Housing policy: noble intentions, but improvements needed

The new policy expands housing possibilities, but falls short of addressing some fundamental issues

After staying long in the making, the first Tamil Nadu Affordable Urban Housing and Habitat Policy has been finally notified and it has been in the public realm for a few weeks now. Coming as it does, at a time when housing prices are steeply increasing, and owning or renting a house is possible only in far peripheries, the policy is a significant step. It has noble intentions and expands housing possibilities, including transit and rental housing for migrant workers. While this is a plus, in the absence of any reliable stock-taking, a clear statement of the problem and reassuring solutions, there are serious questions about the policy’s effectiveness.

Avowed objectives of the policy are three — first, the government will henceforth provide housing only for the very poor and ease its financial burden; second, it will nudge the private sector to provide affordable housing for the low and middle-income groups, particularly rental units; and third, using a shelter fund as a critical financial tool, it will support private developers to provide affordable housing and create a viable market for them. The policy rightly identifies that, besides building units, affordable housing, economically, requires the provision of social amenities, built sustainably and designed for climate resilience.

The ideas appear significant, but the problem is that they flounder on the fundamentals. A policy on affordable housing would usually first define affordability, estimate the demand and supply, work out the shortage, and spell out strategies to bridge them. However, the Tamil Nadu policy fails on this count. In the absence of a factual basis, a quantification of the problem and empirical measures to review the policy outcomes, good intentions could remain mere platitudes.

The fundamentals

Housing studies show that

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