Time to focus on Rental Housing

Harvard researchers predict that over the next ten years, India can become the world’s fastest growing economy. The real estate sector, the highest job-creating sector after agriculture, has a significant role to play. The government can chip in with the role of an enabler.
Alas, it hasn’t worked that way.
Poorly formulated housing policies can trigger an economic and financial crisis. So, what we need are good policies to support growth in long-term living standards and strengthen macroeconomic stability. Here are a few things the government can do.
The government should intervene in housing markets to ensure equitable access to housing. These interventions could include fiscal measures such as taxes and subsidies, the direct provision of social housing, and various regulations influencing the quantity, quality, and price of houses.
These policies will impact the overall economic performance and living standards, in that they can influence how households use their savings as well as residential and labour mobility which is crucial for reallocating workers to new jobs and geographical areas.
Remember, adequately supervised financial and mortgage market development, combined with policies that enhance housing-supply flexibility, are key for macroeconomic stability.
In a country like India where there is continuous growing population, there is tremendous pressure on the housing markets. The rental property market is the only available option for most people who migrate into a city either for employment or for nurturing their careers.
There is always a demand for rental housing regardless of how the home sales market is performing. This is because rental housing has a positive impact on the development of a city.
Focus on infrastructure and land acquisition
Infrastructure in many Indian cities is inadequate to meet the growing needs of its population. Many people do not move into houses they bought because of lack of amenities like shopping markets, good roads, hospitals, etc. in that area. If there is greater investment in infrastructure in areas that need such facilities, it will lead to opening up of more of the urban landscape for development. This will make housing less expensive, and more people will be able to live away from their employment centres.
But, constraints in the Land Acquisition Act has made things difficult. Thereby real estate development has become expensive. Developers getting entangled in legal battles over land is par for the course. Historically, the world over, when construction becomes expensive, people begin to live in informal settlements aka slums. Data show that nearly 17 percent of India’s population live in slums.
When the title to property is not clear, you don’t have an incentive to invest in improving the housing standards. It also freezes valuable urban land. If the government can legalise these settlements, the informal economy could be brought under the ambit of formal law. This will lead to redevelopment of many households. Here affordable housing could act as a preventive for such unorganized growth.
Innovations in mortgage markets should be coupled with appropriate regulatory oversight and prudent banking regulations. This would increase access to credit and lower the cost of housing finance.
Eleven percent of the entire housing stock is in the rental market. Since 1961, the fraction of the houses in the rental market had declined by over 70 percent in cities like Mumbai. The reason was that rent controls were not eased while allowing for the development of buildings by raising the floor space index (FSI). As most households with low-income levels cannot afford to buy houses, the function of the rental housing market is of great importance. FSI is an important factor in the housing market. Restrictions in this regard prevent redevelopment of old buildings.
Another interesting fact is that rental properties come with variation in budget sizes. The higher one’s budget was, there was scope to get a better place regarding location or size, accompanied with amenities. These ranged from single family homes to high-end multi-bedroom apartments. Rental housing catered to a whole spectrum of income groups.
Developing cities see migration from the hinterlands. We must develop the suburbs and surrounding spaces to meet this demand. This ensures that the wheels of the economy are sufficiently oiled and pulled by the cogwheels called rental housing. Otherwise, we would be staring at a major man-made crisis.

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