Renewed hopes for Housing Board
Proud achievement:The Kerala State Housing Board flats at Thrikkakara in Kochi.
The Kerala State Housing Board looks to a new future with the Oommen Chandy Ministry taking over the reins of the State. There is added reason for hope because this is the first time that the Finance Minister, the new appointee being K. M. Mani, himself will handle the affairs of the board.
The nearly 500 employees underscore the need to resurrect the board, which has fallen on bad days after being instrumental in implementing one of the major successes in the country in a mass housing programme for the poor.
The employees want immediate attention to be paid to amending the Housing Board Act, 1971. The draft amendment Bill was under the consideration of the previous government. The amendments will pave the way for the board to play a new role as the provider of housing for the masses and the underprivileged. The new rules will throw up opportunities through public-private partnerships and joint ventures and give enhanced financial powers.
Considering the speed and reach of development in the State, a section of the employees have called for the formation of a department to look after urban development and housing affairs in the State.
The key problem with the board in the past has been its inability to raise funds. The new union of the Finance and the Housing Ministries is expected to help overcome the problem. Once the board is able to take up profit-making ventures, a new course can be charted.
The election manifesto of the United Democratic Front has helped kindle hopes that the board will be restored to its former glory. One of the election promises was to bring out a housing policy within 100 days if the political front was elected to power.
The lack of a housing policy is said to be the major reason for the board groping in the dark. The Panchayati Raj system has reduced its role in implementing housing programmes for the economically weaker sections. A housing policy will define the role of the board and demarcate an area of operation. A senior employee says that housing schemes under the Indira Awaaz Yojana, the Rajiv Awaaz Yojana, and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission can be coordinated and implemented by the board.
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