The architect and activist is co-author of ‘Chasing the Affordable Dream’, a book that offers solutions to Mumbai’s housing crisis.


four urban planners and activists from Nivara Hakk, a non-profit housing rights organisation, believe that if state authorities truly want to, Mumbai can comfortably achieve its goal of building affordable housing for almost all of its citizens.

In their new book, Chasing the Affordable Dream, Nivara Hakk’s founding members PK Das, Gurbir Singh, Ritu Dewan and Kabir Agarwal argue that Mumbai’s dire housing shortage can be wiped out through intentional land regulation, price regulation and thoughtful development of government and slum land. The book, released on September 3, offers an in-depth analysis of the affordable housing crisis in the city with India’s largest slum population, and makes a set of comprehensive recommendations on how Mumbai can tackle the crisis.

Chief among the recommendations is prioritising the housing needs of low and middle-income groups over the profits of private developers. Despite laws that make it mandatory for private developers to allocate half the land of a slum redevelopment project for affordable housing at government-regulated rates, builders often stake claim to the majority of the project land – up to 70% or more – for their own profits by selling those homes at competitive market rates.

Chasing the Affordable Dream comes at a time when at least two government policies have promised affordable housing in Mumbai. At the national level, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana plans to achieve housing for all by 2022, and its urban component focuses on building affordable housing either on government land or through public-private partnerships by giving monetary subsidies to developers. But in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, private builders have proposed affordable housing projects under the scheme only in distant satellite towns – a trend that will inevitably push working class populations outside the city limits.

At the state level, Mumbai’s draft Development Plan 2034 – a blueprint for the development of the city for the next 20 years – has “affordable housing” as a separate and new category of land reservation for the first time. 


PK Das, one of the authors of Chasing the Affordable Dream
PK Das, one of the authors of Chasing the Affordable Dream © Aarefa Johari

Your book focuses heavily on slum redevelopment, which is already being done by the Slum Redevelopment Authority in the city? What is wrong with the way slums are currently being redeveloped, and how can it be done better?
The Slum Redevelopment Authority’s work is a sham because the emerging built forms are just “slummifying” the city even more, with tall buildings constructed cheek by jowl without open spaces for social amenities. This cannot continue. What we need is a proper town-planning scheme for slum land in Mumbai.

Nivarak Hakk undertook a mapping of the city’s slum land for the first time – a total of 2,400 hectares – and found results that throw out the demands of private builders for more FSI [floor space index, or the ratio of a building’s total floor area to the size of the plot it is built on]. We found that it is actually possible to house all of the slum population in merely ground-plus-seven buildings, and provide open spaces and other social amenities. To do this, the government needs to intervene, stop giving freebies to private developers and implement the actual rules of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority and the Slum Redevelopment Authority. The so-called mighty real-estate industry of Mumbai that the government is pampering caters to merely 12% of the city’s population, so I do not care if the industry goes down. It will not affect the masses.

With the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban), more private developers seem to be taking up affordable housing projects in partnership with the government, mainly on the outskirts of the city. Do you think this scheme can help create affordable housing for Mumbai?
The scheme will not work in Mumbai.