In the Aftermath of Rapid and Unplanned Urbanisation
Changing economic scenarios in the past few decades have moved us from historically being an agrarian economy to rapid and unplanned urbanisation in our cities. The TG-12 urban housing report estimated the housing shortage to be to the tune of 18.87 million units in 2012. This has resulted in deteriorating living conditions for the economically weaker and lower income groups. It is undeniable that access to affordable housing results in better living conditions, improved health, and increased access to economic opportunities. This makes housing an essential component towards achieving several of the UN SDGs by 2030.
Government Initiatives for Affordable Housing
The Government of India policies and programs since Independence have had very little impact on improving the housing conditions of the EWS and LIG categories. However, this changed with the launch of the PMAY-U scheme in June 2015. Under the PMAY, an estimated 121 lakh houses were sanctioned of which 99 lakh houses were grounded for construction and 59 lakh houses were completed and handed over to the beneficiaries. The PMAY came to an end as of 31st March 2022 and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is now conducting stakeholder consultations to come up with its successor.
Affordability vs. Sustainability
It is estimated that 70% of the building stock that will be there in 2030 is still yet to be constructed. A majority of this building stock will cater to the residential segment. In the past, government policies have typically focused on the economic affordability of housing rather than its negative impacts on the environment during construction and operation. The reasoning behind this may be that sustainability is not a priority for first time homeowners. This has created a gap between development and environmental protection.
Green Affordable Housing
Make no mistake, mass housing construction on this scale is bound to create serious negative impacts when the environment is not taken into consideration. For example, the construction sector accounts for one thirds of global energy consumption. This is estimated to be responsible for nearly 15% of global direct CO2 emissions. Also, residential buildings account for 75 percent of total electricity consumed in the building sector.
These houses will be constructed one way or the other and it is only prudent to ensure that their negative environmental impacts are appropriately mitigated to ensure their design is climate resilient, their construction is responsibly monitored, and their operation is resource efficient.
Green affordable housing is beneficial to both the developers as well as the homeowners. The developers can take advantage of no cost, low-cost sustainable design strategies and construction practices to ensure that the cost of construction is kept low. Additionally, compliance with best sustainable construction practices increases the brand reputation of the typically first-generation developers in this segment. The homeowners benefit from dwelling units that consume lesser electricity and water thus reducing their monthly expenses.
Green Housing for a Better Tomorrow
There are fiscal incentives available to the homeowners when they purchase a green certified dwelling unit. For example, the property tax rebate that is offered by Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) & Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).
The case for homeowners to demand for green housing has never been clearer. Green housing provides them with thermal comfort and enables them to save on their energy bills while catering to better indoor air quality. Green housing is the next step towards ensuring an energy secure future for our country.