Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz [ruling party of the incumbent Prime Minister Nawaz Shairf] has promised to provide housing facilities to lower-income families and ultimately ensure a house to each Pakistani family.
The promise is listed in the party manifesto and was trumpeted by the party leadership during a campaign in the run-up to the general elections.
Detailing the strategy to fulfill the promise, the party manifesto on page 15 declares, “At least 1,000 clusters of 500 houses each for lower-income families will be developed on a public-private partnership mode, and the industry will be encouraged to expand investment and provide employment opportunities in the adjoining areas. The PML(N) would strive to eventually provide housing to each Pakistani family through public-private partnership by expanding credit facilities for low-income housing and encouraging provincial governments to provide land for such housing schemes.”
According to Jawad Aslam, CEO of Ansaar Management Company – a low-cost housing development and management company – Pakistan has been facing a shortage of 7 million housing units and, every year, the backlog is increasing.
“The real issue arising from the situation (shortage of housing facilities) is the majority of people are living in subhuman conditions,” Aslam said. He said people do not have access to basic facilities including clean drinking water, sanitation and other social services.
In Pakistan, most of the housing stock are designed to cater to the needs of people who are earning more than Rs. 100,000 per month, he said. “It means 65 percent of the population can only afford one percent of the housing supply,” says Aslam.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a low-income housing plan in a televised speech in August. The Prime Minister said, “I want to convey good news on this occasion. We have prepared a scheme of affordable housing units for the low income families.”
“…during the upcoming five years, thousands of homeless people…belonging to all provinces of Pakistan, will become owners of their own houses,” he said.
The PM unveiled a plan for 500,000 houses, under a low-income housing scheme in early October during a high-level meeting. The prime minister directed the policy framework to be completed by the end of November this year.
He emphasized land identification, surveys and other planning for the early launch of the schemes. The premier said it would improve the lives of the people and provide social protection for low-income families.
Secretary General of PML-N Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, talking to Truth Tracker, said his party has already sought suggestions from the relevant quarters and stakeholders.
“Definitely we will form a committee to do things in a more transparent manner,” says Jhagra. About the timeline, Jhagra said he could not give an exact date, but that the policy would be approved very soon. “The government is simultaneously working on a number of issues…but the time factor plays a vital role in the situation,” Jhagra said.
Aslam – an expert on low-income housing – said the government has to work on introducing public-private partnerships in the housing sector. “It is a fact the government can’t address the problem single handedly,” Aslam said.
Currently, some 120 million people need housing. “On average, it takes a minimum of $10,000 to build a house,” he said and added that billions of dollars are needed to be invested in the housing sector.
“The government does not have that much money to invest in the housing sector and it is making tall promises of building homes for the homeless without realizing it has no money to spend on the project,” says Aslam.
The best solution, Aslam believed, is to engage the private sector and create an ecosystem conducive to low-income housing. He said PML-N had already established a committee for housing and now needs to engage the private sector. Truth Tracker rules this promise as underway. Though it is still a work in progress, some steps have been taken to fulfill it.