The SPARC, Mahila Milan and NSDF experience
The Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres, India
Housing finance is one piece of a complex jigsaw puzzle called ‘habitat’. It is a puzzle which presents a major challenge not only to low-income groups, but also to city officials, public and private finance institutions and NGOs. There is an ongoing debate in India about who has the right to assemble this puzzle; is it to be completed together by all parties or are the pieces to be fought over? This chapter, written on behalf of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC), Mahila Milan and the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF), seeks to illustrate how low-income groups, especially women, form a nucleus and are a critical factor in the struggle to resolve the housing finance puzzle.
Given the dearth of formal housing finance and the cost of informal finance, the Federation has encouraged low-income communities, and especially women, to initiate savings and credit programmes which will meet their requirements as well as create more extensive and decentralized methods of loan delivery. Although the Federation’s experience in housing finance is still limited, over the last decade it has succeeded in putting into place various internal and external arrangements which have enabled large numbers of urban low-income communities to seek secure shelter.
This chapter begins by briefly examining the housing situation of low-income households in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) before describing the alliance between SPARC, Mahila Milan and NSDF and analysing the benefits of the Federation model. The chapter then examines the type of finance