On November 21 and 22, IHS staff and alumni participated in the Affordable Housing, Liveable Cities Conference held in Mumbai, India as organized by the My Liveable City magazine. As a knowledge partner, IHS staff Alexander Jachnow and Ellen Geurts made inputs in the Masterclasses on ‘Land and Infrastructure Issues for Affordable Cities’ and in ‘Innovations in Finance for Affordable Housing’, with Banashree Banarjee moderating the session on Land and Infrastructure. IHS alumni presence included a presentation by Andrea Fitrianto in the Masterclass on Community-led Developments for Affordable Housing. Five other alumni participated in the conference: Bhami Vora, Hardik Mavadia (ICHUD), Meera Malegaonkar (UMD) from Mumbai, Prathima Sudhakaramurthy (ICHUD/UMD) from Bangalore and Prachi Jha (UMD) from Delhi.
On day 1 of the conference, Alexander Jachnow made an input in a panel which raised the issue of ‘Building Quality while tackling the numbers – the role of the private sector in Affordable Housing’. There was a strong presence of financing institutions on affordable housing as well as the housing finance regulators in India. The vice-mayor of Rotterdam shared the experience of affordable housing in the Netherlands and its contribution to liveable cities.
Alexander got the audience thinking by twisting the conference title to Liveable Housing, Affordable Cities and what this means. Segregation, fragmentation are real threats to cities and he warned how current affordable housing interventions in India may well exacerbate this. And how a different take on land markets and the role that is left to the private sector needs a rethink. Ellen raised the notion of institutional rental housing as model to tie affordability to liveability, in a conference where there was a heavy prominence of access to mortgage finance for home-ownership as the dominant solution to affordable housing. However, as the Netherlands and South African shown developing a viable institutional rental housing does start to provide at least a potential answer to the concerns raised of the affordability of homeownership over time – which are at risk of becoming vertical slums at present. In the concluding masterclass of the day on Community-Led Developments for Affordable Housing and Cities, the aim was to unpack several myths around affordable housing which show the difficulty of understanding the beneficiaries of affordable housing. Andre shared his experience of the work of Architects sans Frontieres (ASF) in Indonesia. One of the experiences with community building includes building with bamboo as a more sustainable building method.
Overall, the conference led to interesting discussions. The topic of mortgage finance and to a lesser extent developer’s finance was discussed at large on day 1 and the first masterclass of day 2. There is a clearly strong call from private sector for government to focus their affordable housing efforts on making housing finance available to end-users as well as the supply-side of the market. Some specialized financing organisations (such as Vastu) actually serve also Low-Income (LI) and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of the population with tailored lending programmes to reach down-market. From the second masterclass onwards the focus shifted from understanding the issue of affordable cities and how housing connects to access to infrastructure, access to employment, services and the interrelations between the quality of neighbourhoods and cities to housing and vice versa. The third masterclass of the day showed innovations in housing design, ranging from building technologies, building material innovations to how an understanding of traditional communal housing informs new models of affordable housing that give room for communal living and increased social space. The last masterclass of the day included presentations from 3 NGOs or movements that work directly with poor communities, working on both housing and infrastructure projects.
The buzzword that we heard repeatedly throughout the days was “Aspirations”. The aspirations of households, communities, government, architects, financiers… There is no lack of aspirations for those involved in housing in India.
About the author:
Ellen Geurts is a housing specialist who has worked as consultant, lecturer, trainer and researcher since 2005. At IHS she lectures in the Urban Housing , Equity and Social Justice specialization on topics such as finance, policy and public housing issues. She lectures in several short courses of IHS and coordinates the short course on Developing Social Housing Projects (DSHP) and the International Course on Housing and Development (ICHUD). She is the project manager for a number of international urban management projects of international clients at IHS.