September 29, 2021
Relatively few people in India, in fact just 30%, rent their properties, compared with close to 40% in the United States, and 43% in France. On the other hand, home ownership levels on the subcontinent currently exceed 50%; and for the rest of the population, 15% live with their parents (too often a disguised variant of homelessness, not just in India but globally), and most of the others are actually homeless or in severe housing need. But such a superficial analysis conceals a much more compelling narrative, especially when you bear in mind that India has a burgeoning population of 1.4 Billion, the fastest growing in the world (www.worldpopulationreview.com): so although more than 700 Million Indians already live in a home of their own (the equivalent figure in the UK is 44.2 Million), some 70 Million more are homeless, and 210 Million are making do by living with mum and dad … often on an extended basis.
And here’s the point: not only does the subcontinent need to deliver sufficient affordable housing to address the needs of those 280 Million people (both the homeless and the making do), it also has to substantially meet the needs of the 30% living in rented accommodation, because most of them aren’t living there through choice. In India renting is often seen as a staging post to home ownership…just like it is in the UK, and most other advanced economies on the planet.
We’re dealing here with that most deeply entrenched, most primordial of human instincts: the need to feel safe and secure, and as the world turns ever faster and becomes less predictable (COVID being just the latest example of how unpredictable it can get), this means more and more a desire to own the roof over your head: a finding confirmed by Knight Frank India’s recent survey into real estate trends on the subcontinent (www.knightfrank.co.in). So you can pretty much add the bulk of India’s renting constituency into the housing need total: in other words, the net (unsatisfied) housing demand in India is currently running at something in the order of 700 Million.
Lets just put that figure in perspective: if you were to build a thousand new affordable homes every day, and on the assumption each would house a family of four, it would still take 500 years to house 700 Million people. So given the enormity of the challenge, it can too often seem as though the target’s always disappearing over the horizon, and policy priorities can look like they’re just scratching the surface…but still it’s important to make a start: something has to be done.
So what is India doing?
Well more than the UK for a start: India built 9.3 Million affordable urban homes over the last five years, compared with just 242,000 in the United Kingdom as a whole (a paltry annual average of 48,400: www.publishing.service.gov.uk), and that comparative success is thanks largely to Prime Minister Modi’s Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Affordable Housing Programme (www.pmaymis.gov.in/). Introduced back in 2015, the initiative has done much to make the dream of home ownership a practical reality on the subcontinent. And its being buttressed still further by a range of further policy measures, including low interest rates on housing loans as well as State Programmes, such as that currently being deployed in Andhra Pradesh by way of its VMRDA Masterplan 2041: promoting development of additional affordable urban housing, with a budget of £140 Million.
Policy making on that scale is something Boris Johnson’s Government can only dream about as it tries to build back better…So, although the target may well be disappearing over the horizon (as it inevitably will), India is currently showing the world how managed delivery can provide practical solutions for the affordable housing crisis.
Its building back better already…
The true scale of homelessness and housing need can all too often get buried in the headline figures: but apply those figures to actual demographics and the full extent of the need for affordable housing becomes clear, as does the scale of the challenge.