With 17% of India's urban population living in informal settlements, affordable housing has become an important aspect and issue. Any housing scheme that recognizes specific vulnerabilities of women's experience in urban settings by uprighting women's rights helps women recognize their independent right to security of land.
In India, a person's caste, religion, gender and class, all are directly proportionate to their access to land, housing and way of living. Especially in the case of working class and underprivileged women. Due to various cultural reasons, neither do majority women own property in their name, nor do they get any property benefits from joint ownership. Ultimately, most of them do not inherit any property.
It is not just a rural scenario. Across India, women are discriminated against their rights to own, use or control land, housing, and property under their names. This is a common phenomenon caused by a combination of social, political, and legal factors.
The right to adequate housing is the primary component of women's right to equality under international human rights law. Sustainability Development Goal 5 aims to grant women and girls equal rights, and opportunities to live without any workplace discrimination or violence. While several national and international laws increasingly recognise women's right to adequate housing, there are considerable gaps in establishing such recognition for them. As a result of discrimination and inequality in housing, many women live in insecure, unsafe and undignified conditions, at increased risk of homelessness and violence.
Some women are forced to evict and lose the fundamental right to housing. Disproportion in property is one of the significant barriers to gender inclusiveness in society. Discrimination or unequal access to financing for home ownership or rental among women is another.
Barriers to women’s right to housing:
Unequal property rights: Not just unequal rights but the security of tenure of the house is also a major concern for women. Other problems are disputed relationships, lack of familial status, and death of a spouse during inheritance.
Exclusion from decision-making processes: Often, women are exempted or not given a chance in house-buying decisions, urban planning or any other contribution to housing conditions.
Lack of access to safe water, sanitation or privacy: Many migrants who come from villages either live in slums or non-furnished setups initially. Either women have to use the common washing area or there's no toilet provision at all. As a result, their menstrual health and hygiene are affected. Due to lack of education and awareness, they have to use the unhygienic washrooms, leading to serious health issues.
Disability as another ground for discrimination: Other forms of discrimination also compound gender discrimination. Women with disabilities are less likely to have access to shelters or alternative accommodations.
Considering the above problems women face, realizing their right to adequate housing shelter requires considering different layers of discrimination and taking concrete steps to address their problems.
Interventions to ensure equal housing opportunities in India:
Talking about gender inclusivity in affordable housing in India, major progress has been made in recent years. For example, the 'Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana' (PMAY) encourages homeownership amongst women. The 'Mission Shakti' programme creates awareness about women empowerment, and the 'Swadhar Greh' scheme establishes an aid for the rehabilitation of women who have been victims of unfortunate circumstances, and helps them lead their life with dignity.
Besides, the government has launched programmes and made it mandatory for a family to have at least one-woman member registered as the owner of a new house. Also, the woman borrower can avail interest rate concessions in borrowing from banks and get partial waivers on stamp duties and tax benefits.
The government has worked on hostel establishments for working women that provide safe and affordable accommodation, along with day-care facilities for their children. The government is not only aiding rural women but also aiming to facilitate services in urban, semi-urban and rural areas that provide employment opportunities.
Under PMAY, there has been national, state-wise and city-wise progress.
Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHCs)- is a sub-scheme under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana - Urban (PMAY-U) that provides an ease of living to urban migrants/ poor in the Industrial Sector as well as in the non-formal urban economy and gives access to dignified, affordable rental housing close to their workplace. The Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs has initiated Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHCs). ARHC beneficiaries are urban migrants/poor from EWS/ LIG categories. ARHCs programmes are a mix of single/double bedrooms providing Units and a Dormitory of 4/6 beds, including all common facilities, which will be exclusively used for rental housing for a minimum of 25 years. ARHCs complexes ensure a dignified living environment for urban migrants/impoverished close to their workplaces at affordable rates. This will unlock existing vacant housing stock and make them available in urban spaces. It will propel new investment opportunities and promote entrepreneurship in the rental housing sector by encouraging Private/Public Entities to efficiently utilize their vacant land available for developing ARHCs. Affordable housing offers basic amenities like access to piped gas supply, gated communities with CCTVs, and 24*7 access to the water supply. Women who are keen to start businesses of their own can take leverage of such housing complexes, rent them and make a living. This would be a step forward in providing ease of living to women and migrants who want to make a living in another state.
CLSS Awas Portal (CLAP) - is a common platform where all stakeholders i.e. Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Central Nodal Agencies, Primary Lending Institutions, Beneficiaries and Citizens are integrated into real-time. The portal facilitates applications' processing and tracking of beneficiaries' subsidy status.
These government initiatives backed by private sectors will unlock existing vacant housing stock and make them readily available in urban spaces. It will also propel new investment opportunities and will help to promote entrepreneurship in the rental housing sector.
With efficient utilization of spaces and vacant land, it will encourage Private/Public Entities to develop more ARHCs in the parameter of land allotted, not just for women of the society but also for the segment who want to afford a house of their own in the new city.
Do you think equal housing opportunities will be a step forward in women empowerment? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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