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Punjab plans housing project for low-income families

ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government has proposed to set up an ‘affordable housing project’ and sought support from the World Bank to develop a comprehensive provincial housing policy and strategy aimed at improving access to housing for low-income groups.

The bank will evaluate the project once the Covid-19 pandemic is controlled and the situation becomes normal. The cost of the project has been estimated at $350 million, while the International Development Association of the World Bank group will provide $300m financing.

The proposed project will provide deeper support to the Punjab government on its affordable housing agenda. Specifically, the project will help develop a comprehensive provincial housing policy and strategy, based on a clear understanding of supply and demand constraints. It will identify entry points to enable the market for affordable housing and build technical and financial capacity to sustainably scale up solutions over time.

The proposed solutions will address barriers on the supply and demand side of the housing value chain. Solutions developed through the proposed project in Punjab may serve as models for other provinces to be replicated across Pakistan.

Housing shortage in Pakistan estimated at 10m units

According to the project document, ensuring an adequate supply of affordable housing in Punjab in a sustainable manner will require a long-term and multi-pronged approach. It will entail federal, provincial and local agencies implementing measures across the entire housing value-chain — including access to land with basic infrastructure, planning and building regulations, construction and end-user finance.

It says the government needs transition from the role of housing provider to a market enabler in order to provide an efficient and fiscally sustainable solution to housing needs in the province, particularly for the poor segments of society.

By forcing on the enabling environment for the housing market, the private sector can be incentivised to gradually go down market to more affordable housing segments, while limited public resources are narrowly targeted to those most in need, the document says.

Housing shortage in Pakistan is currently estimated at approximately 10m units, with about half of this in urban areas. Around 47 per cent of urban households live in katchi abadis with inadequate infrastructure and services.

In Punjab, the overall housing shortage is estimated to be 3.15m units. Approxim­ately 51pc of urban housing units are overcrowded, 75pc do not have access to piped water, and 60pc do not have access to piped sewerage, the World Bank says.

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