ISLAMABAD - The draft law for regularisation of slums and provision of shelters to the homeless proposes that the state shall not evict persons living in a shelter located inside a ‘katchi abadi’ unless collectively resettling all such persons.

“The state shall not evict any person or nuclear family living in a shelter built illegally upon public land which is not a ‘katchi abadi’ without first individually resettling such a person or the nuclear family”, the draft law states.

The draft law further proposes quota for social housing, public shelters and affordable housing in all housing schemes built on land acquired for public purpose.

“No housing scheme shall be permitted to be launched or permitted to be launched by state unless the developer undertakes to transfer to the Authority, free of cost, at least 2.5/3/3.5/4% of the total area of the proposed housing scheme for the purposes of social housing and public shelters and thereafter build upon the transferred land such number and types of units of social housing and public shelters as may be determined by the Authority in accordance with the rules”, it further states.

The proposed law is drafted by Awami Worker’s Party’s Bilal Minto and Umer Gillani, the petitioners in the case regarding regularisation of ‘katchi abadi’ and provision of shelter to the destitute and homeless people.

On October 10, the top court had sought the opinion of federal and provincial governments on proposed draft law to address the issues of ‘katchi abadis’ and rehabilitation of their inhabitants.

At present, there exists no comprehensive legislation for the protection of this right. As a result, despite massive increase in urban housing supply in the country, the problem of homelessness has not been resolved.

Most of the new housing supply caters to only the needs of the elite, who often use land as a speculative asset. In the meanwhile, an estimated 40% of urban Pakistanis are forced to find shelter in ‘katchi abadis’ where their legal rights are highly uncertain and they are constantly haunted by the prospect of summary eviction.

According to the draft law, the state shall not acquire private land or allow private land to be acquired for the purpose of housing unless the acquirer undertakes to transfer to the Authority, free of cost, 2.5 to 4 percent of the acquired land for the creation of social housing and public shelters for the destitute.

According to the proposed law, the federal and provincial government shall set up an Authority to be known as “Human Settlement and Social Housing Authority” for carrying out the purposes of this Act.

“The Authority shall have perpetual succession and a common seal with the power, subject to this Act, to acquire, hold and dispose of property, to regularise, upgrade, resettle, and relocate ‘katchi abadis’, and to construct social housing, public shelters and affordable housing”, the draft law states.

Regarding slums, the proposed law recommended that the Authority shall implement policies formulated by the state for the development of the areas of the ‘katchi abadis’ for the purpose of regulation, up-gradation and resettlement.

“The Authority shall execute or cause to be executed the approved scheme or schemes and take such measures and exercise such powers including power of removal of encroachments in accordance with the law for the time being in force as may be necessary for the purpose”, it states.

It adds that the state shall create, either through its own resources or in collaboration with any public or private persons, social housing and public shelters for the homeless.

“The state shall maintain a register of all such persons residing in its territory who are homeless. For the purpose of establishing whether a person is homeless, a sworn and notarised affidavit contained in Form A to this Act written in a language he is capable of understanding shall ordinarily suffice”, the proposed law states.

Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, no levy may be charged upon a transfer of immovable property when the Authority duly certifies that such transfer is meant for the creation of public shelters, social housing or affordable housing; thereupon nor shall any tax or cess be charged upon the sale of construction-related goods which the Authority duly certifies are meant for the creation of public shelters, social housing or affordable housing.

Any transfer of property which falls within the provisions of sub-section (1) of this section shall be exempt from the application of the Stamp Act, 1899, Registration Act, 1908 and Income Tax Ordinance and any sale of construction-related goods which falls within the provisions of sub-section (1) of this section shall be exempt from the application of Sales Tax Act, 1990, Customs Act, 1969 and Federal Excise Act, 2005.