Even though it has been a subject of worldwide concern, the COVID-19 pandemic has served to once again highlight the critical importance of secure and good-quality housing because of its strong linkage to shelter, enhanced resilience, and economic wellbeing. The scale of the housing challenge globally is mindboggling. As per estimates, more than 1.2 billion people live in poor-quality housing, and 300 million new homes, mainly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa will be needed by 2030. We need to have housing options that are commercially viable and also understand the dimensions of the social-economic impact of homeownership to be able to deliver affordable housing in such large numbers.
Better Quality of Life
A multi-nation study of low-income homeowners across eleven indicators of wellbeing revealed that moving into better-quality homes resulted in a significant improvement in the quality of life. With access to a better water supply, improved sanitation, and the peace of mind that came with a permanent income, the impact on the residents is more than significant. Additionally, for many who had never dared to think that they would even own a home, the assurance of permanent shelter opened up many opportunities for leading a life with more dignity. The average increase in the quality of life measured from 21% in Nepal to 34% in Kenya. The move into owned housing also improved community engagement and allowed a better focus on livelihoods, remarks Maxwell Drever.
The study also observed that the impact of affordable housing was the maximum among women across countries. Their lives underwent the greatest transformation with their new homes improving the quality of their lives and allowing them to focus more on looking after their families and exploring income opportunities. One of the most significant impacts was greater privacy, with women now able to bathe in their own homes and sleep separately from their children. Access to piped water also enabled them to save on the time they had otherwise been spending on collecting and carrying back water from distant places. Another common observation was the improved safety and security, particularly after sunset, says Maxwell Drever.
Even though the limit for affordable housing rental is 30% of income in America, a home in Asia and Africa is considered affordable even if the finance payment is 40% of income. It is because it creates a permanently owned asset. With easy financing opportunities or even free housing available, 80% of the low-income households could afford their homes. For many households, the prospect of getting free from unscrupulous landlords and creating a permanent asset that they owned was so lucrative that they were willing to spend significantly more than their current rentals.
As will be evident from the above observations, the creation of affordable housing can act as a major transformative agent for people in the low-income group across the world. The impact of assured and stable housing along with improved privacy, sanitation, and security are more than sufficient reasons for investing in public housing projects. However, it is important to appreciate that these projects cannot be islands of development; rather, they should be located in areas with good access to employment and social infrastructure to help establish sustainable communities.