Over the years, the Indian government has rolled out several path-breaking policy interventions and reform measures to boost the affordable housing sector in the country.
With initiatives like a dedicated affordable housing fund under the National Housing Bank (NHB), granting infrastructure status to affordable housing and the roll-out of credit-linked subsidy schemes under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), the government has reiterated its commitment to achieving the objective of “Housing for All” by 2022.
A targeted interventionist approach, with a dedicated focus on one household and one family at a time, community outreach programs like Housing Support Services (HSS) holds the key to ensure that people at the lower end of the socio-economic pyramid are brought within the ambit of affordable, cost-effective housing. A doorstep delivery mechanism will need to be implemented to ensure that products and services are easily accessible to eligible families from marginalized communities.
In India, housing products and services are generally provided by different stakeholders and entities driven by the motivation to increase market share and maximize their profits. The HSS mandate aims to offer different products and services through an integrated one-stop shop approach. The HSS model aims to equip deprived sections of the population with the requisite resources and knowledge to build strong and disaster-resilient structures.
HSS works on a three-tier framework with an emphasis on information dissemination, technological assistance and access to products and services. Local Panchayat meets, traditional mass media activities such as village fairs can play a key role in disseminating information on the benefits of HSS to local village communities. It can offer cost-benefit analysis and help economize the installation of solar panels and water harvesting systems in homes. HSS plays a facilitating role as a solutions partner to enable people make informed decisions on constructing their houses.
A minimum fee is charged for users wanting to buy products and services while no fee is levied for accessing information. The long term goal here is to ensure that HSS becomes a self-sustaining revenue generation model and scales its operational presence across the country. It also aims at making families participants in their development journeys and local population a stakeholder in the community empowerment process.
The model can be fine-tuned to leverage the varied dynamics at play in a multicultural country like India and provide customized solutions taking into account the specific housing needs of different communities. Impact audit on a periodic basis will be necessary to ensure that there is no compromise in quality of products and services.
The HSS model can be made operational with a centrally located hub at the village or taluka level serving 5000 families. A mobile HSS unit can serve 7000 families in any geographical location along its route. Information regarding the route the mobile unit will be traversing in a particular area during a specific day/time can be disseminated through a toll-free helpline number.
Companies can enhance their brand presence by volunteering with HSS (mobile or hub) and offer products and services in their areas of specialization. Grants can be offered by corporates through their CSR mandates for locations/services conforming to their business interests. Social entrepreneurs can also invest in HSS for impact maximization.