10 pc of houses in country lying vacant, says panel

Noting that 11.09 million houses out of a total 110.14 million are lying vacant in the country, a government appointed panel has recommended for bringing them into the housing market through taxation and incentive policies to reduce the housing shortage in the country.

The total housing shortage has been placed at 18.78 million in March 2012. While, as per Census 2011, as many as 0.53 million dwelling units are required to provide shelter to the houseless households in the country; as many as 11.09 million of a total 110.14 in urban areas are vacant and another 0.73 million are occupied but kept locked.

“The paradox is that urban India has both housing shortage and a massive and rapid growing stock of vacant houses. An attempt must be made to bring in the vacant houses into the housing market through taxation and incentive policies,” the technical group, set up by the Ministry of Housing to examine the urban housing shortage, suggested in its report. 

In case 80 per cent of vacant houses become available through this initiative, during the period 2012-17, the need for additional house construction will be reduced by 8.83 million, it added.

The panel underlined that eliminating housing shortage during the period of the twelfth five year plan, over and above maintaining the current rate of construction, will be a challenging task, even with full involvement and cooperation of private sector and builder’s lobby.

The policies and programmes for dealing with housing shortage cannot focus on promoting construction of new units and facilitating the households already residing in decent units to acquire new houses through fiscal and financial support.

“They must ensure that the design, costing and institutional arrangements for producing the dwelling units are such that the people in housing poverty get to access the existing and new housing stock,” it suggested.

It also strongly recommended that state and city-level agencies must undertake detailed survey of the slums and low income areas as also other high density colonies in the cities to determine how many of the households, identified as suffering from housing poverty can get their problem addressed through major repair work, addition of an extra room or partition of an existing one within their premises.

A number of such surveys have been undertaken in recent years. “However, since they have not adopted a standardised format and concepts across time and space, it is impossible to generate reliable figures for the whole country,’ the panel observed.

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