LOW COST HOUSING DEMONSTRATION PROJECT
Prakash M. APTE
Housing in Bombay, continues to be far too short in supply than demand. The
struggle to find some solution to bridge the widening gap between demand and supply
seems to be unending. The professionals are aware of the complexity of the problem.
The continued influx of people from surrounding towns and villages aggravates the
situation. Millions of urban poor “live” with this problem. For them surprisingly the
housing need is not of prime importance, because with very poor incomes they cannot
even afford many “essentials” of life. Sky-rocketing rents, pugree system, speculations
and such other aspects have made owning a house/flat in cities like Bombay extremely
difficult even for the middle and high income people. The poor cannot even imagine
that they can even have a house of their own in Bombay.
WHY LOW COST HOUSING?
If we are to serve these poor who constitute 75% of the urban population we
need to build houses at costs as low as Rs.4,000 to 6,000/- all inclusive, so that the
burden on the people in terms of down payment or monthly instalment does not exceed
their paying capacity. At low incomes such as Rs.300 p.m. the paying capacity towards
rent or installment for a house is generally considered as Rs.20 to 30 (Max.10% of
income). If the all-inclusive cost is not brought down to be repayable by such monthly
installments, then an allottee belonging to economically weaker section may find it still
beyond his reach, even with HUDCO’s very low rate of interest at 5% p.a. and payment
period of 20 years.
HUDCO is constantly searching for means of lowering the costs of construction.
For lower the costs of building, the greater the number of houses that can be built with
available resources. This is Hudco’s commitment-more houses for more people, and
cheaper houses within the reach of the urban poor.
HOW TO ACHIEVE LOW COST?
HUDCO’s past experience has shown that economies in housing projects in
general can be achieved through:
(1) Maximisation of land to get optimum density consistent with desirable
(2) Building designs that are simple and functional.
(3) Innovative building designs that are generally single/double storeyed
facilitating easy access to public open spaces and community facilities.
(4) The use of austere, cheaper and substitute building materials and new
building materials and techniques.
HUDCO has been advocating to the various housing agencies in the country, the
use of new materials and technique, economy specifications, etc. for lowering the costs
of construction in projects aided by it. To a great extent, a number of HUDCO assisted
agencies have achieved cost reduction in projects through such innovative planning,
designs and new building materials and technique.
However, mere advocating the use of raw materials or techniques developed by
research institutes and elaborate descriptions about the merits of a new system can
achieve little and arouses a feeble response from public housing agencies.
WHY A DEMONSTRATION PROJECT?
The materials/methods developed after several years of research, tested in the
laboratories need to be demonstrated for their repeat potential, and acceptability for
These considerations motivated HUDCO to undertake demonstration projects
for real low cost houses and try out new materials and techniques through careful
project planning and management at every stage of construction. Such ventures need
the cooperation of public housing agencies.
EFFORT IN AGRA
HUDCO successfully completed the first demonstration project at Ghatwasan,
Agra with the enthusiastic cooperation of the Uttar Pradesh Housing & Development
Board. The all inclusive cost of a dwelling unit using new innovative building
materials/technique, design and planning was only Rs.3900/- requiring a monthly
instalment of Rs.25/- only to pay off the entire amount in 19 years at 5% rate of interest.
The repeat potential and the demonstration effect of the Agra project has been evident
when about 6000 houses have been completed in U.P. by various agencies based on the
THE PROJECT AT GHATKOPAR: MUMBAI
The success at Agra echoed in the response from housing agencies of three major
urban centres, Bombay, Hyderabad and Ghaziabad for taking up similar projects for
housing & urban poor. The keen interest shown by the Government of Maharashtra
helped HUDCO to decide a site for the demonstration project at Pantnagar, Ghatkopar,
Bombay through the Maharashtra Housing & Area Development Authority. In Bombay,
where low cost housing is almost synonymous with multi-storeyed apartments/flats,
because the land is so scarce and costly, it was a challenge for HUDCO’s team of young
architects & engineers to design and implement a low rise housing project within a cost
of Rs.8000 per dwelling unit!
HIGH RISE HIGH DENSITY VS. LOW RISE HIGH DENSITY DEVELOPMENT
After detailed studies of the previous housing efforts for the urban poor,
HUDCO has come the conclusion that one of the basic difficulties which most low-cost-
housing projects in the country face, stems from the misconception that in urban areas,
in order to achieve the optimum use of the available land multistoreyed housing is a
Multistoreyed buildings; apart from requiring lifts and other services, make it
obligatory to use scarce and costly materials like cement & steel and need skilled labour
for construction. While in contruction of simple ground + one storeyed load bearing
structures, there is scope for use of un-skilled and semi-skilled labour and even self-
help. Multistoreyed buildings do not really help in lowering the cost of construction.
HUDCO’s experience indicates that densities as high as 200 dwelling/Hect. In single
storey construction are attainable, without sacrificing environment.
THE DWELLING UNIT
A house is not merely a structure of walls, doors and windows and a roof
overhead. It is a ‘home’. Working within the limitations of high cost of land, acute
housing shortage and other problems peculiar to a metropolitan city like Bombay
HUDCO decided to build a low-rise-high-density project and thus provide more houses
for more people.
Ghatkopar Project: Plan
The design evolved by HUDCO is simple and functional. Each tenement has a
plinth area of 15.76 sq.mt. and has a multipurpose room 2.8 x 4.1 mt. inclusive of a
cooking alcove. Each unit has an individual toilet. “Self-contained block/flat” is the
dream of every houseless person in Bombay and this design conforms to that hope. The
accommodations provided has the possibility of adding extra storage shelves below and
above the staircase according to the occupant/s individual needs.
Cross ventilation, for each habitable room, which is most essential for hot-humid
coastal climate of Bombay, has been made possible through an innovative concept of
staggering blocks of 8 tenements (Ground + one storeyed block). This staggered
arrangement combined with the use of single-stack plumbing system has helped to
reduced cost of development works such as laying of sewage lines and services, etc.
The concept of layout planning makes a provision of small open spaces and
community courtyards. The smaller open spaces forming front courtyards for the 4
ground floor units and giving approach to the 4 first floor units, are protected on three
sides by walls. This arrangement will help develop social interactions between
households around each courtyard.
These small spaces between blocks as well as the central open spaces within the
cluster are safer for children to play and yet be closer to home to be watched by their
mothers. The courtyards have the scope to absorb a spill over of a multitude of activities
for the elderly, retired ones to get together in the evenings and gossip, grey haired grand
fathers to gayfully watch their mischievous grand-children, industrious house-wives to
leave jam and pickle jars in the afternoon sun, etc. The enclosure formed by walls
around three sides provide partial privacy for this space and limits the activities from
spilling over to the approach roads.
A total of 512 tenements and about 20 convenient shops are provided on this
small piece of land measuring 1.36 hectares. A density of 374 dwellings per hect. has
been achieved while attention has also been paid to create a built environment through
providing flowering shrubs and trees in the cluster open spaces.
The choice of cost saving new materials, technique adopted in this experimental
project are of a special interest to all professionals. Materials for some important
structural components are described below. Other specifications are indicated in the
PRECAST HOLLOW CONCRETE BLOCKS FOR LOAD BEARING WALLS
The blocks are light in weight and thinner than the thickness of conventional 9”
bricks. The size and weight of each block facilitates faster construction of masonary
work. As these are made of concrete the surfaces can be left without plaster.
PRECAST R.C.C. SOLID PLANKS FOR FLOORING
The system has been developed with a view to economise on the use of cement
and steel which are scarce and costly materials of construction.
The precast plank, partly 5 cms and partly 2.5 cms thick, floor/roofing system is
lighter in weight, uses lesser cement and steel compared to a conventional R.C.C. slab
and does not need centering and shuttering. The system is cheaper and quicker in
construction. The units are durable and light in weight for manual handling. The plans
are laid over partly precast RC beams. The beams with in-situ concrete form the slab
and flooring is done directly over the planks.
PRECAST R.C. ‘L’ PAN UNITS FOR SLOPING ROOF
In this system, cladding and purlins are both combined into one unit thereby
achieving saving in materials, cost and time.
In conclusion, this project at Pantnagar is intended to demonstrate that if not
everything, something is certainly possible. This is a demonstration where ideas and
ideals have been tempered by the demand of action. It may be labeled as
“compromise”. It may not satisfy an idealist, yet the result should be judged as the
consequence of a conscious design of working within limitations of givens but not as a
lack of ability to grasp the complexity of the task of housing the urban poor. This is an
experiment in how economically, how fast and how much we can build.
( This article is based on the project designed by the Author as Chief of