MY VIEW: A 6-Point Approach to Urban Planning That Ensures Housing for All and Prevents Slum Growth


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Urban planner MS Raghavendra outlines a holistic approach to urban planning and development to ensure ‘housing for all.’

Phase I of the much-awaited Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) is currently underway. The scheme aims to build more than two crore houses across the country to reach its goal of ‘Housing for All by 2022.’

While the initiative is definitely noteworthy, we must ask ourselves whether simply replicating ‘shelter alone’ projects – as the scheme aims to do – is the right way forward. These projects mimic the slum experience where houses are built first, and other infrastructure and services are provided at a later date – if ever. Such initiatives rarely succeed.

Taking into account the experiences of different countries with urban planning and development, I have formulated a six-point plan. I call this the ‘PPP2 Approach’ as it includes the use of Urban Planning Levers, involves the Private Sector, adopts a Shelter Plus approach, requires the Participation of people and calls for Public disclosure of information as well as slum Prevention.

1. Adopt the Shelter Plus approach

Image for representation only. Source: Wikipedia

Embrace the Shelter Plus approach and ensure that affordable homes as well as their accompanying services and amenities are built together and on time.

Design is linked to sustainability and plays a crucial role in the Shelter Plus approach. Given that cement production consumes nearly one-quarter of the world’s energy resources, the case for green construction – as well as design and planning – gets more compelling every day.

Time is also an important factor. At a time when two-thirds of the construction components are assembled off-site, on-time delivery cannot continue to be an elusive dream.

2. Deploy Urban Planning Levers to Unlock Land

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Image Source: Pixabay

Studies suggest that India needs 4,000 square kilometres of urban land to house its growing urban population. One way to do this efficiently would be to deploy urban planning lever to unlock land and reduce costs. We must look at aggregating undeveloped land and mandating inclusionary zoning to earmark land in cities to house the poor. It is also important that we begin to utilise idle land. In China, no piece of land is left idle for longer than two years.

3. Planning and Participation

Image for representation only. Source: Wikipedia

Planning goes a long way in ensuring that the shelter needs of all are met.

Cities like Barcelona and New York are products of great planning. They have both adopted a 50:50 ratio of open to built area and have greatly improved liveability.

It is also prudent to plan and provide for multiple mobility options to and from the areas of residence. For instance, in Caracas and Medellin, elevated metro cable lines connect slums with metro stations. Hong Kong too has strategically developed housing along rail lines.

Communities should also be involved in decision-making. Whether it is the design of the project or its location, participation of the people is intrinsically linked to the success of the project.

4. Public Disclosure to improve user buy-in

Image Source: Flickr

Participation and support of the people can be won by ensuring public disclosure of facts. Ushering in transparency in all dealings will be fruitful, as proven in the case of the out-of-slum movement in Surat, where shelter allotment was conducted through an open lottery.

It is also a good idea to allow people to exchange vouchers so that they can swap their houses for those nearer to their place of work.

5. Involve the Private Sector

Bulding house building construction workers

Image for representation only. Source: Public Domain Image

A common and often unavoidable problem of affordable housing is the poor quality of construction. This can be combated by encouraging participation of the private sector to ensure quality construction at affordable prices. Developers and builders in the private sector can also be encouraged to reconstitute unsold houses to meet the housing needs of the poor.

6. Prevention is better than cure

Image for representation only. Source: Wikipedia

Slum prevention can prove to be challenging but I am confident that communication is solving this problem. It is also crucial to direct newcomers in the city to mainstream shelters, rental housing or small plots with services.

Mixed-income development has also proven to aid in slum prevention. However, since the affluent are not comfortable living in the same buildings as the poor, we must work towards bringing in a change in mindset for a more harmonious and egalitarian future.

Through these six-steps, we can successfully move away from the ‘shelter alone’ approach, while continuing to work towards the goal of ‘housing for all.’

Featured image for representation only. Source: Wikipedia
About the author: MS Raghavendra is an urban planner who is currently teaching at the Administrative Staff College of India. His PhD at Cambridge University was funded by the Gates Cambridge Trust

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