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August 3, 2019

Roof of one’s own

Editorial

 
August 3, 2019

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s much-touted housing scheme which aims to build five million houses on five years has gone into motion. President Arif Alvi has promulgated three ordinances to be placed before the National Assembly to turn the vision of housing into reality. The Naya Pakistan Housing Authority is to be set up along with a new authority for federal government employees while the third ordinance permits foreclosure for banks in case of a failure to pay back loans. Banks have been reluctant to extend credit without supervision. There has also been criticism from the opposition for failing to place a bill on the housing authority in parliament.

Housing is of course an extremely urgent need in the country. While reliable statistics are not easy to obtain given seasonal variations, it is estimated that especially in larger cities the number of people who sleep throughout the year without a roof over their heads is increasing. It is also a fact that up to 50 percent of people in cities such as Karachi lives in slums or makeshift shelters without proper sanitation or basic amenities. The lack of focus on housing needs over the decades has led to this situation. Under the laws now in place the NPHA will be able to directly acquire land at selected sites to set up housing schemes and will not need to go through the CDA, the LDA or other municipal authorities. We hope the scheme will succeed in providing much needed housing to the millions who live without it. The housing that exists is also inadequate according to internationally set standards. Given these realities, if five million houses can indeed be put up in the next five years it would serve many families immensely.

But we should also be looking at the matter with some caution. US-based economist Atif Mian has in a detailed interview suggested possible pitfalls that should be guarded against. He warned that the availability of more credit for building will lead to more imports into Pakistan, further damaging the imbalance of trade the country already faces. Pakistan badly needs to increase its exports if it is to stabilize its economy. We are certain the housing ministry and the planners of the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme will have familiarized themselves with these problems and worked out solutions. Their success in this would be the delivery of housing to a very large number of people, who are all hoping the scheme proves to be a success.

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