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Affordable housing dilemma

Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced 5 million affordable housing program for the welfare of poor, low income families. Affordable Housing Act should include the promotion of general welfare of the poor and low income families by providing fund and credits to all 4 provinces to alleviate present and recurring unemployment. This program may have many benefits that can include , providing affordable homes, reducing the unsafe and insanitary housing condition, addressing the acute shortage of decent, safe housing in rural and urban communities where health , safety and good standard of healthy living style can be promoted.

Shortage of decent housing facilities in Pakistan causes the notable expense that left most Pakistanis with less or no saving. As per the minimum wage act of Pakistan Muslim League(N lead federal government last year increased minimum wage from 14,000 to 15,000 for working class in the country. Whereas average rent is 20k-25k for 80-120 yards, 28k-40k for 200-240 yards in a decent, safe, clean area with abundance of water, load shedding exempted areas in Karachi. Although currently there is hardly any area where shortage of water and load shedding not observed. In this Affordable Housing Act there can be many possibilities like affordable rent house provided by government and managed by union council level government that will also help government to increase their income; affordable home financing whereas mortgage industry can be built and regulated by government.

Currently affordable housing program has become the policy agenda for PTI lead government due to high demand of affordable and safe housing for the citizen of Pakistan. House prices has risen in response to this booming demand and constraint of supply due to corruption and irregularities. Many young and low income families have experienced great difficulty in gaining access to affordable house. Their dream to have their own house seems to be ruined even have ruined due to government supported corruption in housing industry.

For low income families, affordable housing for rent provided by government and managed by local union level council will open the door for new stream of government income. 15% of their income can be set as rental income for government.

Development of planning, financing, land acquisition, demolition, construction in connection of the low rent housing and clearance of slum areas. This affordable Housing Act can also include construction, reconstruction, remodeling or repair of existing buildings and societies as well.

Removing of slum areas in Karachi where dwellings predominates, which by reason, dilapidation, overcrowding, faulty arrangements or design, lack of ventilation, light or sanitation facilities or any combination of these factors are detrimental to safety and good standard of living.

There must be public housing agencies in all states and cities who are responsible for the management and administration of housing needs in any area. Provincial and local governments and municipality government can act like agencies.

Labor and land supply and their regulation are the most important factors for planning housing and construction industry in Pakistan. Housing and construction industry as such not exist in Pakistan that could be regulated. First time in Pakistan, PTI government chief Prime Minister Imran Khan announced Affordable Housing Project in his agenda.

Karachi Development Authority (KDA) that was established in 1957 was initially responsible for the supply of water and sewerage system. But now KDA is responsible for planning and coordination, Land development, housing scheme include public housing schemes and low cost housing scheme, roads and bridges, redevelopment, manufacturing pipes, design bureau, anti encroachment and resettlement, research and publication, horticulture, parks and recreation, computerization of land records, archiving of land records, land acquisition and charge parking. But they could not developed the land only 700,000 plots were developed in Karachi. Mother of all development of authorities (KDA) has become the mother of all crime in Karachi.

The major problem In Pakistan in housing industry is promoters of the land and housing schemes never registered their project with government authorities. Citizens of Pakistan have been facing this problem with builders and developers while buying a house, plot, flats.

Illegal grabbers of land, china cutting beneficiaries were given full authority to promote, advertise, market, book, sell or offer of sale , invite any citizens to purchase any plot, apartment, or building in any real state project or part of it without registering the project with regulatory authority.

All these corruption, land grabbing were encouraged right under the nose of local body government, Sindh government, KDA and MDA authorities.

Common citizens of Karachi were given all these opportunities, media advertisement for illegal builders who were not the real owners of the advertised land but no one took any action. It seems like everyone, in one way or other, were involved or beneficiaries of this illegal activities in Sindh. Karachi is the biggest metropolitan city, it’s news comes like a fire in the jungle but land grabbing and Illegal construction spread over in the north and south of Pakistan. especially in rural areas.

Shortage of affordable housing became severe when military operation started in North Pakistan from where only Karachi City became the welcoming city who welcome all migrant from other part of the country. But poor planning and negligence from PPP government in last 10 years, city government negligence all made housing problem worst.

Recent issues of Illegal land acquisition, Land Grabbing in Karachi Bahria Town and Ashiana Housing Scheme in Lahore also heightened the tension between poor home buyers and corrupt sellers. All these problems unearth since Supreme Court of Pakistan intervened and started hearing corruption cases. But what about the investors and buyers of plots, flats, houses. Their whole life’ hard earning savings seems to be lost because government supported these illegal allotments and earned billion of rupees.

 

Suggestions

This illegal acquisition of land, land grabbing through china cutting has to end so that the genuine buyers and investors interest and investment can be safeguarded first. That would help to create the atmosphere where not only government but private investors in this sectors will be encourage to provide affordable housing needs to the citizen of Pakistan and Karachi.

No promoters, builders should be allowed to move forward without registering their land first with authority. Land records must be available where an online checking system that was recently started, still not matured. There must be a law where all promoters and builders must furnish all necessary documents, details including the stipulated time line within which they plan to hand over plots, houses, flats, commercial plots, buildings etc to the buyers and investors otherwise penalize them.

In current scenario grant of registration has no time frame, it should be between 30-60 days. Currently project time line can be extended due to any reason for infinite limit of time whereas there must be only few uncontrolled reasons that are not under human authority like project hand over or completion deadline can only be extended due to war, drought, flood, earthquake, fire or any other calamity caused by nature affecting the regular development of nature only. But on the contrary, in Pakistan projects gets delayed for no reason. It seems that promoters and builders deposit investor’s money in bank account and earn interest in billion of rupees. Provincial governments of Pakistan Muslim League (N) and PPP in Sindh took no single notice for project delay reason. End of the day only buyers and investors suffers. In this atmosphere who will invest in housing industry.

Land reform act has to be introduced for the equal distribution of land. There are people who have more than 2 houses, flats, plots etc and on the other hand there are people who are struggling to get access for one property. Rich has become richer and poor get poorer in this society.

Regulation of house prices, laws, land acquisition law, registration of land, project, housing scheme, developing mortgage industry, research and development, housing technology, green societies, all now inevitable. Proper planning of housing, areas, parking, garden, green housing concept, hospital and school all are part of housing industry planning where population data, community planning all vital factors to consider.

Through research and development shortage of housing can be addressed. Coordination of different government department is vital. Economic and planning division, housing industry, construction industry, immigration department, NADRA all have roles to play to provide solution to this problem. Research and Development Department will provide information about land availability, land acquisition records, registration records, economic planning division will provide guideline for economic policies for housing industry, budgeting related matters, construction industry will provide the resource availability information, technology related matters in construction industry, immigration department will play role to provide information about migration planning as we have seen Bengali’s and Afghanis are going to be given Pakistan nationality only in Karachi City that will lead to increase demand of affordable house.

Karachi has already suffered due to unavailability of transportation, water, municipality services, Non repairing of roads and buildings etc. If one public policy matter is discussed and policy is developed in isolation without considering the already existing capacity of any country or city, will increase the problem. This recently announced migration policy by Prime Minister Imran Khan will further increase the demand of affordable housing in Karachi and other part of the Pakistan. Karachi metropolitan has already facing increase migration, over populated city with zero development, shortage of water and other electricity.

There is no other city which is heavily populated like Karachi who has been accommodating all. Living in house is not the only requirement for any house holders, they also need water, electricity, schools, colleges, Mosques, emergency services, hospital. Whereas on the other hand Government of Sindh can be seen anywhere. Civil Hospital, Abbasi Shaheed, Jinnah Hospital addressing the hospital requirement for all of Sindh. People around the province come here in Karachi because no planning made in coordination.

Planning for affordable housing needs coordination with major government departments to provide safe, green, healthy living standards.

(A writer is a Marketing Manager by profession, and can be reached at: muhammadalisiddiqui79@gmail.com)

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