The market and government have failed to provide affordable shelter for the urban poor. Self-construction is the largest ‘supplier’ of housing for the poor in India. These houses built in informal settlements (such as urban villages, unauthorized colonies etc) with help of local masons are often unsafe, with weak structure and poor light and ventilation. In addition, due to informality of income sources and weak property titles, households borrow from informal sources at interest rates usually higher than 60% per year. mHS conceptualized Design Home Solution(DHS) for urban households engaging in self-construction by enabling them to access construction finance and technical design assistance simultaneously. In this context, the goal of DHS was to catalyse this informal supply of housing to improve quality of housing, while making formal finance accessible.
Economic insecurity and tenure conditions mean that the urban poor have no access to financing for formal housing. It is clear that current public sector efforts in affordable housing – no matter how appropriate and innovative – will never be able to create adequate supply to meet the demand for housing units for low-income groups. In the face of this overwhelming emphasis on green-field development and the issues evident above, mHS is determined to propose that the urban poor need to be offered a more diverse portfolio of housing solutions from which they can choose depending on their income, family size, place of work and a number of other factors. This would include night shelters, dormitories, rental housing units, apartments and the option of incremental construction over existing homes.
New Delhi sits on some of the most volatile land on the Indian subcontinent, categorized as Zone IV by the Indian Building Codes. This aggravates the risk posed by self-construction in Indian mega-cities as cheap and unsafe building materials and the informal building process put the building at particular risk to lateral stresses, thereby endangering the physical and economic well-being of low-income households. At the same time, New Delhi faces relatively extreme climate, from close to freezing temperatures in the winter months and, arid, extremely hot temperatures. This presents a challenge to design, as buildings must be equipped to deal with both extremes while keeping costs low.