Designing for Diversity: Tools for optimised affordable housing for Indian cities

Housing delivery to the bottom of the pyramid is a key challenge faced by India as the country is witmit-housing-tool-3
nessing rapid urbanisation. According to a report by Government of India, the housing shortage was estimated to be 18 to 30 million homes in 2012. This housing crisis will get acute as India’s urban population is projected to increase from 330 million in 2011 to over half a billion by 2030. Indian cities will need to plan for 48 million houses in next 14 years to manage this urbanisation. The majority of this housing will need to be developed for the economically weaker sections of the society.

The process of rapid urbanisation, with millions migrating to the cities from villages, in search of better livelihood opportunities has often been chaotic and unplanned. Conventional urban planning mechanisms are slow to accommodate this influx of people who with their limited funds cannot afford to rent or buy in the formal housing market. Because of the lack of any other viable alternatives, the majority of them end up in informal housing with unregulated construction that is highly vulnerable to natural disasters. The self-built housing, however, provides a significant benefit over any other form of housing delivery for this section of the society. The self-built incremental housing is inherently flexible process that accommodates changing family needs and makes it easier to appropriate and adapt parts of the home as a small shop, workspaces to make supplementary income. Use of home as a productive asset is a critical imperative for the low-income families.

The rigidity of current formal mass-housing delivery mechanism points towards the need for empowering the urban local bodies with the tools for developing demand-optimised, diverse housing stock by facilitating community participation & engagement in the design process. To bridge the gap between socioeconomic data and design decisions, Urban Risk Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology is developing digital toolkit to assist policy makers with a comprehensive, end-to-end housing delivery model. This effort, supported by TATA Center for Technology and Design at MIT focuses on providing access to safe, affordable, incremental housing in tier II and tier III cities of India. The research project aims to create a policy support tools for city authorities to support the low income residents to invest, build and adapt part of their homes as per their needs within a regulated framework. The toolkit – based on the Housing for All Plan of Action guidelines – not only aims to provide a platform for government and private consultants to collaborate on individual projects but will drastically reduce the time and effort spent in the current manual process. By developing a digital platform to analyse of household and livelihood profiles gathered during “Housing for All” surveys – valuable data that in the current process is rarely used to improve design decisions, this tool will help urban local bodies in understanding the citywide housing deficiencies, to prepare annual action plans, and to provide diverse set of housing typologies.

Urban Risk Lab at MIT

The Urban Risk Lab at MIT develops methods and technologies to embed risk reduction and preparedness into the design of cities and regions to increase the resilience of local communities. Operating at the intersection of ecology and infrastructure, rural and urban, research and action; the Urban Risk Lab is an interdisciplinary organisation of researchers and designers. With a global network of partners, the Lab is a place to innovate on techniques, processes, and systems to address the complexities of seismic, climatic, and hydrologic risks.
The lab is currently developing digital tools to assist policy makers with a comprehensive, end-to-end housing delivery model. This effort, supported by TATA Center for Technology and Design at MIT focuses on providing access to safe, affordable, incremental housing in tier II and tier III cities of India – where users can invest, build and adapt part of their homes as per their needs.
urbanrisklab.mit.edu | risk@mit.edu
The Team
Prof. Miho Mazereeuw – Director, Urban Risk Lab
Aditya Barve, Mayank Ojha
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Institute of Urban Affairs or the NIUA-CIDCO Smart City Lab.