A $100 million credit agreement, signed by the World Bank and the Indian Government, will help low-income Indian families access a loan to purchase, build, or upgrade their dwellings.

The National Housing Bank (NHB) will implement the Low Income housing Finance Project, which will support the government’s agenda for financial inclusion on two counts. First, it will enable low-income households in urban areas to access housing finance, and second will strengthen the capacity of financial institutions that target these groups.

India faces a crippling housing shortage; as its urban population continues to rapidly expand, the urban housing shortage is estimated to be 19 million (as of 2012). Low-income families bear the brunt of the problem; they are faced with an estimated 90% of the shortage.

The housing sector is vulnerable to challenges because current land use policies and building norms restrict the availability of housing. Since the majority of the low-income population works in the informal sector, they lack documentation of income and therefore require customized lending products; as a result, developers are reluctant to enter the low-income market due to the perceived risks associated with these buyers.

As the Indian government strives to achieve financial inclusion for the whole population, the project will let the NHB innovate and provide financial solutions for improving low-income access to housing.

R.V. Verma, chairman and managing director of National Housing Bank said, “The program, which will explore sustainable housing finance models for low income households, has been conceived imaginatively and is consistent with the vision and charter of the NHB.”

Michael Haney, operations advisor at the World Bank, explained how the influx of 10 million Indians to towns and cities each year run into trouble finding loans to build or buy themselves houses. “They are forced to use unregulated, informal sources of finance at much higher rates of interest,” he explained.

The new initiative will help families move from informal sources of finance to longer-term, official sources for their housing needs; risk management, market infrastructure and new products will be implemented in order to achieve this goal.

Initially, the project will launch pilot programs to test the sustainability of these lending guidelines and products, and the long-term goal will be to preserve affordability for low-income families by finding alternative forms of collateral to reduce credit risk and keep interest rates at manageable levels.

– Chloe Isacke

Sources: World Bank, Economic Times
Photo: Kootation