A cross-section of people share their views with New Age staff correspondent Rashad Ahamad
Housing is treated as the basic and constitutional right of the people in Bangladesh. As a signatory of several national and international policy documents, Bangladesh upholds the right to proper housing and shelter for all.
In goal 11 of Sustainable Development Goals, Bangladesh has promised to achieve the target of sufficient, safe and affordable housing by 2030.
The present government has highlighted housing on the national goals of Vision 2021 that promises ‘housing for all’. Keeping all these commitments in mind, the government has revised and approved the ‘National Housing Policy 2017’ that affirms to address the housing problems and make the housing market accessible for all.
But despite too many promises, we have been falling considerably short of quality housing units across the country. In 1993, this shortage was 3.1 million; in 2000 it reached 5 million and today an amount of 8.5 million housing units are necessary in the country.
In the megacity of Dhaka about 35 per cent of people are living in the slums and informal settlements. Around 630,000 people per year (1700 per day) are added to the existing population of the city. Urban development authorities in the city are not able to cope with the growth of population. Hence gap between housing demand and supply is ever increasing for the Dhaka city.
Both formal and informal delivery system of housing exists in Dhaka, where the share of formal system is comparatively smaller. The government can meet only 7 per cent of the total housing demand, whereas the private sector contributes 93 per cent of housing in the city.
In the private housing segment, informal private housing constitutes 55 per cent and formal private housing supply is 45 per cent where majority of this housing is provided by real estate developers.
Hence the role of private real estate developers and land developers in the provisioning of housing in Dhaka city is increasing day by day. Private developer companies provide roughly 20,000 housing units annually in Dhaka city against a negligible amount contributed by the government.
Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha is the leading public sector land development agency in the city supplying lion share of serviced housing plots mainly targeting the higher income and upper middle income groups of people. It has developed some 13 townships/housing estate/site and services projects.
Reality is that these public housing projects do not effectively benefits the urban majority and the poor who remain out of consideration in most cases.
Current practice of providing serviced plots to the upper income group of society by the public agencies has not made big contribution as was expected. Public sector projects usually take long to develop and turn into liveable houses.
In most cases the allottees do not take initiative of immediate housing construction as they have place to live and they take it as a profit making venture.
Large scale projects of planned and serviced township development started in the 1990s, but are only partly completed and even the plots already allocated remain vacant.
Land preparation is slow and providing the infra-structure and utility services are yet to be completed in the projects like Uttara Phase 3 (2150 acres), Jhilmil (380 acres) and Purbachal (4500 acres).
RAJUK would have to modify the method of plot pricing and allotment to ensure that the plots are given to those who would develop them quickly as well as speeding up the implementation.
About 30 per cent of the low income people live in the slums. A large section of the people, especially lower middle income and low income, live in the fringe areas of the city where houses have been built with insufficient infrastructure, congested and insufficient public utilities and amenities.
None of the public or private sector initiatives contributed to low income housing improvement. Despite suggestions in housing policy or recommendations of several plans and reports, no credible measures have been taken by the public sector housing agencies to provide adequate housing for the urban poor.
Housing financing, at present, is limited only to higher and upper-middle income group.
According to the Census of Slum Areas and Floating Population 2014, there are a total of 13,938 slums in all city corporations, municipalities, Upazila headquarters and all other urban areas.
This compares to a total of 2,991 slums recorded in the Census of Slum Areas and Floating Population 1997 that covered all of the major cities and municipalities of the country.
Dhaka division contains 6,489 slums which is 46.5 per cent of total national number of slums around the country.
According to Census of Slum Areas and Floating Population - 2014, Dhaka North City Corporation areas have 1644 slums while South City Corporation areas 1755 slums — in total 3,399 slums in Dhaka city at present.
Besides, Gazipur city has 1286 slums in its municipality area whereas Narayanganj city has only 82 slums. A total of 4,767 slums are located at various parts of different city corporations in DMDP area.
Despite of commendable contribution to the national economy by garments factories, the RMG workers are living in a miserable environment.
Housing for RMG workers in Dhaka city has not been properly planned either by the government or factory owners. Thus, housing demand for the garment workers has put enormous pressure on existing housing stock of Dhaka city.
Due to this massive housing demand, various formal and informal housing delivery systems have developed for meeting this demand in Dhaka city.
Workers generally are found living in a single, dilapidated room; even four or five workers sometimes share one single room for cost minimisation in housing.
From many studies it is evident that people in the lower income areas pay more than the middle and upper middle income areas of Dhaka city in terms of per square feet.
To overcome the situation, I would suggest:
All the master plans of development authorities, 12 city corporations and the 328 municipalities should take effective steps to address the housing problems, especially for the low and middle income group people. National Housing Authority and Urban Development Directorate can be a vital public sector organisation to steer the process.
Instead of providing plot, public agencies should take projects for affordable housing and rental housing. It will make faster the housing delivery to the target group.
Interest rate for housing loan must be lowered.
During the preparation of Annual Development Programme, housing sector, especially the pro-poor housing, should get enough attention in budget allocation for effective implementation of the national housing policy of the country.
Financial institutions like insurance companies, commercial banks, cooperative banks, special investment organisations should be encouraged to invest in the housing and real estate sector by providing incentives.
In all housing projects, both private and public, there should be specific policy for at least 30 per cent housing units allocated for the low income and middle come people of the city.
Rapid urbanisation and unplanned housing development is a critical phenomenon transforming major cities in developing countries and Dhaka is not an exception.
Dhaka is growing in an unprecedented rate and every year more than 120,000 dwelling units will be required for an additional 600,000 people according to Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook in September.
The housing deficit quadrupled in the last decade and, in the absence of adequate measures, the deficit is projected to increase to 6.5 million units by 2021.
Accessibility to housing is one of the basic needs of every citizen in Bangladesh and numerous initiatives have been taken by almost every government after the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971.
Bangladesh government usually takes both traditional and non-traditional initiatives to address this issue. Usually, traditional policies are only applicable to high and middle income group of society due to the high interest rate of housing loan in banks and other reasons.
The National Housing Policy, 2016 is a major initiative taken by the present government and in many instances, it is failing to reach goal.
Provision of plots instead of flats are not stopping unnecessary wastage of land resources and in many instances, it is accelerating illegal encroachment of land, high density development, earthquake and fire risk, traffic jam and immense pressure on agricultural land.
The total amount of agricultural land is 88 lakh hectares in Bangladesh and due to unplanned housing and road construction around 1 lakh hectare agricultural land is disappearing every year.
The housing shortage is so acute that one third of the city’s population live in slums. Parks and open spaces are gradually disappearing.
According to many estimates, major initiatives are required to be taken to address this crucial issue otherwise there will no agricultural land in Bangladesh by the next 50 years.
According to ordinance 15 of the constitution, major initiatives are required to be taken at this stage. This shortage specially affects people of middle income and low income groups in Dhaka city. They have to rent dwellings at costs very disproportionate to their income.
Separate policy and design-based initiatives are required to be taken to meet the housing need of middle income and low income groups.
Provision of finance for low-cost housing, bank for the development of housing sector, cluster-based housing development, initiatives to protect agricultural land and water bodies are going to improve the situation.
Making donor organisations more enthusiastic about investing in housing sector of Bangladesh will provide additional resources to the government organisations to invest in housing sector. Separate initiatives and deployment of manpower for the development of housing situation in rural and urban areas will increase efficiency of the ministry of housing and other organisations.
Bangladesh needs to create long-term funding options for low-cost homes to make those affordable to a vast majority of middle and low income people, recommended by World Bank.
Proper implementation of the National Housing Policy, 2016 must be ensured to meet the long-term housing demand.
In Bangladesh housing crisis is an unending crisis as we have an acute crisis of land coupled with high price of land. The crisis will deepen until the government takes pragmatic actions to solve it.
The government should ensure policy support to build satellite cities to reduce housing crisis in the capital. If the government could ensure utilities within short distance of the capital huge accommodation is possible.
Land price and construction materials’ price are very important as they lead to increased flat prices even for the middle income people’s affordability.
The government should control prices of the commodities needed for housing to keep it affordable and also should ensure supervision over the private enterprises to ensure quality.
People’s affordability is another fact. Cash amount is not sufficient for flat buying. Here the government should ensure house loan for people with easy condition and for long duration in a limited interest as it is a basic right of a man to have a house.
REHAB was ready to support the government
as well as the people to provide needed number of houses but the price and availability of utilities remain a problem.
In the process of apartment project, there are a number of bureaucratic problems. A house builder needs at least 10 ‘No Objection Certificates’ from different government agencies to get final approval from RAJUK for building multi-storeyed building.
It is a huge suffering and a big scope for corruption. If the government could ensure a ‘One stop
service’ centre, as promised by the minister, it would be very easy.
The government housing facilities are not enough for accommodating its officers. So, a number of
officials are compelled to live in rented house which is costly.
I have to spend 30 per cent of my earning for housing which is quite far from my office. For this distance I have to spend at least two hours every working day. Moreover, I feel insecure when I have to return home late for official duty.
One cannot afford housing near his/her office near her/his office because house rent in the city is excessively high.
As quarters are not available, sometimes it takes more than a year to get a government quarter. Living condition in the flat is also not good enough in most cases.
The government should ensure housing facilities for government employees near their office so that
they can live there safely. As district or upazila level government employees have housing facilities under a complex.
Women living in Dhaka without families are in acute housing crisis. Their main problem is insecurity. Women have no security not only inside the room but also in public spaces in the city.
Most of the house owners do not allow girls for renting flat. On the other hand, girls cannot rent houses on security ground.
Bachelor girls used to manage their housing in three ways. Some live in sub-let, some in mess while some others in hostels. These girls have to spend half of their costs on housing.
Majority of the girls living in city are renting room on sub-let basis.
It is understandable who in our society allow sub-let. Undoubtedly, the low-income people and some middle income people who cannot bear their house rent.
How can a girl or a group of girls live in a single room inside a family flat where the family members have crisis of accommodation?
The girls who live in mess suffer more because the house owner allows girls in that flat where utilities are not available. Where families will not live, girls are compelled to live there because there is no other option for them.
Few girls live in hostels where security is better compared with the previous two instances but there is no freedom here and it is highly expensive.
Hostel is not available for bachelor women, whether she is student or employed. Diet in hostels is also of lower quality but expensive.
On the whole, girls do not get favourable housing facilities. People treat them like culprits. Are women living single criminal? Not at all.
What living condition does a girl want? It’s not more than a secured and a free space where she can live like a human being. That’s all.
Yes, if the government had initiated a block-wise housing facility only for girls with women administration, there they would have favourable living condition.
Rights to cook for herself, wash her cloths and ironing, freezing her food, scope for drinking tea, practicing arts and culture, scope for watching television and some such opportunities are what a girl needs.
House for rent is not easy to get by in the capital and for most people too costly. But for a bachelor, the problem is more complicated as house owner decline to rent house to them.
In addition, the house owners impose a number of restrictions which are not for the families living in the same building.
Practically the house owner treats bachelor as criminal and always threaten to evict him.
In 2012, I for the first time come to the city and rented a house at Mirpur with my friends. At the house we could not even talk loudly and had to walk very carefully.
As a student I spent 40 per cent of my monthly expenditure for house rent. Finally one day we left the house when the house owner scolded us without any fault.
Now I am working with BRAC at Ibrahim Cardiac Hospital and Research Institute at Shahbagh. I could not afford any mess near my office for high rent. I am living at Jatrabari sharing my room with two others.
Ultimately, house rent in the city is unbearable. I would request the government to look seriously into the matter. The government should ensure housing facilities for students and others bachelor people living in city.
Most of the students living in city without their families spend their time with a constant sense of homelessness as the house owners use to keep them under pressure.