Affordable housing is still a distant dream
Affordable housing for all citizens still a distant dream in Vijayawada city. A study by Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) in 2014 had revealed that more than 25% of people in the city live in slums.
The 2014 study showed that about 3 lakh people, of the total population of 11 lakh, live in 111 slums across the city.
Since 2014, the city population has reportedly grown by more than 50%. The massive rise is came after the city was declared part of the state capital region.
According to an estimate, Vijayawada’s population is now more than 17.7 lakh. Apart from government employees, migration of low-income groups has also increased in the urban area.
Slums in the city are the only place for most migrant workers. They live in thatched houses on canal bunds or on the hillsides, without any basic amenities. The affordable housing projects for low-income groups and those below poverty line, have failed to curb the increasing expanse of slums.
Schemes such as the Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana (VAMBAY) started in 2001-02, and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in 2006-07, for areas such as Ajitsingh Nagar, Jakkampudi, Rajarajeswaripet, and Kabela, have given partial results. Though the VAMBAY Colony has been completed, the VMC is yet complete the housing project under JNNURM.
Agonisingly enough, the Union government shelved the incomplete JNNURM project after the deadline was missed. The VMC exhausted all the funds allocated for the project, but is yet to complete the construction of about 3,136 houses. The cash-starved civic body is now looking to borrow Rs 157 crore from funding agencies to complete the project.
The VMC has allotted only 4,586 houses to the beneficiaries, mostly slum-dwellers, since 2014. The physical occupation of these houses by beneficiaries is not even 30%, as work is still in pending.
The slums in the city are mostly located along the canal bunds, banks of River Krishna, and hillsides. Every hill in the city is has housing or slums, as land is a scarce resource in Vijayawada city.
The city is located between hills on west and north sides, and River Krishna on the north. With limited land, the city has become the third-densely populated city in the world, according to a study conducted across 1,022 cities by a US-based organisation called Demographia. As many as 31,200 people live in an area of one square kilometre in Vijayawada, next to only Dhaka in Bangladesh, and Hyderabad in Pakistan, according to the study.
The state and Union governments have launched massive housing projects in the city under housing for all scheme. As many as 28,152 houses have been sanctioned to Vijayawada city under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), but the work is still in nascent stages.
The VMC is in the process to call for tenders for the first phase of the project, in which 12,024 houses are to be built. Though another 16,128 houses have also been sanctioned for the city in the second phase, the civic body does not have land to construct the houses.
VMC commissioner J Nivas said priority will be given to slum-dwellers in allotting the houses. “We have allotted 2,400 houses in Dall Mill Area, and Scavengers Colony in One Town area. We have also identified 18,000 households on canal bunds. First priority will be given to them in the upcoming housing projects. The first phase of PMAY project will be completed in the next 15 months, and we are planning to start the second phase as soon as land made available.”
Apart from the government schemes, the private sector is also facing a peculiar situation in the city. The real estate sector has stagnated with steep increase in land rates. Roll out of GST and Real Estate Regulation Act (RERA) has added to the problems of the developers. Sirikonda Ramesh, head of the department of planning, School of Planning and Architecture, Vijayawada, said: “Prices of land have to be regulated in order to give a thrust to the housing sector.”