chennai Metropolitan Area (CMA) “, says Susan Mathew, vice chairman of CMDA.

Cross-subsidization is another strategy adopted by the CMDA to combat land prices and rising costs, which stipulates a minimum of 20-25% of developed lands in housing projects for Economically Weaker Sections and Lower Income Groups. This strategy has takers, as cross-subsidization is being looked upon as an effective method of making land and building material affordable to those belonging to LIG.

While measures like reduction of plot size and cross-subsidization may be encouraging, there are those who believe that land availability is not the only decisive factor of affordable housing, it is infrastructure, at the end of the day that plays the biggest role in affordable housing. Facilities onsite, transport connectivity, sewage and basic amenities can determine whether the land in question is viable enough for the establishment of a housing project.  Investment in infrastructure is a basic and non-negotiable requirement for affordable housing, new sources of power generation, recycling waste water, investing in roads, public transport and social infrastructure like colleges, schools, hospitals and markets facilitates affordable housing.
Chennai is the 4th largest metropolitan city in India and the total population of Chennai Metropolitan Area (CMA) as per 2001 census is 70.41 lakhs and the total number of households as per 2001 census in CMA is 16.19 lakhs and the total number of housing units in CMA is 15.83 lakhs.

The National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy, 2007 stipulates 10-20% of land in every housing project or 20-25% of FAR reserved for EWS/LIG housing. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) launched by the government of India stipulates a minimum 20-25% of developed lands in housing projects for EWS/LIG housing with a system of cross-subsidization.
It is mandatory on the part of the developers to reserve at least 10% of the site area and provide houses for Lower Income Group with dwelling units not exceeding 45 sq m in cases of large-scale developments exceeding 1 hectare. This rule was brought in the SMP to encourage EWS and LIG housing developments.