Forced Migration and Affordable Housing Policy


The hardships faced by migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, who were compelled to leave cities en masse at the start of lockdowns, highlight the necessity of affordable housing for citizens displaced by natural calamities, climate-induced disasters and internal conflict/violence (referred to here as ‘forced migrants’). National housing policies, State laws and city-specific zoning plans are typically devised in conditions of relative stability. Consequently, resources and political attention often shift away from the affordable housing sector for immediate, ad-hoc disaster responses and recovery efforts. This shift disproportionately affects urban areas, which tend to attract or repel forced migrants during such crises.

In this paper, the author advocates for the inclusion of the dimension of forced migration within the legal and policy framework of affordable housing in urban India. The author examines the concept of “forced migration” and applicable international treaties. This is followed by a review of laws and policies in India relating to affordable housing, urban development and disaster management, that do not adequately address forced migration. The author contends that the effective resettlement of forced migrants requires: (a) the consolidation of disparate laws and policies; and (b) accurate and detailed data as regards the vulnerabilities and requirements of forced migrants.