Home is where empowerment is
Empowering women through housing schemes has been one of the most heartening initiatives of the Government. The RBI, the financial sector and civil society too are doing their bit
Roti, Kapda Aur Makaan (food, clothes and shelter) are still the three basic priorities of our day-to-day life in India though anecdotal evidence suggests that women see it slightly differently — apna ghar (one’s own home) tops the charts for them. Given the residual misogyny of all cultures extant in India, a woman — single, married, widow or alone — with a home or physical shelter of her always feels more secure and less dependent on kin or society for this basic requirement.
Empowering a woman by providing a roof over her head has been a burning issue on the minds of the nation’s policymakers and it commands a lot of media attention nowadays too. With a view to providing housing for women and reducing their financial dependence on their male relatives, the Government of India is running various schemes and policies, both at the State and Central levels, for their empowerment. Besides the Government, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), various public sector and private banks and non-banking financial institutions also support women in their housing needs.
One of the major housing schemes is ‘Prime Minister Housing For All 2022’ under which the Government would provide an interest rate subsidy of 6.5 per cent on housing loans for women irrespective of caste and religion, including economically weaker section of society (EWS), low-income groups (LIGs), middle-income groups (MIGs), scheduled castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). The Government has also announced that a house under this scheme would be allotted to the female members of a family and housing loans availed by the beneficiaries would be for a tenure for 15 years. Preference would be given to female applicants in general.
Apart from Centre and the States, the RBI supports women in their aim to own a house by making them self-dependent through occupational empowerment. The RBI in October announced that it would provide funds to women self-help groups (SHGs) in rural areas at a concessional 7 per cent interest rate under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM).
All women SHGs will be eligible for interest subvention on credit up to three lakh rupees at seven per cent per annum. The Ministry of Rural Development in consultation with State Governments will harmonise State-specific interest subvention schemes, if any, in line with the Central scheme. The interest subvention scheme on credit to women SHGs during 2017-18 is applicable in 250 Districts across the country.
Indian women’s efforts to achieve financial independence is also helped in some measure by civil society initiatives. For example, the UNFPA-supported ‘Girls Count’ programme, which is a coalition of civil society organisations across the country, has been running a campaign titled ‘Her Share’ to enhance women's and girls’ asset ownership, including their ability to inherit as well as build their own assets, which would in turn can make them independent and self-reliant. Apart from Centre, various State Governments also provide concessions in buying a house, especially in stamp duty that ranges from one per cent in Rajasthan to two per cent in Delhi. For instance, companies like Aspire Home Finance Corporation (Aspire) and the housing finance arm of Motilal Oswal Financial Services, have launched a home loan division especially for women.
The interest rates on such housing loans are relatively lower, by at least 0.05 per cent. To this concession, a woman needs to be first applicant on the documents and should be the sole or joint-owner of the house. She should be an independent earner and can make any other individual, including a qualified male such as her husband or father a co-borrower.
Mahila Awas Yojana is another housing scheme for women which not only aims to provide housing but also aims to nurture their talents and help make them independent. Under this scheme, women who register for flat ownership will also get several add-on facilities along with the housing. Their allotted flats will be equipped with advanced security measures and many indoor and outdoor facilities such as a gym, common recreation hall, health and wellness clinic, yoga centre et.al. For easy transportation, these residences will have shuttle services to provide transportation to banks, railway stations and super markets. The flats under this scheme will only be registered under the ownership of women. The rates of the flats that are coming up under this housing scheme for women are very affordable.
Credit-linked subsidy scheme for middle-income groups or CLSS (MIG) is another opportunity which has a preference for women only with “overriding preference to widows, single working women, persons belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, backward classes, differently-abled and transgender people.” The country’s largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) is also offering a special scheme for women, ‘Her Ghar’, with competitive interest rates. SBI home loan for women under this scheme comes at a concessional interest rate of 9.85 per cent per annum. This amounts to an EMI of only Rs 867 per lakh when calculated for a period of 30 years. As far as repayment of loan is concerned, the maximum repayment tenure for SBI home loans is 30 years or up to the age of 70 years of borrower, whichever is earlier. Besides SBI, another Vijaya Bank also offers a home loan scheme for women called ‘Vijaya Mangala Scheme’ as does the Bank of Baroda (BoB).
Private lender HDFC has launched a special scheme ‘Woman Power’ to encourage women to buy homes under their name. Under this scheme, the bank provides loans at a 9.85 per cent interest rate. Just like SBI, even HDFC extends this offer to women who may be either sole owners or co-owners of a property.
As far as non-banking financial institutions are concerned, there are many who offer home loans to women in different schemes. Tata Capital Housing Finance Limited (TCHFL) is one of them. It offers a special scheme called ‘Prapti’ to cater especially to the low-income segment in the affordable housing space. By providing home loans at subsidized interest rates from 4 per cent, TCHFL helps individuals realize their dream of buying their own home. The scheme is applicable for households with an income of up to six lakh rupees per annum. Corporates too extend help to women for owning a home on special low interest rates.
There is need to put a spotlight on discriminatory laws, policies and practices related to women’s asset ownership, be it land or housing, and a beginning has been made.
(The writer is Senior Assistant Editor, The Pioneer)
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