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How affordable is housing for urban poor?: A case study of environmentally sustainable public housing in India
Building environmentally sustainable and affordable public housing is a challenge for countries across the globe. It is a complex issue that must be assessed not only in terms of economic viability but also environmental and social sustainability. In the housing-led urban regeneration of emerging economies, the pressure to deliver a sustainable built environment multiplies despite lack of funding and capacity. In a rush to reduce the slum areas and to build more public housing for relocation the government too often defined sustainable and affordable public housing only in terms of economic viability from the perspective of the enabler instead of users that is represented by the ratio of housing rent and income. The economic viability of users such as housing expenditure and the informality of household income is sometimes overlooked. Issues such as communities, housing location, and sustainability are often not considered. The paper assesses the affordability of public housing, categorising the indicators based on the social, economic, and environmental criteria. It also examines how the low-income families perceive the concept of affordability, comparing their experience living in the slums and after relocating to the public housing. The study is based on data from a nationally representative survey of housing attributes (NSSO) as well as primary data on public housing collected through interviews and household surveys. The case studies were carried out in Mumbai, India, but the results may be applicable to other countries, particularly to developing economies working on improving their housing-led urban generation and making housing affordable for urban poor. The findings show that an array of attributes attached to social and environmental factors, in addition to income generation and infrastructure, influence the household’s perception of affordability. The discussion that follows would be beneficial for local authorities, developers and urban poor by addressing potential housing indicators for shaping the environmentally sustainable and affordable public housing.