VI on "Housing for All"


The right to housing is one of the main fundamental human rights, which ensures access to a safe, secure, habitable, and affordable home. It is the government’s obligation to guarantee that everyone can exercise this right to live in security, peace, and dignity. This right must be provided to all persons irrespective of income or access to economic resources. The access to social infrastructure, the environment that it is located, availability of amenities such as waste management, water, and sanitation facilities are important factors that need to be considered in a settlement. However, availability of above alone will not ensure equality of opportunity to access housing by all. Ensuring availability and articulating measures for their equitable use go hand in hand. Measures can include inclusive land policies, availability of a range of financial products, strategies to make basic services available to all and access of building materials at affordable prices and quantities. Despite its value as a basic human need and prerequisite for economic development, experts agree that a lack of access to decent affordable housing is a global problem.

According to the Population and Housing Census of 2011, the country’s entire population was 20,271,463. Out of this total population 77.3% is living in rural areas, 18.3% in urban areas and balance 7.5% is living in the estate sector. The total housing stock of this census was 5,195,331 and the quality of the housing stock reveals that there are 4,471,442 permanent houses (82%), 577,036 semi-permanent houses and 123,370 improvised units. This reflected the requirement of qualitative aspects of housing and the need for planning. As per the projection made by the Presidential Task Force on housing and urban development appointed in 1996, the Sri Lanka’s population will be increasing and stabilized at around 24 million by year 2040 and the total housing requirement will be around 6 million based on the average family size of 4. Such a rapid rate of population growth exerts a tremendous pressure on existing infrastructures and services, housing and limited land resource, agriculture land and forests.

The main thrust of the government is to increase the housing stock through various programs targeting the low income and medium income groups undergoing immense difficulties in the absence of a house of their own. In this context, Ministry of Housing and Samurdhi as the focal agency for housing and other stakeholders involved in implementing diverse programmes aimed at housing and settlement development in plantation, rural and urban areas.

The availability of resources such as land at the right place, infrastructure, housing finance, building materials etc. are important for ensuring access to adequate housing. That is when designing housing programs, it is important to consider the house, not simply as a structure with four walls but within a broader perspective which includes elements such as the environment, access to social infrastructure (i.e. schools, transport), access to livelihoods and disaster‐resistance. The national housing policy was introduced in year 2014 with the goal of ensuring Sri Lankans to live in an adequate, stable, qualitative, affordable, sustainable, environment friendly and secure house with services for creating a high living standard. Following trust areas were identified in the national housing policy document to address the housing issues:

1. Poverty groups

2. Informal income earners

3. Middle class

4. High income groups

5. Rental Housing

6. Urban land development, private investments and planning and management of condominium properties.

7. Integrated infrastructure and service provision

8. Housing technology, standardization of building materials supply and training

9. Housing finance

Science, Technology and Innovation could be incorporated across all of the above trust areas. COSTI in its coordination and monitoring capacity is giving special consideration to section 8 of the trust areas define in the national housing policy.

Importance of Integrating STI for “Housing for all”

Progress in Science, technology and innovation (STI) is necessary for sustainable development of the country. STI by itself does not hold the power to achieve the goal of greater sustainability, it is nonetheless essential for providing options and informing decisions that enable society to move towards more sustainable pathways. When building sustainability is concerned there are common domains such as energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, materials, site management and waste management. Most of related assessment systems and rating tools have identified the need for innovation in all these domains. When it comes to “housing for all” the use of appropriate cost effective eco-friendly construction technologies in housing sector has the potential to be the most appropriate in terms of economy and acceptability. Therefore, it is important for evaluating and developing new methodologies and technologies, and drawing up a set of best-practice guidelines in order to reduce cost of building, enhancement of comfort level and safety.

The Virtual Institute (VI) for “Housing for all” established by COSTI aims to facilitate effective partnerships by forming specific clusters that represent stakeholders from various sectors, and disciplines to collaborate across various areas to share their expertise and knowledge. It is essential to have a sustainable mechanism which could be able to coordinate the housing sector stakeholders.

The goal of the Virtual Institute for “housing for all” is to Incorporate Science, Technology and Innovation to ensure the right to live in an adequate, stable, qualitative, affordable, sustainable, environment friendly and secure house with services or creating a high living standard on the timely needs of the people.

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