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Monday February 26, 2024

Pakistan on road to join nations with low-income housing projects

March 12, 2020

LAHORE: Following inauguration of seven housing projects, envisaging construction of 20,000 housing units at the cost of Rs100 billion by Prime Minister Imran Khan Wednesday, Pakistan is due to enter the club of nations that provide affordable residential facilities to their citizens who do not own a house of their own.

Research conducted by the "Jang Group and Geo Television Network" in this context shows that the concept of social housing had existed even during the sixteenth century in places like Bavaria (Germany). And this was prior to modern developments.

However, the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century had paved way for modern municipal housing with the rapid growth in urban population.

India, according to a September 14, 2019 report of the "Reuters", had announced it would provide Indian Rs100 billion, equivalent to US $1.41 billion at that time, to boost affordable and middle income housing. Quoting Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the "Reuters" had reported: "The government will make funding available for housing projects that are not in a bankruptcy process or classified as non-performing assets, Sitharaman said during a press conference in New Delhi. She said the government would also relax external commercial borrowing guidelines for projects in the country’s affordable housing scheme."

The Malaysian government under former Premier Dr Mahathir had announced in May 2019 that it was aiming to build up to 100,000 affordable homes by the end of the year.

A Malaysian newspaper "The Star" had reported: "According to the prime minister, it was one of the government's top priorities to ensure an efficient supply of affordable homes to take care of the people's well-being and upward social mobility. He said the government wanted to help the lower income group by providing them comfortable living space in a suitable location, so that they could pursue employment and economic opportunities."

According to Dr Mahathir, the 100,000 affordable homes targeted during 2019 were in line with his government's manifesto of constructing one million affordable homes within the next decade.

In United Kingdom, the concept of social housing refers to low cost rented housing and low cost home ownership for people who may not be able to access the private market.

It includes council housing and homes provided by housing associations. In this piece we'll be focusing on rented accommodation available in the social housing sector. Research shows over four million homes were rented from councils or housing associations in 2017.

Of these, 1.6 million were council homes and 2.4 million were from housing associations. This is what the "Fullfact.org", which claims to be England's independent fact checking charity, had posted on its website: "The amount of social housing for rent fell from the peak of around five million in the early 1980s to just under four million in the mid-2000s, but it has been slowly rising since.

This has mainly been driven by an increase in housing association homes. The proportion of all social housing provided by councils has generally been falling since the 1980s. Around 5,000 new homes were built for social rent in England in 2017/18, and another 1,000 or so were bought or converted. There were another 24,000 newly-built homes for affordable rent and around 2,000 bought or converted."

British media archives reveal that by the end of the 1970s, 42 per cent of United Kingdom's population lived in social housing, while today, just under 8 per cent rent from the state. A media report had suggested that a substantial part of the UK population still lives in council housing.

It had stated that in 2010, about 17 per cent of UK households were council houses actually, adding that approximately 55 per cent of the country's social housing stock was owned by local authorities.

In Brazil, a social housing programme was launched in March 2009 with a budget of US $18 billion to build one million homes. As of September 2018, some 4.5 million homes were built and distributed to the population, though the project has been criticized for its placement and quality of the houses.

(Reference: The Bloomberg News edition of July 30, 2009) Talking about Canada, during 2014, Vancouver had changed the definition of social housing to mean rental housing in which a minimum of 30 per cent of dwelling units were occupied by households that could not pay market rents, due to lack of income.

(Reference: March 18, 2015 edition of "Georgia Straight", a Canadian media house) In Hong Kong, public housing is one of the major housing policies of the government. Nearly half of Hong Kong's 3.3 million population lives in public housing.

The government provides public housing through flats which are rented at a lower price than the market rate, and through the Home Ownership Scheme, are sold at a lower price. These homes are built and administered by the Hong Kong Housing Authority and the Hong Kong Housing Society.

(Reference/Source: The Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department)

In Singapore, during 2018, about 78.7 per cent of country's residents were living in public residential developments, ranging from studio units to executive condominiums, a major factor in Singapore having one of the highest home-ownership rates - over 90 per cent of the resident population - in the world.

(Reference: The government of Singapore)

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan talks a lot about Scandiavian countries and their public welfare models.

So, let us analyse the public housing situation in Denmark. Denmark has a total housing stock of 2.5 million housing units. About 19 per cent of housing units belong to social housing associations, and about 1 per cent belong to public authorities.

Some 51 per cent of the total Danish housing stock is owner-occupied, 45 per cent are rented dwellings and in 4 per cent of the stock, there are no occupiers registered. About 43 per cent of all rented dwellings belong to social housing associations.

Although the buildings in Denmark are owned and administered by self-governing and economically independent organisations, the government strongly regulates the public housing in the country.

By law, the municipalities have access to 25 per cent of the rentals, usually reserving them for the poor, the unemployed, the disabled or mentally ill or any other group dependent on social benefits from the municipality.

Over the years, these regulations have created many 'especially vulnerable residential areas' – so called "ghettos" - within the country.

The Danish public housing has never had any income restrictions, but in recent years, new state regulations have made it mandatory for several of them to favor fully employed renters and disfavor unemployed or part-time employed people.

Many of the public housing organizations in Denmark are rooted in the early history of the labour unions and currently form about 20 per cent of the total housing stock with about 7,500 departments countrywide. A membership of a housing organisation is usually required to obtain a rental and they are granted with regard to length of membership.

(Reference: The weekly "Copenhagen Urban Life")

According to the latest 2018 data, almost 10 per cent of Hungarian capital Budapest’s publicly owned real estate was uninhabited.

The total number of unused flats owned by Budapest’s municipalities is 3,909, almost double than what it was in 2011.

In Hungary, from 1959 to 1990, over 788,000 panel flats were built. About two million people, about one fifth of the country's total population, live in these flats. The Hungarian government and local municipalities had actually launched a renovation programme during the 2000s, whereby they had insulated these buildings, replaced the old doors and windows with multi-layer thermo glass, renewed the heating system and colored the buildings in a more pleasant way.

(Reference: The "Hungary Today")

In Australia, public housing is provided by state departments, with funding dished out by both the state and federal government.

According to British newspaper "The Guardian", Australia has lost 20,000 public housing units in a decade. The decline has been offset by a 55,470 increase in homes run by non-profit providers, but experts have warned these have less lease security.

A July 17, 2019 report of this newspaper had stated: "Although overall social housing, which includes government and non-profit run stock, increased by about 27,401 - or about 6% - over the 10 years to 2017-18, the study found the increase had "not kept pace with the growth in households. There were 140,600 applicants on the waiting list for public housing in Australia in June 2018, down from 154,600 in June 2014. But 45,800 were considered in "greatest need" because they were homeless, their safety was at risk or they had very high rental costs. That was an increase of 2,600 among the most vulnerable. About 4,100 - or a quarter - of all new "greatest need" tenants had been waiting longer than 12 months for a home."

In Romania, during 2012, over 2.7 million flats had dated from the Communist period, accounting for 37 per cent of total housing in the country and for about 70 per cent in cities and towns. Subsequent to post-Communist privatisation, the homeownership rate in this form of housing had reached of 99.9 per cent.

(Reference: The National Institute of Statistics in Bucharest)

In Belgium, social housing accounts for approximately 6.5 per cent of the total Belgian housing market. This is much lower than neighbouring countries such as the Netherlands and France.

As of 2018, capital Brussels and a few other cities were responsible for 280.687 social houses, and 212.794 people were on the waiting list.

(Reference: The Federal Government of Belgium's December 2018 estimates)

Indonesia has undertaken its "One Million Houses programme" for low-income people.

The programme has been underway since 2015 to achieve an ambitious target of building 10 million houses.

The proportion of the housing is 70 per cent for low-income people and 30 per cent for non-low-income people. This programme is a joint movement between the central government, regional governments, real estate developers and the community. The program is targeted to reach one million housing units annually.

By 2015, about 700,000 homes were built, increasing to approximately 800,000 in 2016 and around 904,000 by the end of 2017.

(Reference: The Jakarta Post and other Indonesian media outlets)