Meeting the housing needs
The scope of the challenge for quality housing in India, one of the major markets in the Far East, is significant. “There is an acute shortage,” says Dr. Shailesh Kr. Agrawal, the executive director at the Building Materials & Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC), in New Delhi. To close the gap, a multitude of projects are necessary. The some 24.7 million dwelling units needed just for the urban poor will increase, adds Agrawal, “to 26.53 million in urban areas at the end of 2012. Additionally, there is more than double requirement for houses in the rural areas.” Technological interventions, innovative building materials, fast construction methodologies, quality products and industrialized housing can go a long way to fulfill the needs. Indian authorities are also looking into ways to cut costs and add new housing stock that is eco-friendly.
Precast is essential
“To bring speed, quality and efficiency into construction, precast is essential, and, definitely, it is going to play an important role in future construction, not only in India, but all over the world,” comments Agrawal. “India is looking forward to prefab technologies for mass housing.” Precast concrete has been used in India by the infrastructure industry for a long time, to build things like tunnels, bridges and fly-overs. For buildings, it is used in stairs and landings, and for modular-buildings. The next evolution will see greater use of precast concrete in residential buildings. “Building construction is witnessing significant automation, and builders are now more ready to experiment with new techniques and building materials,” says Ilpo Sarikka, the head of Finpro in India.
A growing middle class
But more than just meeting the needs of the urban poor, India is also seeing growth in its middle class. The Indian urban population is expected to reach 576 million in 2030 (currently, it is around 328 million). “The number of families earning more than EUR 3 000 annually is estimated to double in the next few years,” says Sarikka. The demand for quality homes by middle-class families also adds pressures to the housing needs. “Affordable housing, by Indian definition, means a multi-storied apartment-type house with a floor area of 70–120 square meters that costs about EUR 20 000–57 000. The houses are normally financed with 20-year loans from public and private banks, at around 8–9 percent annual interest,” he explains.
Home ownership is desirable
To meet the multi-level requirements, the government of India has initiated several schemes to provide housing, “for one and all,” says Agrawal. Favorable governmental policies are supporting private-sector companies to enter and invest into the construction business. “In a recently published National Habitat & Housing Policy 2007, the government has emphasized it will provide an enabling environment so that all persons can afford to own a house,” says the Indian housing expert, adding that developers are also motivate by the decline in business, on other fronts. “Developers, due to the decline in the real estate business, are looking for affordable housing options to augment their business in hard times.” Not surprisingly, ‘Home, Sweet Home’ rings true also in this part of the world, and many Indians look forward to home ownership. “In India, very high social and cultural value is attached to property ownership. Owning property is also a social status symbol,” points out Sarikka.