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Editorial: Houses For The People
 
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29-Nov-2009  
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Shelter is a basic necessity of life. Indeed, apart from food and water, shelter is ranked as the next in the list of needs of man that qualifies to be classified as a human right.

Thus the right to shelter, which is universally recognised as a basic social right and enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), is accorded pride of place in many jurisdictions, especially in progressive societies where the principles of quality and the well-being of the masses hold sway.
It is no wonder, therefore, that in such progressive societies, homelessness, which is a denial of this important right, is a rare phenomenon, whereas in more affluent, laissez-faire nations, there are more homeless and destitute people.

In developing nations such as ours, the issue of rapid and unplanned urbanisation, coupled with underdevelopment and poverty, has brought to the fore the acute housing problem the people have to contend with.
In the urban centres where this problem is prevalent and acute, this problem is sometimes masked in the form of squatter settlements or shanty towns at the centre or prime areas of cities.

Many working class people and others who have thronged the cities to make a living, because of the absence of alternative means of livelihood in the rural and semi-urban areas, simply cannot afford the prohibitive rents that are charged for the regular and modest houses available for accommodation.

It is common in our urban centres for landlords to demand rent advances ranging between two and 10 years at exorbitant rates and completely out of reach of the majority of the people.

This, in part, arises from the fact that the demand for houses or homes far outstrips supply and, therefore, there is a big deficit.
Over the years, this gap has grown in width and depth into a gulf and with it the housing crisis in many urban centres of the country has aggravated.

Governments, over the years, have, through a number of interventions, put up some housing units, mostly dubbed affordable housing, for workers in urban centres.

Even though these facilities have provided substantial relief for many workers and their families, many more are still left out in the open. The few private sector housing initiatives for workers have also not gone far to adequately address the problem.

It is, therefore, gratifying to note that the government, recognising the housing issue as a human right, has already launched an initiative, in partnership with the private sector, to construct 100,000 housing units across the country over the next eight years.
Additionally, 200,000 low-income housing units are to be constructed.
We are happy to note that these, in addition to the pledge by the government to complete the various affordable housing projects left hanging from the previous government, will help make a significant dent on the huge housing deficit and bring relief to more working people and their families.

We urge the government to ensure that working and low-income people for whom those houses are meant are the ones who get them.
We recall with sadness and regret the situation where ministers, party functionaries, wealthy businessmen and women and their cronies were those who rather scrambled for and got these affordable and low-cost housing units, some even before the buildings were completed, leaving out those for whom they were meant.

We wish to urge the government and the private sector to join hands to work urgently on bringing down or at least check the escalating prices of building materials such as cement, iron rods, wood and others, as these are responsible for the high cost of houses.
 
 
 
Source: Daily Graphic
 
 

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