Conservation of Community Housing
Insite|November 2016

Cama Building at Murzban Colony in Mumbai

Vikas Dilawari

As an island city, Mumbai always had limited space for development and thus has real estate values that are among the highest in the world. As a result, there is an acute shortage of affordable housing. It is the vision of the eminent citizens like Khan Bahadur Muncherji Cowasji Murzbanthe, Founder Trustee of the GZRF (Garib Zarathostiona Rehthan Fund) Trust who envisioned the idea of community housing in the city.

The rental system of accommodation died a slow death in the 1970s with the advent of ownership accommodation and creation of co-operative societies as a result of which the affordable housing sector was badly hit and has not recovered till date. This intervention also changed the social dynamism of the housing stock of the city from ‘Community’ to ‘Class’ dominated.

The City Improvement Trust (CIT) was a body set up in the late 19th-century to improve the city and they planned new by-laws and improvised the infrastructure of the city at par with what had happened in many leading cities of Europe. Affordable housing was also the main concern then and single room tenements with shared facilities like toilets called “chawls” were built by mill owners closer to their mills and also by private landlords, and as a part of government initiative too. The community trusts like GZRF were the first ones to introduce the concept of community housing in the late 19thcentury in and around central Mumbai. This helped in meeting the housing needs of its time.

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