Housing the poor: Mumbai's underground rental market
About 80 percent of low-income rental units in India exist in the informal market. These affordable units house Mumbai's working poor and are rented out by makeshift landlords, who are often poor themselves but who capitalize on any extra space they have at home. For migrant laborers, renting makes sense. Many migrants are short-term residents, earning enough during short spurts of work to then return to their home villages. While in the city, their circumstances are precarious, and work opportunities come and go quickly. Renting, as opposed to home ownership — which has dominated the government's policy focus for the urban poor — allows for flexibility and a fluidity that matches the migrants' life and experiences in the city. Chetan, for example, does not pay rent when he returns to his family in his home village for months at a time. While there is certainly a place for home ownership for the urban poor — some of whom have been the fabric of this city for generations — a mixed housing stock is essential for meeting their varying shelter needs. Learn more.