Migrant workers, students could get houses on rent for Rs 1,000/month under Modi govt plan

Modi govt to offer nearly 1 lakh vacant rental housing units built under UPA-era schemes like JNNURM, RAY to construction workers, labourers, students, among others.

New Delhi: Construction workers, labourers, other migrants working in unorganised sectors and students could soon be able to live in government-funded affordable rental housing complexes in cities by paying a monthly rent varying between Rs 1,000 and Rs 3,000 a month for different categories The housing ministry has estimated an initial budget requirement of over Rs 700 crore to implement the affordable rental housing scheme.

The Modi government is planning to utilise the approximately one lakh unutilised housing units built under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) — both UPA-era urban upgrade and housing programmes — to provide rental housing as part of its Affordable Rental Housing scheme for migrant workers, announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on 14 May.

While both JNNURM and RAY are UPA-era programs, the one lakh houses were completed under the Modi government. JNNURM, which was launched in 2005 for a seven-year period was extended twice — first until March 2014 and then to March 2017. RAY was subsumed into the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, which was launched by PM Narendra Modi in June 2015.

Although there is no database of the total number of migrant workers with any government agency, the Modi dispensation had earlier this month informed the Supreme Court that approximately one crore migrant workers have returned home in Shramik Special trains, buses and on foot since the 25 March Covid-19 lockdown.

Ministry finalising policy

Senior government officials familiar with the matter told ThePrint that the Union Urban Affairs and Housing Ministry is in the process of finalising the rental housing policy and getting it approved by the cabinet. As part of the policy that is under discussion, the ministry is likely to fix rents varying from Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000 for different categories of migrants such as construction workers, those working in the unorganised sector, labourers and students.

The ministry, officials said is still in the process of finalising the eligibility criteria for the different categories of rental housing units. “A final call on the eligibility criteria as well as the category-wise rent will be taken soon. Once the modalities are finalised, we will move the cabinet for approval,” said a housing ministry official who did not want to be named.

The government has come under a lot of flak for failing to anticipate the migrant crisis in the aftermath of the lockdown. Although it intervened later and provided trains and buses for them to return home, and announced free ration, the opposition is pressing for more relief measures like transferring money to the migrants and giving them employment.

Pvt developers likely to be given incentives like higher FAR

While the vacant housing units built under JNNURM and RAY will be utilised immediately after basic repair work, the Urban Development and Housing Ministry will also rope in private developers to build housing units that can be given on rent to migrant workers and the urban poor.

“The government is likely to give incentives to private developers in the form of higher Floor Area Ratio (FAR), etc in lieu of developing affordable rental units for the urban poor,” a second ministry official said. Besides, the private developers will also be told to use existing housing stock, which is lying vacant, and fit them into the affordable rental housing scheme.

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