Workshop:21st Century Smart Cities – Housing For All

May 11, 2018

Date: 28th October2017

Venue: Punjab Regional Chapter, ITPI, Adjoining Prachin Kala Kendra, Sector 35 C, Chandigarh 

A pan North India workshop aimed at gathering insight on the contentious issues related to affordable housing in urban areas. It also anticipated exploration on ways to facilitate quality habitat to the rapidly rising urban inhabitants and that too in affordable manner. The event saw participation from about 120 persons, comprising of government personnel, architects, urban planners, real estate regulating bodies, researchers and academicians. 

The event involved a series of address and technical sessions by stakeholders in the affordable housing sector. Experiences from the states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra were exchanged. Architects and Planners discussed on how sustainable materials, responsive design and advanced buildings techniques can enable provision of comfortable and quality housing for the urban poor.

A report titled ‘Technical Assistance for Affordable Housing Sector’ throwing light on the affordable housing sector in India and contains a critique on the Pradhan MantriAwasYojana. Repercussions of the Yojana include environmentally insensitive construction, which is also inconsiderate to the liveability requirements of the poor, since majority of the housing will be provided by the private sector. Underlining the need to regulate this development, guidelines focusing on sustainable provision and development of housing in the country are compiled in the document. The paper draft was circulated with the key actors at the event for their scrutiny and comments. 

Address by the Chief Guest and Guests of Honor
The session proceeded with address from the chief guest, Mr. K.S. Akode, President ITPI and Chief Planner, Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation. He shared experiences from the state of Maharashtra and stressed on the complex issue of slums on green zones, wherein in-situ rehabilitation becomes impossible. He informed the state is preparing a proposal for unified building bye laws in which municipalities (category A, B and C) shall have appropriate address to the prevalent issues.

The Guests of Honour, Mr. S.D. Saini (vice president, ITPI and former Chief Town Planner, Haryana Government) and Dr. Najamuddin (Secretary General, ITPI and professor emeritus, IIT Roorkee) extended thanks for the convention and agreed on affordable housing as one of the very urgent issues. Dr. Najamuddin highlighted housing was never a problem area for the country during the post-independence period. It is only after 70 years of development, the problem of sustainability has arisen. The primary reason is that the indigenous approach to affordable housing has lost practice. He suggested investment in research to find ways of incorporating technologies with indigenous ones for sustainable housing development.

Preliminary session 1
“The big question today is not how to provide affordable housing for urban poor, instead, it is how to build them in a way that is comfortable, resource efficient, sustainable and most importantly affordable” – saidAnumitaRoychowdhury (Executive Director, Centre for Science and Environment), first key speaker for the preliminary session. There is a need to be conscious over the fact that 60% of India is yet to be built, as it indicates extensive consumption of natural resources. The situation calls for religious adoption of sustainable development practice.This practice has to embed the requirements of the impoverished population, considering the lower income rung constitutes 96% of the national housing shortage according to the Report of the Technical Group on Urban Housing Shortage 2012.

Inequitable and exclusive urban planning has pushed the poor population, which form about 50 per cent of the total population in our major cities, to inhabit marginal urban areas. In absence of formal quality housing, the poor has no option but to construct their own dwelling which is usually structurally weak, unsafe, unhealthy, unhygienic and most vulnerable to disasters and extreme weather events.The launch of Pradhan MantriAwasYojana – Housing for All mission entails a great opportunity on the one hand. On the other hand it poses an enormous responsibility as well as threat since majority of dwelling units will be constructed by the private sector.Hence, there is a need for innovation in development of houses with respect to resource efficiency, thermal efficacy, natural lighting and ventilation. The need for building capacity on self-construction and incremental housing to improve quality, safety and stability of structure is equally important. 

Preliminary session 2
Second key speaker, Mr. P.S.N. Rao, Chairman, Delhi Urban Arts Commission took the discussion further by providing insight on various national housing policies and the need for states to gear up for formulation of comprehensive housing policies with a strong focus on inclusion of the weaker sections of the society. He pointed to the redundancy of currently available statistics. Given the diverse habitat needs in the country, Pradhan MantriAwasYojana needs to be elaborated with relevance to the local context. Lack of such relevance has resulted in unoccupied dwelling units, especially in the lower income segments. Land and housing being state subject, many states are coming up with their own affordable housing policies. However, these policies need to take cognizance of other interventions such as Real Estate Regulation Act (RERA) and the 15 sustainable technologies identified and developed by the Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC).    

Technical Session 1
The session involved discussion on Rajasthan Government’s Chief Minister’s Jan AwasYojana 2015. It was taken by Mr. Pradeep Kapoor, Registrar, RERA Rajasthan. The policy includes a series of incentives to the private developer like relaxation in building parameters and fasttrack approvals. The local authority shall issue a provisional approval within three working days to the private developers and not take more than 60 days for the final approval. Alongside,it attaches stringent conditions of performance such as per unit penalties for delay in construction. 

Technical Session 2
Session was taken forward by the DeependraPrashad, Architect and Planner, New Delhi, He talked about the various concerns to building materials and how they affect on the environment, building & relation with economy. He quoted there should be minimum environmental damage while extracting from nature “stone might be local but excessive mining can be harmful”. It is important to have availability of local expertise with possibility of local employment. He also explained building materials depends on certain parameters catering to durability & longevity of materials, response of materials to climate and ability to reuse with minimum processing. 

Technical Session 3
In the afternoon, Aushutosh Gupta, Senior Project Manager, Environmental design gave a presentation on a building Environmental Design Solutions, EDS and quoted not even a single city in India qualify cities worth living.Also he focused on the following principles to be applied concerning to sustainable affordable housing. Such as Passive solar design, active strategies, efficient equipments, behavioral adoption & renewable energy it’s important to emphasis on passive design and efficient appliances for a average house hold in affordable housing. 

Technical Session 4
Mr. Sandeep Sharma, Chief Town Planner, Himachal Pradesh, insisted on working on fundamentals of housing provision. Affordable housing being a social infrastructure should be built for need and not for the sole purpose of revenue generation. It is because of the commercial intent, housing schemes generally produce stock that lies vacant for years. Even today, there are about 1 million units lying vacant in the country. Reason is their non-conduciveness to the well being of the inhabitants. Mr. Sharma pointed that current urban planning practice has put regional planning in the backseat. Ignorance of socio-economic and spatial dynamics in rural areas only leads to uncertainty and issues in urban areas. Comprehensive regional planning shall ensure reduction of such issues. 

Conclusion
Dr. D.S. Meshram President Emeritus, ITPI summarized the raised concerns by key speakers over the provision of housing for the weaker sections of the society and that “it is our (planners’) duty to mandate how our schemes and policies capture the requisites in a sustainable manner.”