Inadequate or substandard housing is a highly visible dimension of vulnerability. This is especially true for low income self-employed families for whom a home is not only the locus of domestic and parental responsibilities, but also of economic activities, playing the role of workshops, warehouses and stores. Despite an overall increase in incomes in cities, formal housing is expensive and inaccessible to a large share of the population, and the number of people living in deteriorated housing conditions in India is very high. MHT adopts a multi pronged approach towards enabling access to decent housing for the poor which includes:
Of ten houses constructed in India, seven are constructed by the people themselves, two by the government and one by the private sector. The majority of urban poor prefer to build their homes incrementally with the help of local masons/contractors. MHT supports self- constructed, incremental housing by providing financial and technical support to ensure that the houses are structurally safe with efficient layouts and access to adequate light, ventilation and basic infrastructure.
Several city governments in India are exploring a public-private -partnership (PPP) approach to slum redevelopment that involves participation of private developers in the provision of housing. The biggest challenge in the process is establishing a trust relationship between the developer and slum community, especially as it involves demolition and temporary eviction. Further, the provision of transit housing has to be conscientiously designed. The focus of MHT’s interventions in the PPP redevelopment projects is to create an environment of better accountability and build a legal stake for the slum dwellers, especially women in the entire process to ensure that a) their interests are not marginalized and they have equal property rights, b) they are involved in decision making regarding design & governance and c) women are actively involved in community management as members of residents welfare associations. Read the case study of redevelopment of Abhuji Na Chapra featured in the Guardian.
The lack of updated and accurate information on slums is widely recognized. Several local bodies continue to rely on macro-level sources of information such as the census data that is collected every 10 years to plan for housing and services in slums. These sources are often dated and do not provide an idea of the spatial distribution and heterogeneity of slums.
Over the years, MHT has built capacities of grassroots women in collecting and maintaining data on socio-economic characteristics and physical conditions of slum households. It works with local governments to create and update slum databases, and in the process also train slum communities to collect, analyze and use this data to provide local inputs in city level planning efforts.
Close to thirty to forty percent of urban population in Indian cities can only afford to stay in slums and chawls, often located on land frozen in disputes, government lands or ancestral lands with multiple claims to property. These households do not enjoy ‘formal’ land rights which prevents them from availing government subsidies and affordable mortgages from banks and housing finance institutions, as they are perceived to be high risk owing to irregular pattern of income.
MHT supports poor households to get their lands registered in their own name. However regularizing tenure on such properties is a long and expensive legal process. MHT believes that too much insistence on this absolutist approach emphasizing formal titles in the short term can also prove detrimental to the development of poor depriving them of their entitlements to basic services. MHT hence adopts a gradualist approach of progressive tenure security that encourages the poor to establish land rights and create assets in their name in the interim.
MHT supports poor families in buying units in government led subsidized housing schemes as well as private affordable housing projects by communicating information about new schemes, helping them in the application process and mobilizing the required earnest money. MHT also assists families that are selected for allotment process in accessing housing finance and securing possessions.
MHT advocates with government at all levels to institute pro- poor housing policies and programs. The main focus is on streamlining procedures and ensuring better transparency and accountability in government schemes. MHT has been invited to serve on various state and national level committees and represent the voices and concerns of the poor on these policy dialogues. MHT is a member of the slum notification committee of the Government of Gujarat, the prime PMO task force for Affordable Housing and the Steering Committee on Affordable Housing and Poverty Alleviation for the 12th five year plan.
MHT helped me to build a house that can accomodate all my family members. It is only because of them that we will be able to live in the house without any space crunch.
My husband died after the agreement was completed. So after we built the house upto the plinth level, we had to reapply for the agreement. With the help of MHT, we were able to prove my eligibility even after my husband’s death with the documents, were able to transfer the account in my name and receive the installment for the next phase.