Naya Pakistan housing

PRIME Minister Imran Khan, on Wednesday, launched another mega project called Naya Pakistan Housing Programme aimed at providing affordable houses to low-income groups. The plan envisages construction of five million houses during the next five years to help meet the growing shortage of houses in the country. Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister dwelt upon the plan his government has prepared to give a boost to the housing sector and also defended the decision to go for IMF in the wake of growing balance of payment crisis.
Housing shortage has assumed serious dimensions as, according to estimates, Pakistan needs at least 10 million housing units and the funds required to meet the demand are whopping $180 billion, half of the size of the country’s economy. It is regrettable that despite potential of the construction sector to stimulate overall growth of the economy as it is deeply linked to 40 other industries, the governments in the past paid no serious attention to the sector. Even PML (N) government announced plans for provision of low-cost houses to the people but the programme could not take off. Going by the details given by the Prime Minister at the launching ceremony, it seems the government is mindful of doing the necessary homework and removing hurdles that hindered progress in the past. The decision to establish Naya Pakistan Housing Authority (NPHA) to serve as a one window for all construction related activities, institution of a task force till activation of the authority, creation of a land-bank and provision of legal framework instil confidence that the project would ultimately deliver.
Another important aspect of the programme is regularisation of the slum areas that are increasing in urban centres with the passage of time. As efforts aimed at relocation have not proved successful in the past, government would be on the right track if it succeeded in implementing its plan to construct high rise buildings at the sites of these slums for allotment of flats to those living there. However, the finances would be a big problem. There are some people in these localities who are otherwise affluent and running one or other kind of business but majority is poor and cannot afford to pay back loans if obtained for the purpose. The Prime Minister regretted that contrary to other countries, the percentage of people opting for construction of houses through bank loans is negligible but the reasons are quite obvious. We have House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC) where, due to rampant corruption, about 25% of the loan went back to dishonest officials while those who obtained loans were caught in the vicious cycle of debt.
How a poor person, with meagre income to manage his home expenditure, can afford to payback loan taken on commercial or even subsidised interest rate? One also wonders how the Naya Pakistan Housing Authority is going to be different from Pakistan Housing Foundation (PHF) and Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation that announced a number of projects, registered government employees and received huge instalments from applicants but delivered nothing. Former Minister for Housing Akram Durrani lamented on floor of the National Assembly that his Ministry was unable to deliver on its promises of providing houses to the people mainly because of Court or NAB interventions. The Prime Minister announced that NPHA would seek fresh registrations but the question arises what about all those who were registered in the past and deposited hefty amounts as registration and instalments? Why the Government would leave thousands of people in the lurch and create uncertainty about fulfilment of their dream to have a house of their own? We hope the authorities concerned would explain the position vis-à-vis the already announced and on-going schemes of both PHA and FHEHF, otherwise people would lose trust in the government.
There is also dire need to reduce mortgage and interest rate to encourage people to go for loans for construction of houses but the instance of corruption must be addressed first. As government intends to implement its programme through public-private partnership, we would urge that the quality aspect must be ensured as some relevant departments and agencies as well as some unscrupulous private sector companies have a tendency of compromising the quality in their bid to become rich overnight. Services of dependable and reliable entities could be obtained to make the programme a resounding success. Real estate is already an attractive option for investors but there is need for proper regulation and oversight and provision of incentives to the sector.

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