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Housing – Meaning, Role and Magnitude of Housing Problem in India

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Food, clothing and shelter (housing) are the primary requirements of life.

The availability of these necessities in sufficient quantity and quality increases the physical efficiency and productivity of the people.

So housing is an important component of human resource development.

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In India, the problem of housing is acute. There is a wide gap between the demand and supply of houses. This gap is responsible for growth of slums in cities where crores of people live in most unhygienic and unhealthy conditions.

Meaning of Housing:

Generally speaking, housing may be defined as an architectural unit for accommodation in order to protect the occupants from the forces of nature. But in wider meaning housing covers all the ancillary services and community facilities which are essential to human well being. In addition to the physical structure, it includes water supply, sanitation, and disposal of water, recreation and other basic amenities of life. Thus housing can be defined as a component architectural structure within a total system consisting of various settlement variables.

Distinction between House and Home:

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Literally speaking house and home seems to be same in sense and meaning but a distinction between the two is must. House being narrower term, may represent only an architectural structure for accommodation. Home being wider term, includes the family relationships and bonds of affection which are nurtured within this architectural structure.

Role of Housing:

Housing is closely associated to the process of overall socio-economic development. It provides shelter and raises the quality of life. It generates conditions which are congenial to the achievement of social objectives such as health, sanitation and education. It provides employment opportunities to the rural and urban people. Moreover it helps to improve urban rural equality by narrowing down the difference in the standard of living. Thus housing performs multiple functions including many social needs of the household.

Socio-cultural Variables in Housing:

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The socio-cultural factors decide the quality and quantity of housing in India. The caste divide in Indian rural society mainly affects the distribution of houses and also the quality of housing. In Indian villages, the division on caste basis has given rise to division of housing.

Generally houses of upper castes are situated in better areas while houses of lower castes especially scheduled castes and some backward classes are situated in periphery of the village. These peripheral regions are mostly low lying areas and unhygienic.

Kinship and family structure are other variables which affect the quality and quantity of housing. For example, there is shift from joint family system to nuclear families. This tendency puts pressure on the available land for housing. In Punjab and Haryana this pressure is visible. In Rajasthan where dispersed settlement pattern exists, this pressure may not be felt so far.

The household size is also important variable of housing quality and quantity. Urban families are small in comparison to rural area. The land is more costly in urban areas. So urban houses are small in size as compared to village houses. The occupational pattern and tradition also affect the housing layout.

Generally, housing structure in rural areas use locally available building material, technology and man power except well to do rural families. In urban areas, building materials used are of industrial origin and durable.

Magnitude of the housing problem:

The magnitude of the problem of housing in India is quite wide. The problem has both quantitative and qualitative dimensions. According to 1991 census, the housing shortage was 18.5 million dwelling units, out of which 13.7 million for rural areas and 4.8 million for urban areas 41.6. % was living in pucca houses, 30.9% was living in semi-pucca houses and 27.5% was living in kutcha houses.

The following table shows the shortage of housing in rural and urban areas:

Population and Housing Shortages in India

The table indicates that rural housing shortage increased from 3.4 million in 1961 to 20.6 million in 2001. Urban housing shortage increased from 0.9 million units to 10.4 million units during the same period. Thus total shortages of housing increased from 4.3 million to 31.0 million dwelling units. The rate of housing construction in the country is around 3 houses per thousand populations per year as against the required rate of 5 houses per thousand populations.

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Qualitative aspect of Housing Problem

Qualitatively speaking the state of housing in India is miserable. About 80% houses in rural areas do not have basic amenities like safe drinking water, bathroom, toilets etc. Ninth Five year Plan has recorded the inter State variation in housing shortage. There is a large concentration in a few States.

For example Bihar accounted for one third of the housing scarcity followed by Andhra Pradesh, Assam, U.P. and West Bengal. In 2000, about 48.7 million people were living in urban slums in unhealthy conditions. According to Ninth Five-Year Plan, 18.77 million houses are kutcha houses. They are thatched houses made of mud, straw and bamboos. These are unable to face natural disaster like cyclone and flood etc.

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Quantitative aspect of Housing Problem:

Quantitatively speaking, there is acute shortage of housing in rural and urban areas in India. Presently, there is shortage of 310 lakh houses in India. Out of which 206 lakh houses are in rural area and 104 lakh houses in urban areas.

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