Targeting funds: What do the poor need in cities?

I read an extremely interesting fact from the report of the High Level Task Force on Affordable Housing for All. According to the National Sample Survey 58th Round figures, most slum dwellers have been in the city for more than ten years. 39% of households had lived in slums for more than 20 years, and another 37% had lived in slums between 10 to 20 years. Only 24% had migrated in the last decade.

What does this mean for policymakers? Well, even if slum dwellers have access to livelihoods (which they seem to), they are not able to improve their standard of living, because the cost of housing and services in urban areas is out of their reach. As the report says, slum dwellers may not be income poor, but they are housing poor, and amenities poor. The government is now pondering extending the Employment Guarantee Act into urban areas as well, but perhaps funds would be better utilized upgrading existing slums so that residents have better access to basic services like water and sanitation.  That’s the same conclusion that The Hindu also recently came to on its editorial page.

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2 comments
  1. Binit Rath said:

    I think this is aptly true. Also I feel land right is also a very important issue. Most of the time slum dwellers have money to upgrade their house but unwilling to do so as they don’t have adequate land right of their place of residence. And they see it as a temporary stay before they move to a better place. So may be formalizing their place of residence with proper land right would also help improving the housing in slums.

    what do u think???

  2. nraman said:

    Binit, I think you’re both right and wrong — If almost 40 % of slum dwellers have lived in the same place for more than 20 years as the study says, clearly slums are not just transition places. I think formalizing land tenure is a politically tricky proposition particularly when slums are on private land, so waiting for that before improving slums is not the best idea. What I do think is true is that there is a lot of variation. I see that in some squatter settlements, slumdwellers have done a lot for improving their own houses ,whereas others have not. The difference between them is not limited to how long the slum has been there. Identifying exactly what encourages people to improve their own houses would be a good idea. Have you seen studies which look at this question?

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