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INSTITUTIONAL PLURALISM AND HOUSING DELIVERY, A Case of Unforeseen Conflicts in Mumbai,India


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By Bishwapriya Sanyal and Vinit Mukhija
Department of Urban Studies and Planning,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
August 2000


The decade of the 1980s is marked by a major shift in the discussion of housing policies
in developing countries.During the previous decade,most governments had upgraded slums and
provided serviced plots to the urban poor.Although slum upgrading and site/service projects
were big improvements over the even earlier,traditional policy of public housing provided by
governments,they too were criticized for requiring heavy subsidies and relying too much on
government efforts to influence housing markets.1 Out of this criticism emerged two new
themes which shaped housing policies in developing countries for the last two decades.First,
there was a deliberate attempt to make housing policies more market friendly,encouraging
market agents to be more involved in housing delivery.And second,there was almost a
worldwide effort to engage civil society and its institutions,such as community groups and Non-Governmental
Organizations,in the housing delivery process.The government’s role,redefined
in the 1980s,was to be that of “an enabler”,in contrast to that of “a provider”of housing:It was
to enable market agents and civil society to perform well,and encourage cooperation between
private and public sectors to meet the housing needs of the urban poor.2 For such cooperation to
flourish,the institutional monopoly of government over the lives of the urban poor had to give
away to institutional pluralism,whereby multiple institutions ranging from private firms to
community groups,faith based organizations to political parties,governmental institutions to
non-governmental organizations,could operate freely pursuing varying strategies to reach the urban poor.Institutional pluralism was considered a prerequisite for not merely housing
provisions but to attain the broader objective of “democratization”which too had emerged as a
key theme in the 1980s’development discourse.