Nearly a year after being elected into office, Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation for one of his biggest electoral promises: a housing unit geared for the general public hailing from the low-income strata on the outskirts of the federal capital. Promising it to be the first of many such projects, the housing scheme will provide space for 18,500 housing units, including 10,000 fully constructed units and space for people to build 8,500 units on their own. Even though PM Imran again conceded the government was too cash-strapped to fully fund the project, the key riddle surrounding the financing for such a massive project has been solved. Officials said that as many as two banks have been engaged for the purpose, besides the HBFC. This means that the government’s role will be limited to that of a facilitator and one which provides land for its private partners to build the projects.
Here is where some of the concerns pop up. Builders in the country do not have the most unblemished of histories. Furthermore, a look at the housing projects launched by private organisations in any part of the country and the way they price their units will show that like any private organisation, builders too do what they do for a profit. Per the premier, the government will be controlling prices of the units so that salaried people or others from low-income groups can afford them easily. He also hinted at introducing the western format of foreclosure for banks to make lending for properties easy – its long-term effects though can be debated and the subprime loan default of the West has not been forgotten. There have been official schemes in the past for providing homes to government employees, but this is the first time that a housing scheme has been opened to the general public. However, the government must put proper regulations in place so as to ensure that safe and secure houses are provided to the people at affordable rates and within the stipulated timeframe.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2019.
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