Main objectives of the project
A common approach to housing the poor in Asian cities is to relocate slum households to new multi-storied apartment blocks, often on the periphery of cities. This is often justified on the basis that the only way to achieve suitable densities in urban areas, to match local planning regulations, is to have multi-storied apartment blocks. Houses on individual plots of land are seen as low-density and inappropriate or not possible given local planning regulations. A recently completed conceptual study from Karachi, Pakistan, challenges this prevailing view by highlighting that similar or even higher densities than specified in local planning regulations can be achieved by using an individual terrace house typology. In terms of settlement and building design, this highlights the importance of exploring design options to suit the local conditions and constraints, rather than settling for one building design and repeating it throughout a city or country.
The experience also demonstrates the opportunity for building and settlement regulations to improve housing affordability. For example, through reducing the size of the plots in Khuda Ki Basti 3 to the lower-end of the regulatory minimum (but still to a size that is comfortable and can accommodate household activities) the cost of a plot reduces from 525 USD to 308 USD, a 41 per cent cost reduction. This also reduces the cost of infrastructure development (water, sewerage, and roads) for each plot by 44 per cent which can reduce the overall cost of each housing unit. While maximising plot area is desired by most urban households, both rich and poor, the fact is that to improve affordability, especially at the lower end of the market, development costs have to be reduced. Modifying planning regulations to facilitate the large-scale provision of land that is affordable for individual households is one important part of improving affordable housing provision.
Building and planning regulations play a crucial role in determining the affordability of housing. Often cities have antiquated or inappropriate design standards and regulations that increase the cost of land and housing provision. Common regulations are inappropriately large minimum plot dimensions that result in expensive plots of land to purchase as well as to service with infrastructure. As the experience from Pakistan shows, modifying building standards and regulations, for instance the minimum plot size or building height limit, can not only contribute to lowering the cost of new housing development but also allow for the in-situ upgrading of already informal areas through being able to formalise them within newly adopted more flexible regulations.