In the Name of Housing

A Study of 11 Projects in Mumbai



The alarming deficit of affordable housing in the country has received a fair amount of attention in current and preceding governments. The central government mandate of Housing for All finds impetus in the 2016 budget, backed by a slew of fiscal incentives to promote the building of affordable homes. In the city of Mumbai, burgeoning real estate prices have further exacerbated this shortfall. To ameliorate this bottleneck the state government recently announced the construction of 1.1 million affordable homes over the next four years in the city alone. While all of these policy mandates speak of well-intentioned bureaucratic and political machinery, there is absolutely no imagination of what the physical form of this housing is to be.

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So despite there being strong government will and frameworks, there is a danger that real estate pressures will eventually subvert the intent of this policy and consequently, the quality and diversity of life and livelihood within these projects. In the Name of Housing attempts to provide a framework to question this approach to housing, where the top down prescription of policy has in the past, resulted in models like the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA). On paper they offer parity of space for residents but actually result in inhuman and apathetic living conditions, devoid of socio-cultural fabric. This research attempts to sieve through the fabric of Mumbai, excavating historical and current models of affordable housing sutured deep within the city. It compares 11 housing projects in Mumbai through metrics of open space, social space, circulation space, built areas and densities, using drawings, sketches and models to highlight and illustrate their projective capacities. Its focus is to document the potential of existing and emergent architectural types native to our context, as a means to inform new or hybrid models for the design of affordable housing.

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This research argues that once ascertained, it is critical for architectural proclivity to inform regulatory mechanisms, which in turn should then feed into policy frameworks, in addition to considerations of tenure, occupancy and equitable allocation. As a result, the desired built and spatial form influences the framing of housing policy from the bottom up, rather than the other way round.

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The broad categorisation of the case studies of affordable housing projects is as follows:
1. Chawls: Most of the chawls we studied (except the state-owned BDD Chawls) lie in C-ward of South Mumbai and are privately owned. Contrary to the singular image of the chawl in popular imagination, we found many variants of the standard chawl within this small geographical area.
2. Pavement Dwellings: These slim cities unlike aggregated slums do not enjoy the benefit of being addressed by state and private mechanisms in situ. They are slivers of mixed use that inhabit thin interstitial spaces in the formal city based on a symbiotic economic network that binds them to their particular location.
3. Site and Services: Closest to the high density low rise models of slums or urban villages in Mumbai, it displays a distinct character and scale that is fast disappearing in lieu of the singular high rise format of the city fabric today.
4. Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA): MHADA announced collaborations with landowners and developers to provide housing for Economically Weaker Sections and Low Income Groups, raising questions on the further dilution of the state’s mandate and quality control of these built environments.
5. Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA): Two extreme variants of housing under the aegis of the SRA are included in the study – one, a project of intense vertical compression on a limited site with no open space, and the other with a fairly good proportion of built to open space.

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