The middle-income group of people living in Bangladesh capital Dhaka cannot afford any house of their own and are compelled to live their lives in rented houses although some keep dreaming of owning homes as housing is one of the three primary needs and is as equally important as food and clothing.
Residents said that the prices of apartment houses were very high and were not in commensurate with their earnings. Especially, the middle-income groups of people, in absence of long-term home loan facility at a low interest rate, are discouraged to even dream of houses of their own.
Urban planners are of the opinion that the government was indifferent about the basic housing facilities for the majority of the population.
Instead of creating affordable and decent housing for all, different government agencies have started housing businesses targeting people who would be able to pay exorbitant prices to own flats in and around this mega city.
Housing and public works minister SM Rezaul Karim denied the allegation while talking to New Age. He said, ‘The government has taken a number of housing projects for middle- and low-income groups of people especially at Uttara and Purbachal.’
‘Within one crore taka with long-term loan facility, people can buy affordable home from the government,’ he said while he also mentioned that there were projects for middle-income and low-income groups of people.
Realtors said that due to high price of land and construct materials the price of flats went beyond the ability of the middle-income group.
They also said that as housing was one of the basic needs, the government agencies should be involved with realtors to find a way out of the current situation, only then would the middle-income groups living in cities, especially in Dhaka, be able to afford houses of their own.
Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh president and also Shamsul Alamin Real Estate Limited’s managing director Alamgir Shamsul Alamin Kajal said that government agencies, including the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha, the City Corporation, the National Housing Authority, in collaboration with realtors, could create housing projects for the middle-income groups of people after ensuring long-term loan at easier conditions.
‘I request the National Housing Authority to join hands with my members with the aim of developing collaborative products. Jointly produced housing can be affordable,’ he pointed out.
Seventy-year-old Abdul Karim, father of two sons, said that he spent his whole service life in Dhaka in rented houses at different areas of the capital, but could not afford to buy a house for his own for price has always been beyond his means.
Living at Ghatail in Tangail at present, Karim said that he had spent half of his wage on house rent and rest for other purposes, including education of his sons and daily expenditures.
He said that he had a dream for owning a house in Dhaka, but the dream remained unmet for the high price and the absence of opportunity of taking out a loan from the bank.
Not only Karim, 90 per cent of the two crore residents in Dhaka were facing the same reality – they spent their lives in rented houses and the situation continued, according to a study.
Kajal said that at present the country needed roughly 20 lakh apartment flats for people, most of whom were middle-income people who needed affordable flats within Tk 30 to 50 lakh range. ‘But we cannot ensure flats for them within the price for the high price of land,’ he added.
REHAB 1st vice-president Liakat Ali Bhuiyan told New Age that the banks on average grant loans for six years but it should be increased to at least 20 years duration.
He said that for most of the middle-income people there should be facilities for taking out bank loans for the payment they made as rents for the houses they chose to live in equalled the amount they would have to pay as instalment against the loans.
He also urged the government to reduce the rate of home loan interest and registration fee which now stood at 15 per cent of the price.
Sociologists said that housing provides shelter, safety and a sense of belongingness to the city. It also provides privacy, promoted health and comfort and provided a basis for employment and income generation.
Urban planners said that housing affordability was related to housing cost and income.
Bangladesh Institute of Planners president-elect Akter Mahmud said that realtors mainly targeted housing for high-income and partially upper-middle-income groups of people and middle- and lower-income groups of people remained out of their foci though majority of the city people belong the latter groups.
He also clarified that these groups come to city aiming to earn a living and have always been deprived of their basic right to housing.
Basic housing facilities of a city never means house ownership, rather it meant decent housing in an affordable price or rent, although cultural heritage of the society was such that most people develop a desire to own houses, he said.
He also added that government agencies should facilitate decent housing for all at a range not exceeding 30 per cent of their monthly income.
He asked the realtors to ensure different sizes and prices of apartment houses catering to their immediate needs.
‘Student housing, studio housing, rental housing, social housing may become the solution of the current housing crisis in this overcrowded city,’ he added.
BIP general secretary, also professor of Jahangirnagar University urban planning, Adil Mohammad Khan, said that affordable housing in a city was the basic right of every citizen but not the ownership.
He criticised the government’s involvement in plot projects and asked the agencies to promote flat projects after assessing target people with a perfect business model.
He emphasised that there should be decent and affordable housing for all even if government facilitated renting rather than owning.
The middle-income people said that house rent in the capital was skyrocketing every year and they hardly could manage maintain decent houses with the current level of income.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh in a study unveiled in January that house rent was increased by 400 per cent in last 25 years.
The study said that a two-room house rent was Tk 2,942 in 1990, which increased to Tk 18,150 in 2015.
CAB president and also former chairman of Anti-Corruption Commission Ghulam Rahman said that due to imbalanced competition, people were paying higher than usual for house rent.
He demanded that the government should amend the present house rent control act as the act was only cumbersome.
Bablu Kumar Saha, director general of the Directorate of National Consumers’ Right Protection, said that tenants were not interested to file complaints with them when they were faced with a huge limitation in resolving disputes on house rents.
He said that they demanded an amendment of the existing Consumer Rights Protect Act 2009 which would incorporate some new issues, including house rent.
He said that they could not take any actions against the house owners as tenants failed to prove their claims based on valid documents.
National housing Authority initiated a number of housing projects for low-income people in different areas in the capital but none of them were implemented.
City people said that the NHA’s housing project creates house buying scopes for people who have houses already as they treat their housing projects as pure business.
National Housing Authority chairman Md Rashidul Islam was asked about it but he declined to make any comments.
Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha also took a number of housing projects targeting the middle-income people but the projects could hardly accommodate middle-income groups for the prices of the flats were unexpectedly high.
Urban planners said that government agencies should not sell flats or plots to ones who have already own houses in the city to create the opportunities for the rest.
Akter Mahmud said that government agencies should first assess the needs of the middle-income people and should build appropriate sizes of flats from the target groups and sell them on service basis.
‘It should neither be profitable nor compensative and if the facility for long-term bank loan is not there, a proper business model cannot be created,’ he observed.
He said that government should not take it up as a business, neither should it facilitate businessmen in this sector.
During visits to REHAB winter fair which started on December 24 at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, New Age found that the private realtors mostly developed high-cost housing projects.
Realtors said that they built flats considering market demands as they had always been driven by the demands of the customers first.
Housing is one of the severe crises in the rapidly growing South Asian megacity Dhaka, where 1.7 crore people now lived.
Urban experts said that 35 per cent of the population of this most unlivable city were living in slums and informal settlements. This needs to be addressed immediately.
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