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From concrete houses to cozy homes

The dream came true in the pandemic!

Sanjay Nagar is one of the 22 slums in Ahmednagar and the only slum located on corporation land. Covering 2.09 acres, most of the existing 209 houses are Kachcha homes or corrugated sheet shacks. With a population of 1402, Sanjay Nagar comprises over 20 different communities (regional and religious) and has a unique social makeup for a typical neighbourhood of its kind.

The Initiative – The Housing Project

Snehalaya’s core activities since 1989 have been providing childcare, education and healthcare facilities to various communities in Ahmednagar, The organization has been running a childcare centre in the Sanjaynagar community for over a decade. It is this existing relationship with the community that helped Community Design Agency (CDA) and Snehalaya initiate the in-situ slum redevelopment project, together with the residents and the municipal corporation. Housing leads to benefits in health, education and economic opportunities for families and is an important enabler in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Research shows that adequate and affordable housing contributes directly or indirectly to the implementation of most of the SDGs. “A House plays an important role in the development of a child. It is where the culture is formed and transferred to the children”, says Mr Hanif M Shaikh, Assistant Director, Snehalaya and Snehalaya-Sanskar Group.

A gathering of individuals engaged in discussions about project plans.

Completely Owning their Dream Home

The residents of Sanjaynagar have strong social bonds with each other, as these are relationships that they had built over decades of living together and sharing difficult and happy times together. Snehalaya and CDA believe that the new built environment should preserve and strengthen this strong social cohesion within the community.

A gathering of individuals engaged in a thoughtful discussion, sharing ideas and perspectives in a collaborative setting.

The participatory design process by CDA made the residents decision-makers, at every step of the way. Bringing everyone along is a time-consuming process, but it is a worthwhile one!

The project team also staged a sample flat to show the community what their homes would look like. As the construction progressed, residents participated with more interest and enthusiasm, says, Sandhya Naidu Janardhan, Managing Director, Community Design Agency.

The redevelopment project will make Sanjaynagar a lively neighbourhood for everyone in the community. The community spaces also include spaces for playing and recreational activities, community building, animal shelters, and an edible garden on the terrace to address malnutrition in the community.

Rang De’s support

Together with CDA and Snehalaya, Rang De was also able to co-create a suitable loan product for the community ensuring that they had access to affordable housing finance. Timely support from Rang De’s social investors was able to provide the families with customized and affordable credit to contribute towards the cost of construction of their new homes.

Building Trust with the Community

Despite earlier attempts to redevelop  Sanjaynagar by the municipal corporation, the project never took off due to lack of consultation with the residents. . The residents of Sanjaynagar were sceptical of plans proposed for them, without their involvement and consent. . However, Snehalaya, with its decade long engagement with the community on child and youth development, had built trust with them. After numerous meetings with CDA and Snehalaya’s teams, they saw the space for their dreams and aspirations to be realized in the consultative design process being proposed and agreed to the redevelopment. 

An attentive gathering of people listening intently about the project.

COVID-19: A Challenge

Construction on housing project had just taken off when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. . Loss of livelihood, lack of hygiene facilities, and the fear of the pandemic brought life to a standstill at Sanjaynagar. With a focus on providing, food, and other basic necessities, Snehalaya and a group of youth from the community stepped in to support the residents’ tide over the new crisis. As the situation slowly began to improve, construction on the project slowly resumed.

A woman demonstrating progress to two rural women, highlighting development and empowerment.

The Future of the Project

When completed, Sanjaynagar will house 298 families. The housing project has faced a number of challenges, but it continues to progress, with the first of eight buildings nearing completion. . The residents of Sanjaynagar can see their dreams coming to fruition.

Construction of phase 2 of the project comprising the remaining 7 buildings is due to begin in late 2022.

A remarkable structure resulting from the slum redevelopment initiative.

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