Home Insights Is PMAY-U with Global Housing Technology Challenge (GHTC) a game-changer?

Is PMAY-U with Global Housing Technology Challenge (GHTC) a game-changer?

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Arjun Kumar

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)-Housing for All (Urban) Mission (PMAY-U), was launched by the Government of India in June 2015 with a mission to provide Housing for All by 2022. The Mission seeks to address the housing requirements of all sections of urban poor including homeless population and slum dwellers through four programme vertical such as: (i) In-situ Slum Redevelopment (ISSR); (ii) Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme(CLSS); (iii) Affordable Housing in Partnership (AHP); and (iv) Beneficiary-led Construction or enhancement (BLC). Prior to PMAY-U, Rajiv Awaas Yojana (RAY), the national flagship program for urban housing focussed on slum free India by 2022. The recent push has also been to ease the affordability dimension in urban housing for poor and middle-income households.

Progress and initiatives

The monitoring of progress report from mission directorate of PMAY- U provides information across program verticals for analysis. As of January, 2021[1], around 109 lakh houses have been sanctioned, out of which about 40 lakhs have been completed and 70 lakhs have been grounded. Across verticals, the houses sanctioned under ISSR, BLC, AHP and CLSS are 4.6, 67, 24, 13 lakhs respectively. The total investment (as on Jan 2021) in projects stands at around Rs. 6.78 lakh crore, out of which the central assistance sanctioned is around Rs. 1.7 lakh crore.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has also taken several measures for housing industry under GST (the effective rate being 8%, which might be brought down to 5% slab), Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA), draft revised National Housing and Habitat Policy, dedicated Affordable Housing Fund for financing the mission, geo-tagging, discussions of utilising vacant government lands and buildings for housing the urban poor, etc., launched the Global Housing Technology Challenge (GHTC), Housing for All Knowledge Lab, Draft Model Tenancy Act 2019, PMAY Urban Gurukul – Knowledge Lab, Compilation of Success Stories and Best Practices, etc.

Assessment and Appraisal

The study on “assessing the benefits and costs of the program verticals of PMAY- U on the Cost Benefit Analysis” suggested an urgent need for implementing agencies to address the issue of slow progress in slum redevelopment programme, wherein the benefits per rupee of investment are much higher than the other two CSS verticals under PMAY[2].

Further it noted that the goal for the government is not just meeting the overall target of housing shortage but also to ensure that the programmes under ISSR and AHP are streamlined, and that the bottlenecks at ground level must be resolved urgently. Therefore ISSR must have the top priority in the Mission, because of the enormity of the benefits accruing to the society under this, vis-à-vis BLC and AHP.

In another study[3] providing empirical evidence in the context of alternative perspectives, based on an evaluation of three verticals viz. BLC, AHP. Although the total target of the housing shortage has been brought down, apparently based on demand survey, the progress towards achieving the revised target has, at best, been sturdy. It is also interesting that the importance given to the four verticals deigned under the mission has undergone changes in the process of implementation.

The progress under ISSR has been extremely low, which was supposed to meet about 90% of the housing shortages. BLC has made significant progress because the public institutions have found it easier to deal with households with access to land in providing housing assistance. The progress towards AHP, too, has not been satisfactory because of the low level of participation of private sector and their reluctance to adhere to various stipulations, as envisaged under PMAY U. Despite the Mission acknowledging the need for a sharp focus on slums, the progress under ISSR vertical has so far been abysmally low.

Expectation and Aspirations- An Appraisal

The Mission notes that at the slum decadal growth rate of 34%, the slum households are projected to go up to 18 million. Additionally, 2 million non-slum urban poor households are proposed to be covered under the Mission. Hence, total housing shortage envisaged to be addressed through PMAY-U is 20 million. With only about 4.6 lakh houses sanctioned so far, the ISSR vertical has clearly not kicked off at a pace that was expected. This has been attributed to the problems related to legislative and administrative difficulties in providing land title to slum dwellers, private sector participation, civil society involvement, the absence of agencies coordination dealing with land and such projects at city and state levels, etc.

Under the scheme, the proposed central assistance per house are highest for CLSS (up to Rs. 2.67 lakh), followed by BLC (Rs. 1.5 Lakh), AHP (Rs. 1.5 Lakh), and lowest for ISSR (Rs. 1 lakh). However in realty the proposed assistance may be inadequate for urban areas as the cost of the construction is much higher. This reiterates the need for a precise planning through precision in calculations based on the real housing market scenario.

Further the modifications in the CLSS by raising the income limits for eligibility of loans, increasing the amount of subsidised loans, relaxing the built-up area norms, and importantly, inclusion of the middle-income group, have diluted its core agenda of being “pro-poor.”

While this would boost the housing market, there is a risk that subsidies will be cornered by real estate developers, private builders, and the urban middle class, hence diluting the agenda of providing houses to the lower income groups, homeless, slum dwellers, and distress migrants to access shelter and live in the cities. With state and local agencies, along with formal private agencies being assigned a greater role to play, the individual self-help model becomes less significant in scope. This needs urgent policy attention and rectification, else PMAY-U would run the risk of catering to the interests of the real estate and builders’ lobby as well as the interests of the urban middle class.[4]

While the upsurge in house construction activities is welcome, it would be important to monitor the composition of the verticals. The concerned authorities at the central and state levels must take immediate steps in upscaling the interventions with regard to slum redevelopment. The legislative and bureaucratic hurdles in the slum redevelopment projects must be scrutinized and appropriate steps must be taken to overcome them.  In fact the projects under the ISSR vertical must be proactively facilitated and the subsidy amount must be increased, which at present remains abysmally low.

Overall, the houses sanctioned (109 lakh out of target 120 lakh) during 2015-2020 (till Jan 2021) demonstrates unprecedented exponential growth as well as compounded development as per the planning of phase wise implementation of the Mission, harnessing commitment to scale and use of the cutting-edge technology. This pace and scale would be one of the best examples in the world in terms of any large public welfare program, especially in providing social housing.

The complex and challenging issues pertaining to redevelopment of slums and unplanned settlements, e.g. land, community mobilization, private sector participation, gestation period, project finances, and identification of beneficiaries require thrust from all the stakeholders and resolved. For this, the active role of state government and urban local bodies as well as communities remains paramount, whereby, they are open to learning from the global and national best practices and taking lessons from unsuccessful  experiences.

Global Housing Technology Challenge (GHTC)

In the latest move by Government of India to make the construction of houses cost-effective and innovative, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs launched the Global Housing Technology Challenge (GHTC). The aim of the initiative — under the PMAY-U — is to fast-track the construction of affordable housing and meet the target of constructing 1.2 crore houses by 2022.

The Centre will offer about ₹150 crore as a technology innovation grant to build 6,000 homes – cheaper, faster and better — using alternative technologies and materials under this scheme. GHTC intends to get the best of globally available innovative construction technologies through a challenge process to meet the unmet demand for housing sector. It seeks to demonstrate and deliver ready to live-in houses in a shorter time, with lower cost and quality construction in a sustainable manner. It also seeks to promote future technologies, to foster an environment of research and development in the country.

GHTC is expected to bring changes in perception and process of the construction. The challenge has three components viz. i) Conduct of Grand Expo-cum-Conference, ii) Identifying Proven Demonstrable Technologies from across the world and iii) Promoting Potential Technologies through setting up incubation centres at selected IITs and organizing accelerator workshops under the Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators- India (ASHA-India) Program.

The Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC), which is the nodal agency for the technology sub-mission (TSM), has been assigned as the technical partner of MoHUA in implementing GHTC. MoHUA has also partnered with the World Resources Institute (WRI), India and National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO) to serve as knowledge partners to collaborate, advice, support and facilitate conducting GHTC.

Light House projects (LHPs)

The GHTC has been launched  at six sites across six states by the government in January 2021.[5] These LHPs are expected to be made up of modern technology and innovative processes and reduce the construction time while ensuring more resilient, affordable and comfortable housing for the poor, suitable to the geo-climatic and hazard conditions of the region. The period of construction is maximum 12 months from the date of handing over of sites to the construction agency after all statutory approvals. Approvals will be accorded through a fast-track process by the concerned state Government.
These LHPs would serve as live Laboratories from technology transfers to field application, such as planning, design, production of components, construction practices, testing etc. for both faculty and students, builders, public and private sector professionals and other stakeholders involved in such construction.

LHP- Cities and technologies

The LHPs are being constructed at Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Rajkot (Gujarat), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Agartala (Tripura) and Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) with innovation in construction technology. For example, Indore will use the prefabricated Sandwich Panel system in place of brick and mortar walls, the houses in Rajkot will be built using French technology and have monolithic concrete construction technology using tunnel to withstand disasters. In Chennai, American and Finnish technologies of precast concrete system will be used to construct houses at faster and cheaper rates.

Houses in Ranchi will be built using the German 3D construction system where rooms would be separately made and then the entire structure will be added in the same way as Lego blocks toys. In Agartala light houses will be built with steel frames using New Zealand’s technology that can withstand major earthquake risk. Canadian technology of using already prepared entire walls to build houses faster will be used in Lucknow. Each LHP comprise about 1000 houses at each location along with allied infrastructure facilities. These projects will demonstrate and deliver ready to live houses at an expedited pace and will be of a higher quality, more economical, sustainable, and durable, as compared to conventional brick and mortar construction.

Conclusion

The PMAY-U has adopted a decentralised system of financing along with the development and construction of the housing. However, due to a gap between aspirations of the people and state’s capabilities, the achievement by the mission has been slower and somewhat sluggish. Ownership of land is a prerequisite for BLC and CLSS, and most of the urban slum households do not own land. Further, the absence of certain security documents with the people who want to avail the benefits under these options has been a discouragement and therefore, these schemes are unable to help the target beneficiaries as per programme objective.

It also may be noted that extension of CLSS till 31st March 2021 has opened up benefits for MIG categories and as per latest recent developments, the government has announced the conversion of government-funded housing in urban areas into Affordable Rental Housing Complexes. This would be implemented in accordance with the public-private partnership model. Therefore with above achievements and concerns, the overall outlook on the scheme is still inclined to be optimistic.

The government has showcased seriousness in achieving overall targets for housing shortage owing to human, social, economic and political considerations. The total benefit accruing to the country attributable to PMAY-U would, however, depend not just on the total number of units constructed but on the nature of the verticals through which this is achieved. Considering the incorporation of the new initiatives like GHTC in the PMAY-U, the Mission is poised to bring about a disruption in the way social housing projects are construed. In essence, this holds immense potential to be a game changer, with the caveat of no compromise in the efficiency in implementation of planned project design. 

The construction and housing sector has huge potential to change and fuel the economic growth in the country along with fulfilling people’s aspirations of owning a house. The Integration of digital technologies and innovation that are expected from LHPs or similar initiatives may lead to the disruptive transformation in the country making it a land of immense opportunities.

India is the sixth largest economy in the world, poised to become a $5 trillion economy by 2025 and aspiring to be a $10 trillion economy by 2030[6]. As per the 2011 census, 31% of India’s population live in urban areas. This number is expected to rise drastically and cross 50% by 2050, as a result of growing aspirations and opportunities in urban areas. This scale of growth will increase the demand for basic services and housing in cities exponentially.

References


[1] PMAY – Urban National Progress MIS Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

[2] Assessing the benefits and costs of the program verticals of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (urban) by Prof. Amitabh Kundu and Dr. Arjun Kumar 37 April-May 2020 Volume 21 No. 1-SHELTER 37, HUDCO Publication

[3] Kundu, Amitabh & Arjun Kumar (2018 a), Cost-benefit analysis of housing vertical interventions for urban poor in large cities of Rajasthan, Rajasthan Priorities, An India Consensus Prioritization Project, Copenhagen Consensus Center (https://www.copenhagenconsensus. com/sites/default/files/raj_social_ housing_formatted_sm.pdf).

[4] Housing for the Urban Poor? Changes in Credit-linked Subsidy by Amitabh Kundu, Arjun Kumar, Economic & Political Weekly, EPW DECEMBER 30, 2017 vol lII no 52 105

[5] Press Information Bureau press release PM lays foundation stone of  Light House projects (LHPs) across six states

[6] ‘Challenging Conventions To Build A New India’ by Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog


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