Indian Housing Federation Crafts Mandate for Community-Led Housing

Published: Wednesday, February 8th, 2017 by Lenora

For 6 years, Ashoka’s Housing for All efforts advanced progressive design and business concepts for the housing industry in India. India’s housing deficit of approximately 20 million units is mostly – over 90% – concentrated among low income communities and what is called economically weaker segments in India (a lower income threshold). The Indian Housing Federation was spun out of Ashoka to focus on community-led housing. Manikandan KP (@manikp), CEO, spoke with DevelopingSmartCities.org about leading this initiative, in its efforts to mainstream low income households into India’s housing ecosystem.

Indian Housing Federation logo

IHF is also based on the collaborative model that brought together commercial housing developers, civil sector organisations and other stakeholders under Ashoka’s umbrella to build a social model for housing. IHF will likewise explore solutions beyond new housing to address India’s housing deficit.

“We hope to use multiple interventions involving data aggregation, quality control mechanisms, policy research and advocacy and a common stakeholder platform to approach the shortfall and create an organisation that lobbies for the rights of the customer more than anything else,” says Manikandan. In India’s massive market, housing improvement will have a greater impact on residents with lower incomes, so in situ redevelopment, rental housing and other solutions will form IHF’s core focus.

IHF’s work in the area will mirror the Indian government’s own Housing for All policies by clearly advocating for a housing ladder. This is a housing vision that embraces redevelopment and rehabilitation, community engagement and partnership development. The central government’s policy allows a uniform framework around which to tailor scalable solutions. This contrasts with the fragmentation of housing policy in India due to specific state laws.

Manikandan brings a new skill set and perspective to Ashoka’s housing work after 12 years in retail housing finance. As he points out, however, “IHF’s mandate is more complex by the nature of issues involved. Tenure alone may fix a lot of issues and may not require substantial intervention. But even so, there are complementary challenges to address.”

Manikandan goes on to explain that IHF’s mandate recognizes that state laws, government policy frameworks and government-supported housing drive the need for a multi-stakeholder platform for the whole housing ecosystem to advance scalable solutions.

“Our strategic plan inherited key principles from Ashoka’s Housing for All initiative. In the years since, they’ve evolved to indicate that solutions must come from the needs and wants of the communities themselves. We also believe that low cost housing should not be synonymous with low quality housing. Collaborations and partnerships, be they with government or private enterprises that have a stake in the housing market, need to work together to meet the needs of the community which means we have to bring them together on one platform.

Beyond achieving low costs of building, quality means quality of life for residents. “We have to make sure that quality means education, livelihoods, transportation, services… It’s holistic. Not just houses,” adds Manikandan.

Still, the IHF has some big questions to address about its mandate and the breadth of its own activities, as well as its intention to help coordinate other actors in the housing sector. Its top line work programs include policy advocacy, market aggregation, ratings and best practices, building stakeholder platforms and hybrid framework models.

Beyond these issues, what will the government’s role be in the IHF’s efforts, for instance? What impact will a rating have on the market and what will its legal implications be?

For now, the IHF is fundraising and setting up its pilot platform. Among its first projects is a commission funded by the Tata Trust to carry out and analyze a survey of low income households to develop a dataset to understand demand characteristics.

Funding the IHF to ensure it is relevant to communities on the ground may be challenging, but the canvas on which IHF can craft new housing initiatives is as endless as the Indian city.