The Union government has, in a first, proposed that slum sprawls on municipal land across the country could be granted security of tenure provided these are converted into rental housing. This would mean that slum households would have to pay a rent fixed by the urban local body. The National Urban Rental Housing Policy, 2017, that is at present with the PMO and will soon be sent to the Cabinet for approval, recommends that urban local bodies — municipal corporations, municipal councils and nagar panchayats —should act as the “social landlord”.
They should treat slum households as tenants who will have to pay a rent for the land in exchange for a no-eviction guarantee to the household for 10 years or more. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, which has prepared the rental housing policy, states that this will not only protect slum residents from the threat of constant eviction and demolition but also act as a source of significant revenue for the urban local bodies.
The proposal estimates that this model could be used to generate 15-20 per cent of the local body’s revenue. The rent to be levied, it says, could be based on the total land occupied and indexed to local rent levels. In cases where existing renters in slums pay money to their landlords, the money for the land would be paid to the local body while owners, who occupy their own hutment, would pay rent to the local body also for the land.
As per the 2011 Census, there are 13 million slum households spread across 1.08 lakh slum pockets in urban India.
The ministry’s draft says that 40 per cent of the slums are on land owned by municipal bodies. In Karnataka, it is as high as 60 per cent. Cities in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Delhi, Odisha, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have a higher than average number of slums on municipal land.
Security of tenure for informal settlements has always been a demand of urban planners in India as threat of constant demolitions and evictions keep slum residents from investing in their housing units or in a decent quality of life.
The ministry report acknowledges this and cites the example of the successful Ahmedabad Slum Networking programme as proof that such a no-eviction guarantee can result in higher levels of income and better health and education outcomes.
However, making it conditional on rent payment could actually be detrimental, say many.
Mukta Naik, a senior researcher at the Centre for Policy Research, pointed out that imposing a rent on slums could lead to cost escalation and subsequent gentrification with those who find the rent unaffordable being forced to move out.
“The no-eviction guarantee could have been unconditional. This shows the failure to recognise informal housing for what it is, to accept that slums are providing affordable housing which should have been provided by the state. Instead, the state still continues to look at slums as encroachers,” Naik said.