If NPHP is left to the whims of the same interest groups that control urban land, it will reinforce current disparities.
First things first: the spirit behind the government’s Naya Pakistan Housing Programme (NPHP) must be commended.
The struggle for dignified housing in Pakistan has a long history replete with brutal evictions of katchi abadi dwellers, political and legal resistance by groups like the Karachi Indigenous Rights Alliance, the Alliance for Katchi Abadis and the Awami Workers’ Party (AWP), the cumulative efforts of low-income housing pioneers like Arif Hasan and Tasneem Siddiqui, and the sacrifices of fearless activists like Perween Rehman.
Nonetheless, the prime minister deserves credit for placing affordable housing at the centre of the national policy agenda, a long overdue imperative.
The question is, will the plan actually improve the situation or will it reinforce the glaring disparities in housing provision in Pakistan?
There appear to be some sound proposals in the plan. The government intends to earmark under-utilised state land for what is to be affordable housing construction.
This construction will be financed by the private sector and through commercial bank lending, for which state land would be used as collateral.
A new finance regulatory body will be created to help develop financing options and increase housing mortgage lending. The programme will also aim to generate employment and boost ancillary industries like construction.
Understandably, much of the debate thus far has been dominated by the ambitious and somewhat unrealistic scale of the initiative: five million homes estimated to cost $180 billion over five years.