With a large number of people migrating from rural areas to cities in search of better opportunities, the goal of providing a roof over everyone’s head is bound to get even more challenging for the government.

The present NDA government at the Centre has promised housing for all by 2022, when India completes 75 years of independence.

In 2013, there was a housing shortage of 108 million units for a population of 258 million households in the country. Out of the overall housing shortage, urban housing shortage accounted for 25.7 million units. The overall housing shortage grew at a CAGR of 0.7 per cent during the period 2003-2013. The gap widened more profoundly by 1.8 per cent in urban areas during the same period. It is expected that the overall housing shortage will reach 114 million units by 2018.

With rapid growth in population accompanied by urbanisation, the housing shortage in the country will only get more acute. India’s population is expected to reach 1.3 billion by 2021. By 2022, more than one-third of the population will be city dwellers. As of 2011, 31 per cent of India’s population lived in urban areas.

According to CRISIL Research, the urban housing shortage will grow faster than the rural housing shortage over the next five years due to increase in migration to cities, rise in incomes and proliferation of nuclear families.

To deal with the rapid urbanization and also avoid severe strain on the existing infrastructure in cities, the government intends to create 100 smart cities as satellite towns of large cities. A sum of  Rs. 7,060 crore has been allocated in the Union Budget 2014-15 for the ambitious project.

A smart city is one which enjoys sustainable economic growth and high standards of living. Investments in human and social capital, physical infrastructure such as transport, and social infrastructure like healthcare, education and recreation, are the usual hallmarks of such a city. It intelligently manages resources and uses Information and Communication Technology and technology platforms including automated sensor networks and data centers to make living efficient. In other words, a smart city has a mix of commercial (services and manufacturing), residential, social infrastructure, physical infrastructure and public utilities.

The PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry and CRISIL recently released a white paper on smart cities. It said that while the concept of smart cities was a promising one, several challenges would be encountered in development of such cities.

Pointing out that a smart city could take between 8 to 10 years to build from scratch and even more time to attract businesses and people, the white paper said such an initiative required commitment and persistence on part of the government over a long period of time. It stressed that the authorities needed to be aware of the latest relevant technologies and the technologies had to be tailor-made and used effectively taking into account the topography, location and natural resources of the area. It added that the success of a smart city depended on residents, entrepreneurs and visitors actively participating in energy saving, implementation of new technologies and decisions to improve quality of life.

The white paper outlined the key measures that need to be initiated for success of smart cities in India. Highlighting that the government had a major role to play in development of smart cities, it called for setting up of a central planning authority that would manage and provide single window clearances, monitor progress of such projects and ensure compliances. To attract businesses to newly developed smart cities, the white paper suggested incentives in the form of long-term tax holidays and other tax sops. It further said that in order to develop smart cities at par with global standards, the government needed to involve the private sector as well as global urban planning groups who had implemented the concept of smart city elsewhere in Asia.

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