5 institutional models for successful housing options in Asia
The number of innovative and successful interventions to address housing issues in the Asia Pacific is encouraging – but these efforts must be galvanised, as the Asia and the Pacific is still home to 505.5 million slum-dwellers.
More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas and Asia Pacific is home to about 1.76 billion (UN 2010) of these urban dwellers. Rural migrants contribute to an increasing proportion and absence of adequate housing has led to these migrants choosing the informal housing market, often manifested as slums. Slums, one of the most rampant responses to housing shortage currently account for about 30 per cent of the total urban population in Asia and the Pacific, which is about 505 million (UN-Habitat).
The high incidence of slums in the Asia-Pacific region poses a daunting challenge to urban planners attempting to deliver proper housing to millions of urban poor. Asian countries have attempted to address the housing problem through five main institutional models.
- Public housing
- Public private partnership
- Private sector housing delivery
- Rental housing
- Civil society
1. Public housing
Singapore, the Republic of Korea, and Hong Kong, China, have implemented public housing projects as part of government housing policies and their vigorous pursuit of slum-free cities. In Singapore, for example, such efforts have resulted in a private/public housing ratio of about 20 to 80.
In 1970s the Republic of Korea government promoted and provided new housing in order to counter the upward pressure on prices caused by short supply. This led to the development of apartments within tenements blocks that now account for 53 per cent of the housing stock in the country.
2. Public-private partnerships
Several Asian cities have established partnerships with private developers to stimulate affordable housing construction for the poor. In most cases, commercial development rights on plots were granted to private sector enterprises that would in return build affordable housing on a specified percentage of the total land under development. Examples include:
- Ashraya Nidhi (‘shelter fund’) programme in Madhya Pradesh, India
- Revitalization of the rivers Fu and Nan in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
- Private developers build a minimum of three middle-class houses and six basic or very basic ones for every high-cost house, National Housing Policy, Indonesia
- Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) in Mumbai
Land sharing has emerged as a successful alternative to compulsory acquisition. Under land sharing arrangement, the landowner (public or private) and the occupiers (squatters) reach an agreement whereby the landowners retain the economically more attractive parts of the land parcel and the dwellers are allowed to build houses on the other part, usually with full tenure rights. The slums dwellers benefit by getting security of tenure and proper housing while the private landowners gets waiver on development controls allowing for intensive exploitation of commercial part of land.
4. Private sector housing delivery
Many Asian governments have “enabled” the private sector to provide housing for the low earning segments of the population. However, formal private sector housing tends to favour the rich while disregarding the poor. This problem is partly caused by the relatively finite and therefore ‘inelastic’ supply of serviced land, which makes it difficult for real-estate developers to meet demand and causes an overall rise in property prices.
4. Rental housing
The overall share of rentals in Asian cities is estimated at between 20-30 per cent of the housing market. Although a significant proportion of urban dwellers are tenants, the number of governments giving effective support to rental housing development is small. When privately owned, the bulk of rental housing accommodates low-income households through informal, flexible lease arrangements, which entail lower rents but weaker security of tenure and probably lower quality public amenities.
Some cities, like Bangkok, have seen innovative rental housing where low-income communities have evolved practical arrangements with landowners to enable them to live within reasonable distance from their place of work. Under this scheme the poor look out for owners who keep land plots vacant as they wait for these further to gain in value before developing them. The poor offer the landowners rent for lease. Landowners find this arrangement works well as a defence against third party invasion.
5. Civil society
Asia has pioneered the people-led process of housing provision as spearheaded by dedicated civil society groups. It is a testament to the fact that while the private sector is able to meet the housing requirements of the rich, the ‘people sector’ has been able to cater to the poor. As seen in Thailand, when government and civil society come together, a large number of people can improve their own living conditions.
Civil society has promoted community-led housing development in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
This blog is based on studies undertaken by the author with reference to publications from United Nations and other multilateral agencies. The photo, also, is taken by the author.