Print Edition - 2014-10-07  |  Development

Offering low-cost housing to urban poor

- BINOD GHIMIRE
Offering low-cost housing to urban poor

Oct 6, 2014-As he grew up in a rural home with mud walls and traditional thatched roof which was built on a land belonging to Guthi Sansthan, Bhim Kumal, 46, from Tansen always dreamed of owning a ‘durable’ concrete house ever since he was a child.  But coming from a very poor background, he spent the majority of his time just making ends meet with no real savings to his name in order to materialise his dream.

However, after a wait of four decades, Bhim is now a proud owner of a three bedroom earthquake resilient home constructed on his own piece of land and where he currently lives with his wife and three children. He was finally able to live his dream thanks to Lumanti, a non-government organisation working for the rights of squatters and urban poor.

Like Bhim, some 300 families mainly from the poor Kumal community from Palpa have benefited from the “Housing for Poor” programme run by Lumanti.

“Owning my own concrete house is like a dream come true for me. Now I have realised the value of having your own house, a proper shelter,” he said.

Targeting the urban poor, Lumanti started the “Housing for Poor” project in Tansen, the district headquarters and commercial centre of Palpa district, three years ago with the support from Tansen Municipality. Families that were incorporated under the project were provided soft loan of Rs 200,000 from Laxmi Bank with Lumanti acting as guarantor for the loan.

Furthermore, the houses constructed under the project were also designed by Lumanti while the availability of basic infrastructure for the housing project such as road access, water supply and electricity was ensured by the municipality. The families wishing to secure the house received the soft loan at an annual interest of just 8 percent which was to be repaid over 84 monthly installments of Rs 3,155. Lumanti also provided various income-generation trainings such as candle making, fisheries and off season vegetable farming to all the poor families selected by the project so that they are able to generate enough income to pay off the loans as well as earn their livelihood. According to Lajana Manandhar, executive director at Lumanti, her organisation has launched similar types of housing projects in over half a dozen municipalities across the country including the Capital.  The organisation’s involvement in providing shelter for the poor started after it facilitated the relocation of families evicted from the floodplains of the Bishnumati River corridor to the low cost or affordable housing built at Kirtipur Municipality.

“The success of the rehabilitation programme prompted us to expand similar housing programmes to various parts of the country,” informed Manandhar.

Apart from Tansen and Kritipur, similar housing projects have been launched in Pokhara Sub-Metropolitan, Dharan Municipality, Kohalpur Municipality, Lekhnath Municipality and Ratnanagar Municipality.

The modalities for the housing projects is, however, different from place to place depending upon the need. In Pokhara and Lekhnath Municipalities, for instance, the housing programme has been initiated mainly targeting low income rental families. Under this programme, the low income rental families that have been identified have to buy a piece of land that is large enough to build a small house at a comparatively low cost with the support from the concerned municipality.  Then they become entitled to receive loan amount ranging from Rs 100,000 to Rs 400,000 at a low interest rate of 8 percent from Laxmi Bank  with the land property remaining as collateral.

“The construction of some 279 houses under the scheme has almost been completed. We are planning to hand them over to their rightful owners by organising a formal programme this month,” she said.

According to Sama Bajra, programme chief at Lumanti, construction of over 5,000 houses and renovation of many old houses have been completed by now with over 25,000 direct beneficiaries. The largest project is at Kholpur where some 500 houses have already been handed over to their rightful owners.

In order to involve the stakeholders in all stages of the project, a team of architects is mobilised to work in close coordination with the ultimate beneficiaries of the project so that the planning and design of houses are made according to their needs and tastes. They are even trained and mobilised for the construction to reduce the construction cost. Likewise, the foundation of the houses built under this scheme are constructed keeping the future prospect in mind while the rooms are constructed depending upon the availability of the money at the time of construction:If the owner manages more money they can construct more rooms from the foundation.

“By involving the ultimate beneficiaries in all stages of the project, we want to develop a feeling of ownership among them. Therefore, we do not provide free housing,” said Bajra, adding that construction plans adopting environment friendly and earthquake resistance technology are given due importance while maximum utilization of the local products for the construction is another focus of the project.

She said the repaid amounts are channeled to a revolving fund that is again used to support other housing projects in the same town or other cities so as to help more poor families receive accommodation facility. Meanwhile, Lumanti has recently started a rental building programme in Dhobighat of Lalitpur especially targeting the poor families. Over two dozens poor households are currently living in the 24 rooms of the four-storey building that is built in an area of 180 square feet. Tenants pay a rent of just Rs 3,000 per month for a room. The building also comes with modern features such as bio-climatic design, rainwater harvesting, ground water recharge and solar powered LED lights.

With the non-government sector taking a substantive lead in developing ‘poor-friendly housing’, the government has also been compelled to take similar initiatives for the welfare of poor households. The Department of Urban Development and Building Construction is now in the process of completing the the construction of nine buildings in Ichangunarayan in the outskirts of the Valley to properly accommodate the landless squatters who were evicted from Thapathali area two years ago. The housing project which was initiated in the fiscal year 2011-12 has the capacity to accommodate 230 households with proper facilities of drinking water, drainage, security and electricity.

Those who will be resettled in the nine buildings will have to pay minimum monthly installments to own the apartment which consists of two bedrooms, one kitchen and a bathroom.

Published: 07-10-2014 09:19

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