The Financial Express

Declining home-ownership

| Updated: October 10, 2019 21:09:49

Declining home-ownership

A decline in home-ownership from 31.9 per cent to 18.5 per cent between mid-90's and 2011 in the capital city exposes not only the weakness of housing policy but also of the wealth creation pattern in the country. Clearly, this is incongruous with the high economic growth the country has been experiencing over the past decades. The mismatch between an ever increasing population and housing provision is all too evident. Sprawling slums and their inhabitants are forced to lead a subhuman life. If service of people living there is essential for the city, they certainly deserve better. But they are not the only ones whose housing need has been overlooked, even the middle-class people cannot afford either an individual home or a flat in the city. Outrageously expensive land and building materials have been responsible for their lack of affordability.

Usually in countries going strong economically people who are privileged to amass money invest in housing or landed property. Initially this is what happens in any country on the road to economic prosperity but after sometime, investment in landed property experiences a lull with opportunities opening up in many other areas. In this country too, the real estate business flourished for about one and a half decades, which escalated the housing cost well beyond the reach of the middle class. But it is the size of this class and their collective affordability that make a difference in both consumerism and living standard. However, one of the basic requirements for raising the standard of living is possession of home. But in a megacity like Dhaka, the pressure is too heavy to allow a reasonable number of its inhabitants to have their own residential accommodations for obvious reasons. After all, land is limited but the demand is high.

It is exactly at this point the housing policy and governance of landed property come to the fore. Realtors here have at times resorted to arm-twisting ploys to drive out small land-owners in order to expand their housing area. If the government went for acquiring lands for housing at a reasonable price, the compensation or share of flats land-owners would have enjoyed might not spur the housing price to an astronomical level and give rise to inequality between and among the moneyed class and people with modest means. There was a need for a comprehensive housing policy in order to raise the living standard of the city people.

The pattern of wealth creation in the country is a reflection of the yawning gap between and among segments of people. If the super rich here are growing at a higher rate than their counterparts in the rest of the world, it means the economic benefits are limited to a select class. And many of this privileged class do not always earn their income honestly. So they are unlikely to invest either in productive sectors for generation of employment or even in housing. Rather they are interested in second homes abroad. Quite clearly, a shift in development and, by extension, patriotism paradigms is taking place. Means of production will have to be decentralised in order to ease the pressure on the capital.

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