Officials from the state housing and urban development said that the draft rules of the policy will be released shortly.
“The first draft is likely to be released in two weeks time. We have been consulting stakeholders and will hold another round of consultation after the first draft is put in the public domain,” said a senior official from the department.
A state urban housing and habitat policy is meant to prescribe minimum standards of housing and prescribe directions to all line departments, where they can coordinate and provide basic civic and social amenities to beneficiaries, especially those belonging to the economically weaker sections.
The National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy (2007) too mandates every state government to prepare the policy in consultation with urban local bodies and stakeholders and create suitable living environments for people.In 2017, the state government also announced that it will ‘soon’ release a state housing policy. Two years later no such policy is in place.
The delay led to a public outcry. The thousands of slum dwellers who were being evicted from their homes and moved to the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board tenements in the fringes of the city said that they were forced to live in poor and uninhabitable conditions. Their tenements had little or no access to basic amenities such as water, sanitation, electricity, transport and ration shops. Civil society groups also urged the state to draft a housing policy which would prescribe minimum standards of housing and help improve their living conditions.
While officials from the department said that they were involving communities to draft the rules, as the national policy mandates, activists denied their claims.
“All decisions are being made behind closed doors. There is no community participation or involvement,” said Vanessa Peter, policy researcher, Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities.
She criticized authorities for failing to follow due processes. “The housing policy must be accompanied by a standard operating procedure, which should have guidelines on the role of various departments and suggestions from beneficiaries. We hope the policy covers all the aspects,” she said.