Successful Forms of Incremental In-situ Upgradation | Invisible Cities

Dec 2015

Invisible Cities | BLOG

As India’s economy experiences rapid growth in the service, finance and other tertiary sector industries, urban centers are becoming hubs of economic opportunity. This is driving labor migration from rural areas and smaller towns to big cities. As a result, urban centers are facing severe governance and resource challenges to adequately accommodate this largely low-income population. One of the key challenges is providing adequate infrastructure and housing to support this rapid population growth. The 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012) states that India’s housing supply gap is 26.53 million homes, 88% of this shortage is in [1] Economically Weaker Segment, and 11% is in the Lower Income Group.  With both government and market agents unable to provide for this low income housing demand, the urban poor are forced to live in informal housing, in what the government classifies as “slums” or “jhuggi jhopri clusters”. These settlements are often – but not always – self-built, contain poorly built housing stock that is substantially underserved by city infrastructure, have poorly managed services, and are mostly of unstable legal status. In cities like Mumbai and Pune almost 60% and 40% of the urban population lives in such informal housing.

While the 1950’s-60’s saw slum clearance as one of the main strategies for dealing with informal housing in the cities, the 1970’s-80’s saw a number of internationally aided (e.g.World Bank supported) public housing projects for low income communities. Between 1980-2000, government policies enabled private capital investment to build affordable housing through cross-subsidies and incentive-based policy mechanisms. In the recent decade – 2000 to 2010 – non-profit actors have also started serving as low income housing providers. In 2005, the Government of India introduced the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). The aim of the program was to fast track planned development of select cities, and the focus was to deliver urban infrastructure and services across the city. The program mandated decentralization of planning and urban development to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and required community participation for project approval (JNNURM, MHUPA, 2009). The Basic Services to the Urban Poor (BSUP) sub-mission under JNNURM identified betterment of the living conditions of the urban poor in informal settlements as one of the priorities of planned development. In 2009 under the umbrella of the BSUP program Maharashtra Social Housing and Action League (MASHAL), an NGO based in Pune, in partnership with the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), the municipal government of Pune, developed an in-situ housing upgradation model for the redevelopment of several informal settlements in the Yerwada district of Pune.

Area Sabha (community meeting) held in Gandhi Nagar to inform community about the BSUP program. (image courtesy: MASHAL)

Area Sabha (community meeting) held in Gandhi Nagar to inform community about the BSUP program. (image courtesy: MASHAL)

House to house survey and identification of Kutcha (temporary un-stable houses) houses.

House to house survey and identification of Kutcha (temporary un-stable houses) houses. (image courtesy: MASHAL)

House to house survey and identification of Kutcha (temporary un-stable houses) houses. (image courtesy: MASHAL)

House to house survey and identification of Kutcha (temporary un-stable houses) houses. (image courtesy: MASHAL)

 

MASHAL undertook the development of 2,010 homes for poor communities living in informal settlements in Gandhi Nagar, Nagpur Chawl, and 9 other such settlements in Pune. This project marked an important partnership and a great collaborative effort between civil society organizations like MASHAL and the Urban Local Body. The project was jointly funded by the center, state, local government, and included a 10%-12% contribution from the beneficiaries.

Here’s how it was implemented: MASHAL developed a detailed survey of the existing housing and infrastructure to assess the overall needs. The NGO & PMC then developed a criterion to classify houses into “Kutcha” and “Pucca” houses based on construction conditions at the time of survey. All houses that were made of temporary materials, were structurally unsound and did not have in-house sanitary facilities were classified as “Kutcha”. These houses were considered eligible for improvement under the program. Extensive community outreach efforts were made by MASHAL with the support of local corporators (councilmen) to communicate the projects benefits to the community members and encourage participation. Participation in the program was voluntary and based on a consent letter provided by each individual beneficiary.  The consent letter acted as a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the beneficiary, PMC and MASHAL. It stated the terms of development and the beneficiary’s agreement to contribute 10-12% of the project cost. All participants were required to open bank accounts to make future payments towards the project.  Once these administrative requirements were fulfilled, project development started.

 

Individual house plans certified by the Architect and Structural Engineer. (courtesy: MASHAL)

Individual house plans certified by the Architect and Structural Engineer. (courtesy: MASHAL)

Individual house plans certified by the Architect and Structural Engineer. (courtesy: MASHAL)

Individual house plans certified by the Architect and Structural Engineer. (courtesy: MASHAL)

6Individual Consent letter obtained from each household for participation in the BSUP program. (courtesy: MASHAL)

Individual Consent letter obtained from each household for participation in the BSUP program. (courtesy: MASHAL)

The project team prioritized development of houses for widows, senior citizens and single women in phase-1 of the development, thus reducing the burden on the most disadvantage and vulnerable members. Professional consultants including surveyors, architects, structural engineers and project management agencies were retained to plan, design and supervise the construction of the houses. Each beneficiary was involved in approving the design of his/her individual house, and demolition slips were given to each household before proceeding with redevelopment.  All beneficiaries were to receive new construction RCC frame houses, G+1 story or G+2 story tall with 270sft carpet area irrespective of the size of their original house. A majority of beneficiaries who participated in the project had single story houses with temporary roofs and no in-house sanitary facilities. Moreover, house sizes were usually less than 200sft prior to redevelopment. Though existing houses with less than 100sft ground floor footprint were initially considered infeasible for redevelopment due to the G+1 height limit, advocacy by the NGO and the local corporator led to the amendment of the height restriction (to allow G+2 construction) and inclusion of smaller houses in the eligibility list. The project gave beneficiaries the option of selecting their own contractors from list of neighborhood contractors. Local contractors were given preference over outside contractors as they understood the constraints of construction in such dense environments. Construction contracts were limited to 20 houses per contractor to ensure small neighborhood contractors get work opportunities and execute the project successfully. This encouraged neighborhood contractors to invest their own money into the project when the project had financial troubles. A third party project management team was hired to supervise quality of construction during implementation.

All new houses used RCC frame construction and provided internal bathing, sanitation and cooking facilities with legal electric connections, piped water supply, water storage tanks and connection to city sewage lines. A typical house layout included a living room, a kitchen, a separate toilet and bathing area on the ground floor, and a bedroom on the upper floor. Additionally an underground water storage tank was provided for each house to meet additional water needs. The communities where the BSUP projects were implemented by MASHAL already had municipal sewer, water supply and electric lines running, therefore, the redevelopment only included connecting to the existing lines through a metered system. The scope of this project did not include improvements to the common infrastructure. The quality of schools, primary healthcare centers, community halls, day care facilities and other social amenities varied across different settlements. Some settlements like Gandhi Nagar received government funds in the past to build, improve and invest in these civic facilities under a different government program, however no additional resources were spent on improving social amenities under the BSUP project.

Today all completed houses have been given completion certificates in the name of the female head of the family in order to encourage women’s empowerment.  Most community members interviewed by the author acknowledge an immense improvement in their living standards and appreciate the collaborative work of MASHAL, local contractors and corporators in executing the project. However, the project was not without its challenges. There were long delays in release of payments by government agencies, and in obtaining approvals by understaffed public administration agencies. Ill-defined regulations (such as the 100sft footprint limit, G+1 story new construction limit), and bureaucratic project implementation procedures (such as a 5 stage approval and payment system) further delayed project implementation . These challenges brought tremendous hardships to people as they had to bear the cost of alternate accommodation through the extended construction period. Though initially the project was estimated to be completed in 15-18 months, different phases of the project took anywhere from 2-3 years to complete. The individual household level consensus building process extended the project timeline; the project missed the opportunity to promote formation of small cooperative societies. These cooperatives could have been allowed a slightly higher built up area as an incentive to agree to group housing form of development rather than single-family model. Ultimately, this could have saved immense time and resulted in higher construction and design efficiency.

Further, the funding disbursement strategy, especially in a multi-agency funding structure, could have benefitted from fewer payment stages; Perhaps opening a project escrow account and making one agency in charge of disbursal of all pooled funds as per the terms of agreement could have offered a solution. Hopefully learnings from the Pune model can be used to improve the BSUP policy and support many more in-situ upgradation projects like this one, both in India and in other cities in the Global South.

Exterior of redeveloped house in Nagpur Chawl.

Exterior of redeveloped house in Nagpur Chawl.

Interior of redeveloped house in Gandhi Nagar.

Interior of redeveloped house in Gandhi Nagar.

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Interior of redeveloped house in Gandhi Nagar.

Four key criteria that define the success of this housing project are that it supports existing livelihoods, enhances personal security, reduces environmental risks, and empowers communities to participate in their self-development. It promotes a model of upgradation that does not displace people thus maintaining access to their existing sources of livelihood and their social structures. It provides the community a pathway to formalize and integrate its infrastructure and service needs into the city systems. By providing shelter that is well-constructed, it reduces environmental risks for its residents and provides adequate protection against inclement weather conditions. The participative planning process significantly improves the capacity of the community in understanding the development process. The role of the Urban Local Body as the key implementer has begun the process of decentralization of urban planning from the state to the local bodies – a much needed local capacity building effort. Further the government’s partnership with NGOs for affordable housing production continues to develop and evolve the much needed non-profit housing sector in India.

[1] Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation classifies households into income brackets for eligibility to government housing schemes. Based on the 11th five year plan, technical report, these categories based on monthly income levels were Rs 3,300 per month as EWS, Rs 3301-7300 as LIG, Rs 7301-14500 as MIG (middle income group) and greater than Rs 14501 as HIG (high income group).

Smita Rawoot is an architect, urban designer and planner with more than 15 years of work experience designing and planning urban development projects in the US and India. Her varied work includes planning and design of multi-family housing, primary-secondary education institutes, higher education campuses, senior housing projects and large mix-use developments. In urban policy, her work has focused on developing new approaches to low income housing policy, instituting land policy reforms and forming resiliency planning strategies. She has a Masters Degree in Architecture from Pratt Institute in New York and Masters in City Planning from MIT, Massachusetts. She explores planning studies and practices that support equitable and sustainable city initiatives around the world. For more details on the project, please contact the author – Smita Rawoot, MIT, Cambridge, USA, srawoot@mit.edu.

Invisible Cities is a Tanqeed blog that seeks to explore alternative discourses on the urban question in cities of the Global South. For pitches and submissions to the blog, please contact fizzah.sajjad@gmail.com, halabashirmalik@gmail.com and editors@tanqeed.org. 

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