ISLAMABAD -- Sajjad, a 50-year-old low-level government employee in Islamabad who goes by one name, is among the hundreds of Pakistanis who have applied for Prime Minister Imran Khan's Naya Pakistan Housing Programme.
Sajjad and his colleagues, all of whom rent in Islamabad, have become hopeful that the programme will help them purchase homes.
Khan during his campaign pledged to build millions of houses across Pakistan to address the growing shortage. At present, the World Bank estimates that about one-third of Pakistanis do not own a home and that population pressure is increasing.
In October, the government launched the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme, aimed at building five million low-cost and affordable housing units across the country.
In the first phase, Pakistanis seeking to own houses in seven districts -- Sukkur, Quetta, Gilgit, Muzaffarabad, Swat, Islamabad and Faisalabad -- may apply for the programme in order to establish housing demand and affordability, Dawn reported.
Under the programme, one person per family is eligible to apply, with a preference for candidates who do not already own a residential unit in Pakistan. The homes are targeted toward those with monthly salaries between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 25,000 ($71 and $180).
"After the announcement of the pilot project, I was encouraged to submit my form for the scheme," Bahar Ali, a receptionist at the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House in Islamabad, told Pakistan Forward. "I hope to be accepted soon."
A growing project
The government will provide land, amenities and supplies to facilitate the programme, while private companies will carry out the construction, according to officials. Those accepted by the programme will pay for the houses in relatively small installments over a specific period of time.
The deadline for applications is Saturday (December 22), said Faik Ali Chachar, a spokesman for the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA).
It could be extended as more housing seekers become interested and as the government makes plans to broaden the programme to more districts, he told Pakistan Forward.
"Over 300,000 registration forms have so far been submitted for homes under the scheme," Chachar said. "An increasing number are taking interest, and the number could be many times greater at the end of the day."
The project will soon reach other parts of the country, including Islamabad, according to officials from the Ministry of Housing and Works.
Construction was originally set to begin in January 2019 in Faisalabad, Punjab Province. In November, Punjab Minister for Housing and Urban Development Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed announced plans to build in Sialkot, Lodhran, Chiniot, Bahawalnagar and Muzaffargarh.
The federal government has already instructed all departments to consolidate the government's land for the programme, Dr. Farrukh Saleem, the government's spokesman for economic and energy issues, told Pakistan Forward.
"Different Chinese and international firms have expressed interest in the housing scheme, and the World Bank is encouraging it," said Saleem.
Those who have applied for housing are not the only ones encouraged by the programme. Analysts are eyeing the scheme as a means to boost the economy, especially if it is properly implemented.
The housing scheme will definitely help lift the economy and contribute to employment both in the short and longer terms, Dr. Waqar Masood, a former federal secretary at the Ministry of Finance, told Pakistan Forward.
"The construction of houses in large numbers could boost the economy by billions of dollars. It will directly benefit more than 170 industries," he noted.
Without a doubt, such a scheme could stimulate the economy, Dr. Zaffar Mehmood, an economist at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), told Pakistan Forward.
However, the provision of infrastructure and other facilities at such a massive scale is not an easy task, he added.
Pakistan-based construction firms are eyeing the benefits of the housing programme. Habib Khokar, spokesman for the Association of Builders and Developers of Pakistan (ABAD), said that his organisation is on board with the project.
"Two officials from ABAD are part of the task force to form the Naya Pakistan Housing Authority, a one shop operation facility that will soon begin its work," he said.
This project will indirectly benefit thousands of businesses as well, he added.