More than 25 years ago I visited India for the first time. India was in the middle of a 50-degree heatwave. 122-degrees Fahrenheit. I’d never known heat like it. I needed a room with a ceiling fan. For days I didn’t leave that room with a fan from 8 in the morning until after 8 at night. I was thankful for the fan but, in truth, I didn’t realise how fortunate I was to have one.
At the same time a woman called Prema, about the same age as me, was living with her daughter in Dharavi, the largest slum in Mumbai. Her room was around 3 metres by 2 metres squared. A curtain separated Prema and her young daughter from another family. No water. No electricity. Definitely no fan. I can’t imagine what life was like living in a room with a corrugated iron roof in 50-degree heat.
Fast forward 25 years and Prema’s life is different. Thanks to Reall’s work with our Indian partner SSNS, she owns her own home. She can safely access a toilet and clean water. There is electricity. Paying roughly the same amount each month as she was to live in a room with a curtain, she now owns a small two-bedroom apartment. A home.
Owning a home has provided Prema and her daughters (of which she now has three) with opportunities and potential. She has a bank account, can access credit and is an active member of the local committee, which works to solve disputes and improve local harmony. Prema explains that all the family have much more energy now compared to their lives in Dharavi.
But the image at the top of this page serves as a stark reminder that Prema’s journey is an unusual one. Dhavari is one of the most densely populated places on Earth, home to around one million people and growing rapidly. Each day, 600 more people call Mumbai home. For many, the dwellings that await them will have roofs made of blue tarpaulin or corrugated iron. They will pay extortionate rents and have no ownership or rights. They won’t have access to an adequate toilet or clean water. Such insecure settings mean that where they sleep at night will stifle their potential and provide no sense of home.
Across the world the challenge is profound. Around 1.2 billion people are without adequate shelter. Equivalent to the population of India, or about one in six of humanity. By 2030, just 11 years from now, this will swell to 3 billion people unless something changes. The vast majority of this growth will take place in Africa and Asia. Where you’re born does not define your potential. Having somewhere safe to call home has a profound impact on every aspect of your life. Ask Prema and her daughters.
Reall believes that the 1.2 billion children, women and men without adequate shelter aren’t a problem that needs solving, they’re a future that needs unlocking. How we respond determines what our future looks like.
The affordable housing crisis is one of humanity’s greatest challenges. It is also one of humanity’s greatest opportunities.
Reall is an innovator and investor in affordable homes.
We are building an affordable homes movement which will improve the life chances of 100 million people in urban Africa and Asia by 2030.
We do this by developing, refining and sharing innovative housing models that unlock the political will, capital investment and end-user finance needed to create the conditions for hard-working families to secure their own homes.
We do this because affordable homes not only provide a fundamental human right, they unlock unimaginable human potential to shape a future of gender parity, climate resilience, clean air, renewable energy and socio-economic justice.
Affordable homes hold the key for a more secure and just world for us all.