Almost 12 million homes are vacant across India while the country faces an acute housing shortage. While urbanisation, increased life expectancy and changing living patterns have all contributed to the current housing shortage of 20 million homes, the millions of homes built with nobody living in them must also shoulder some of the responsibility. Housing supply is being increased in India, but it is simply not accessible for the majority of Indians. The issue of affordability must take precedence if the country is to achieve “housing for all” by 2022.
Until now, the housing market in India has typically catered to the needs of a wealthy elite looking for investment opportunities, rather than ordinary families looking for a place to call home. Indeed, for the wealthy few with cash to spare, purchasing real estate represents a sound investment that promises spectacular returns. Real estate developers have been happy to oblige, building new apartments which typically cost over Rs 2 crore within the city centre locations. With many new homes bought by investors who have no intention of living in them, the housing crisis has been left to worsen.
The speculative nature of the real estate market has now reached breaking point, however, with disastrous consequences for those of middle and low incomes. The average house in Mumbai city centre now costs Rs 1.5 Crore, while the average salary is Rs. 50,000 a month. Even discounting necessary spending on food, travel and clothes, it would take your average Mumbai resident twenty years to buy a home.
The gulf between the demand for affordable housing and the supply of luxury property cannot continue. Homes are not just places where people eat and sleep, but places where we can relax, be ourselves and feel safe and secure. Owning a home can be life-changing, and the prospect of home ownership should be an achievable goal for ordinary families. Homes need to be built in that Rs 30 to Rs 50 lakh bracket if the housing market is to meet the needs of the population.
The success of any affordable housing project launch is not just about price. The well-designed spaces that cater to the needs of homebuyers who crave flexibility and convenience in every aspect of their lives plays equally important role. Skilfully-designed spaces, generous community infrastructure, enabling residents to enjoy green space at their doorstep and with the city centre easily accessible from a range of new transport links that are built for the next generation of homeowners to enjoy, and have been priced to suit their pocket is the current need and may make Indian housing shortage go extremely low to nil. Providing a well-panned and well budget home with sustainable infrastructures, will bring the prospect of homeownership back into the grasp of millennials. Luxury investments need to give way to affordable homes if the housing market is to work for India’s next generation.