Report on a Visit to the Shahjalal Housing Trust Project, Sylhet, Bangladesh

3.5 The UBS Programme

A UNICEF sponsored UBS programme is being operated in nine city centre slums. The UBS programme provides brick pathways (they remain submerged in the rainy seasons); hand pumps, one for 10 families (the families contribute to the installation cost by paying TK 500 per family); latrines, but no effective sewerage disposal; upto TK 2,000 loan per family for income generation; and health education. Community participation is an integral part of the UBS programme and nine community organisers have been trained as part of it.

3.6 Other NGO Housing Programme In Bangladesh

The Gramin Bank and BRAC are two NGOs who operate housing programmes in Bangladesh. Both these programmes are for rural housing. However, they have important lessons for the urban areas as well. SHT needs to establish contact with them and learn from their experience.

4. Possibilities

4.1 Three Possible Approaches

Three possible approaches that the SHT could adopt were discussed in detail along with their advantages and disadvantages. The approaches are:

  1. Finance – land – credit – house and infrastructure – tenants and/or purchasers
  2. Finance – land – community group – shelter – infrastructure – house – rental or ownership
  3. An organisation of beneficiaries – credit – land – shelter – infrastructure – house on ownership basis

SHT opted for the last possibility. They felt that providing a home on an ownership basis was more in keeping with the needs of people and their tradition.

4.2 Affordability

The main emphasis has to be that the beneficiaries should be able to afford what is to be developed. It was decided that planning would be done on the basis that the income of the beneficiaries would be between TK 2,500 to TK 4,000 per month and that they would be able to repay costs at monthly instalments of 20 to 30 per cent of their monthly earnings. From experience of other Asian housing programmes one can say that the longer the period of repayment the greater the chances of default and speculation. It was therefore decided that the maximum period of repayment should be eight years and a preferable period of not more than five years.

4.3 Options

Although SHT is quite clear that it wishes to provide housing ownership to a community organisation that it creates, it is perhaps necessary to briefly list the options that are available to it in the Sylhet context.

Option – 1:

Upgrade existing slums by organising tenants to develop hand pumps, build latrines and pathways, and improve their homes. In addition, help them establish a more equitable and secure relationship with their landlords. In short, replicate the UBS programme more effectively.

Option – 2:

Provide credit and technical advice to small landlords for building pucca rooms and proper infrastructure for rental purposes.

Option – 3:

Develop and run hostels for working class bachelors and floating populations.

Option – 4:

Identify beneficiaries and assist them to form an organisation; develop innovative rules, regulations and procedures to prevent speculation and transfer of possession of property by individual beneficiaries; purchase land in consultation with the group organisation; develop basic shelter and infrastructure and give technical advice for its improvement over time; recover monthly instalments through the community organisation; transfer properties collectively to the organisation once full payment has been recovered; expand programme with finances from cost recovery and more funding from other sources.

Three proposals for Option 4 have been developed and are given below. The statistics in the proposals have been worked out by Carlos Gurerrero using a computer model.

Proposal – 1:

Purchase land in the city centre at RK 100,000 per decimal and build a structure (minus finishes) of brick walls, tin roof and concrete floor. Provide a hand pump (one for 10 families), community latrines and surface drainage. Two units will be built on one decimal. The financial details work out as under:

Cost of land TK 50,000
Cost of structure plus infrastructure (30 M2 at TK 600 per M2) TK 16,000
Total cost TK 68,000
Minimum income TK 3,656
Interest: 12%
Repayment period: 8 years
Monthly instalments for repayment: (30% of income) TK 1,097

Proposal – 2:

Same as above but land is to be purchased on the city fringe and a latrine is to be provided with each house.

Cost of land TK 25,000
Cost of structure, infrastructure and toilet TK 21,000
Total cost TK 46,000
Minimum income TK 3,500
Interest: 11%
Repayment period: 6 years
Monthly instalments for repayment: (25% of income) TK 875

Proposal – 3:

Same as Proposal 2 except that instead of building a structure for the house, a latrine and proper drainage facilities will be constructed for each house.

Cost of land TK 25,000
Cost of latrine and surface drainage TK 5,000
Total cost TK 30,000
Minimum income TK 3,500
Interest: 11%
Repayment period: 5 years
Monthly instalments for repayment: (30% of income) TK 652

4.4 Requirements To Implement Proposals

The SHT requires support to implement the above proposals. The details of this support are given below:

  1. A social organiser should be appointed to locate beneficiaries and help them form an organisation. Social organiser can be taken from the UNICEF sponsored UBS programme or a suitable candidate can be employed and trained at the Gramin Bank or some other NGO in Bangladesh. Funds for this purpose would be required by SHT.
  2. After developing various options with the community land should be purchased. For working out statistics for such options SHT would require compute software and advice/training on its use.
  3. Support would also be required for introducing and/or developing cheap technologies for shelter construction, sanitation, water supply, drainage and reuse of waste water.
  4. The SHT also needs to be introduced to systems of monitoring and documentation.
  5. Much of the above support can be provided by Bangladesh NGOs and academic institutions and innovative Asian projects.

4.5 Expansion of the Programme

A minimum of 20 units should be developed in the first phase. A year after completion further funding and cost recovery from the first phase can help develop a second phase as well. After four phases the programme should be self-financing.

Beneficiaries should collect enough money to fund the cost of a hand pump onsite and the first instalment before land purchase is made or they are committed to move on to the housing site.

5. Conclusion

It would be a pity if the enthusiasm of the SHT members was wasted due to an absence of technical help and guidance in planning and implementation a housing programme in Sylhet.

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