According to the Population and Housing Census 2022, around 1.8 million people reside in slums across the country. Nearly 0.88 million slum dwellers live in Dhaka, and 36,491 live in the slums of Mymensingh.
The country experiences an affordable housing crisis, which is exacerbated by inflationary pressure. The urban centric development, primarily based on the capital, Dhaka, has centralized most of the employment opportunities. As a consequence, people aspiring to attain a decent livelihood leave their places every day from all over the country and set foot in Dhaka. However, such huge demand for housing, characterized by a massive influx of people, is not met with low-cost and affordable housing from the supply side. Thus forcing low income individuals to find a place in the slums.
In most instances, these overcrowded slums lack access to sanitation, sewage and water disposal facilities, waste management systems, water, and utilities such as gas and electricity. These slums are often being constructed with bamboo, cardboard paper, mud, plastic bags, etc. The slum inhabitants are often exposed to fire, arson attacks, extortion, and sexual harassment – which put their lives in jeopardy.
Rent-Based Housing Schemes for Slum Dwellers
To address the affordable housing crisis in Bangladesh and provide slum dwellers with low-cost and affordable housing, the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) has undertaken several rehabilitation and relocation projects around the country. Among such initiatives, the National Housing Authority (NHA) has constructed 5 buildings with 14 floors in the Bauniabandh neighbourhood of Dhaka’s Mirpur 11 to further the government’s objective to leave-no-one-behind in line with the National Housing Policy 2016.
In 2017, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, laid the foundation stone for the project. In August 2021, 300 slum dwellers and their families were provided with flats in newly built buildings with modern facilities and access to civic amenities. In the first phase of the project, a total of 533 flats have been constructed. Each flat has 2 bedrooms, 2 balconies, 1 bathroom, 1 living room, and 1 kitchen. The gross area of each flat is 673 square feet.
Each apartment block contains 2 elevators, 3 stairs, an individual community hall, wide walkways and outdoor space. The buildings are powered by solar panels, and each building has a power generator substation. Each of the 14 floors of the buildings has a fire-fighting system installed. 10 Ansar members have been assigned on a permanent basis to keep the residents of these apartments safe and secure. Though deep tube-wells are being used to supply water to the buildings, the installation of a water pump by WASA is under construction.
For each flat, the tenants have to pay BDT 150 (around 1.36 dollars) each day or BDT 4,500 each month. The tenants pay the gas and electricity charges. For the elevator, water, and security, the tenants have to pay a service charge of BDT 1,500.
In the second phase of the project, another 1,001 families based in slums will be allocated flats. Around 10,000 flats are being constructed at a cost of BDT 148 crore to provide affordable housing to the slum dwellers of Dhaka.
Yasmin, one of the beneficiaries of the scheme, said, “Earlier, 30 people used to use one bathroom together. In one room, some slept on a tool, some on the ground. It was not a livable environment. Now they are living in separate flats. There is a separate bathroom and balcony. If there is no electricity, there is a generator back-up. There is a lift. Never in my dreams have I thought I would be able to live in such a building.”
Yasmin’s mother, Rehana, was also allocated a flat in these buildings. Rehana said, “I had never imagined that I would live in such an environment. It is a dream to be able to keep my children in such a good environment. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave this opportunity to the slum dwellers.”
Ghore Fera Scheme
However, the grievances of slum dwellers cannot be ameliorated only through rent-based housing schemes. Incentives have to be provided to the slum dwellers to return to their roots and find a stable livelihood there. The Central Bank of the country, Bangladesh Bank has launched a refinance initiative, ‘Ghore Fera’ scheme, meaning ‘Back Home’ to generate employment opportunities and eliminate poverty for individuals who returned from cities to villages due to COVID-19 pandemic. The scheme has a BDT 5 billion fund, which can be increased as per the demand of loans. The loans will be disbursed till December 31, 2024. The returnees will be able to get funds at a 6% interest rate from the scheme, while banks will receive funds at a 0.5% interest rate. At least BDT 0.5 million will be given to the returnees as financial support so that they can start their livelihood in the villages. 10% of the disbursed loans will be allocated to women borrowers and entrepreneurs. Such a scheme can potentially incentivize slum dwellers to live the cities and start something new in their villages.
In addition, this housing initiative for slum dwellers complements one of the largest public housing projects undertaken by the Bangladesh government, the Ashrayan. Under the Ashrayan project, a total of 221,224 houses have been distributed so far to landless and homeless individuals and families. Till July 2023, a total of 2,778,085 individuals from 555,617 families were rehabilitated. Bangladesh’s prime minister has declared a total of 32 districts and 394 sub districts of Bangladesh landless and homeless-free. Till July 2022, a total of 600 specially designed houses have been built to uplift the ethnic minorities of three hill districts. These abodes come with finance and skills training to engage these destitute segments in income-generating activities.
Since the slum rehabilitation projects in cities won’t be able to handle the pressure of a huge influx of people aspiring to get a decent place to live free-of-charge, the government is encouraging people to go back to their villages and avail rent-free homes. Though the country has a long way to go in providing affordable housing for all, the public housing ecosystem, facilitated by slum rehabilitation projects and Ashrayan, is providing an address and a home for everyone.
About the Author
Shah Adaan Uzzaman is the Blog Administrator at The Confluence. A former Bangladesh Television Debate Champion and winner of several policy & debate competitions, he is currently a student of IBA, University of .