When I first arrived in Dhaka just over a year ago, I was quite surprised to see a co-existing contrast of concrete and greenery. The second thing that surprised me was the extremely random constructions; both horizontal and vertical. What I came to realise later is that Dhaka, one of the oldest cities of modern civilization, expanded its branches spontaneously, unplanned of course, if I may add.
This expansion, however surprising it might be, was not totally unaccounted for. Home to more than 16 million people, Dhaka is the administration, education and economic hub of Bangladesh. Being the center of literally and virtually everything in the country, the city observes new entrants every day. The population growth of this city is on average 5 per cent per year. Dhaka is now growing unprecedentedly accommodating more than 600,000 people per year. Alarmingly every kilometer of Dhaka accommodates at least 29,000 people, making it the 5th most densely populated city in the world.The information mentioned above has already been much talked about. And the scary part is that although the future of the city is clearly visible, not much is being done to tackle it. The fundamental problem will be to accommodate the new incoming bunch. The people who are migrating to Dhaka from all over the country come here mainly for education and livelihood. The first requirement for them is getting a roof over their heads. And there lies the tricky yet solvable predicament.
Given the average dwelling size of 4.9 persons per household, more than 120,000 household units are required for the additional population in Dhaka. In this situation, the supply of housing in the city is only around 25,000 units in the private sector, and the government’s contribution is almost negligible. Private sector contributors include the formal private sector (Real Estate Development Companies) and the informal private sector (Individual Initiatives). Among these 25,000 units, real estate developers contribute 15,000 units approximately per year, and individual developers provide the rest.
The predicament is not directly the number of households available but rather the distribution of it. The current pattern of property development varies on a number of aspects. Physical aspects like variation in size of the apartments, size of plots, price and rent of residences in different location are the first line of shortlisting priorities. The socio-economic condition of the dwellers, land tenure-ship pattern, car ownership pattern, level of satisfaction of apartment owners with services provided by real estate developers, problems faced by apartment owners, factors working behind apartment purchase decisions etc. are the secondary influences of selecting an abode.
A recent survey by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) finds 57 per cent of the middle-income population cannot afford to purchase an apartment in Dhaka. They are a major portion of the population, but there is a big gap between their income and the price of apartments. But that then differs based on different locations in Dhaka. The price of an apartment might not meet the location and size desired. This causes disparity of demand and supply. Other factors kick in at this point.
Currently there are about 1200 real estate companies registered with Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB). These companies are under the radar for continuous monitoring. Apart from these, there are about a thousand more companies who do not follow the equilibrium of market rules and have a tendency to flout government regulations. Their actions create mistrust among the regulated real estate companies and the customers. It is also necessary to mention that not every company caters to all income segments of the society. Hence, the demand falls upon a select few while other reliable sources are being constantly overlooked.
Real Estate developers also have to face several challenges while providing affordable housing for inhabitants of the city. High land price, high price of construction material, unplanned and haphazard development of the city, high apartment price, high home loan interest and high property transfer and registration fee, etc. impose challenges to real estate developers.The conmen and middle men in this sector make the lives of the customers a lot harder. Constant deception from this group demoralises potential homeowners to an extent that they stop pursuing their desired abode.
All these problems can be tackled systematically. First and foremost, a comprehensive and open database should be available to people where they can access the information for their benefit. This will be possible if the information platform is online. This will mitigate the issues of non-compliant real estate companies and middle men. The same platform can also serve as a hub for tackling issues such as home loans and legal issues.
The first step to solving a problem is to acknowledge that there is one. And if there is a problem, there also has to be a solution. The burgeoning population of Dhaka is a problem to be solved in the long haul. But the accommodation problem is something that needs to be fixed as soon as possible. There are other cities in the world which have tackled the overpopulation problem by simply resorting to proper resource management. Dhaka should not be an exception.
Abdullah-Al-Fahad, Marketing and Communication Officer, Practical Action