CSR and Low-Income Housing: A Plausible Framework

Currently, Pakistan has an overall housing backlog exceeding 6 million units with an annual addition of 300,000 units – based upon conservative estimates from the Population Census of 1998 and the National Housing Policy of 2001. Roughly 30-40 percent of the demand is addressed by mainstream developers who cater to the high-end market. The remaining units fall under the category of the low-income segment. The government has made repeated attempts to address this segment through various initiatives – seldom succeeding. The current low income housing deficit within Pakistan is 3 million units with an addition of 150,000 units per annum.

In addition to these alarming rates, within the urban context, there is a disturbing pattern. Of those that do own homes, there is a clear pattern of constructing additional rooms as opposed to constructing new homes. This leads to an increase in the density of homes, thus further exacerbating the housing problem. With most homes having been constructed over twenty years ago (58 percent), over 50 percent of the population under the age of 25 , and no solutions in sight, demand in the lower income segments is expected to explode in the next decade.


In order to truly comprehend this problem, one must put him/
herself in the shoes (or bare-soles) of the average citizen of Pakistan. An individual is earning between US$ 135-185/month (working in the public/private sector or self-employed) and is responsible for maintaining his/her nuclear family as well as members of the extended family. The average citizen lives with a level of uncertainty on a daily basis, and is constantly faced with a multitude of potential issues to handle relating to running of his/her household and providing for the family.

For those living in rental units (30 percent of the population), their average monthly income is US$ 165 and their monthly saving, after all expenses relating to rent, food, utilities, transportation and miscellaneous are deducted, under ideal circumstances, is US$ 15.

With the average person saving US$ 15/month and the average 80 square yard plot costing US$ 7,000, it would take nearly forty years before one could afford such a plot.

The result, is the current housing crisis Pakistan is faced with.

Policy, Poverty and Housing

Historically, low-cost housing in Pakistan has either been the realm of NGOs, the government, or the informal sector.

Due to the heavy capital requirements, as well as the level of skill involved in scaling up in the housing sector, NGOs have not gained much ground.

The government has been very successful in the actual building of low-income housing developments, but has failed in all subsequent aspects such as effectively targeting the BOP (bottom of the income pyramid) and building healthy and sustainable communities.

Traditionally, government models have been based on a lottery system that is generally rigged in favour of the investor community who then exploit the BOP through renting those same units. With those units intended for homeowners, but occupied by renters, there is no ownership within the community. This inevitably spirals into becoming another slum where drugs, prostitution, and crime thrive.

The informal sector meanwhile is riddled with problems such as lack of legal tenure, crime, no master-planning, and little or no infrastructure.

With poverty rates nearing 50 percent, and population in the major urban centers expected to double in the next fifteen years, Pakistan is in the midst of a massive housing deficit.

With housing policies favouring the elite, the development and supply of affordable housing presents itself as both a great challenge and a greater opportunity.

The Ansaar Management Company

To meet this challenge, a group of professionals from various disciplines have come together to create the Ansaar Management Company (AMC). AMC is driven by a mission to provide high quality and affordable housing solutions to the average citizen of Pakistan. The company targets households earning US$ 85-300 per month and specializes in a community-based approach to development. AMC focuses on nationwide scalability and sustainability through its integrated for-profit, low-cost approach. AMC’s initial projects focus on ten selected cities of Pakistan.

AMC’s model, based on a thorough analysis of the issue, effectively improves on what the government has been doing right, and works towards the institution of systems within areas that the government has not paid due attention to. The following features set the AMC model apart from others.

All residents must move on site within 60 days;

All residents must reside on site for 5 years (they cannot sell, rent, or leave the plot/home empty);

Only one plot per family. No bachelors allowed;

Active community development is essential for the first five years, utilizing a unique system of resident mobilization requiring residents to live physically live on-site;

Various NGOs and organizations are invited to establish initiatives in areas of health, education, and community development;

A financially sustainable model that offers 70 percent of the plots at cost, while offering the remaining in the open market.


Why AMC is a Social Enterprise

Carved from AMC’s on-ground experience, the table below indicates how, compared to a typical informal scheme, AMC offers a vastly superior product in terms of utilities, amenities, and living environment – while remaining competitive price-wise.

AMC develops roughly 500-2500 residential and 25-125 commercial plots for sale for a given project and charges a project management fee to manage all aspects of the project, including but not limited to, civil works, home construction, marketing and sales and community development:

Unlike informal developers, AMC provides all plots in the project with electricity, a water-supply, underground sewerage lines and disposal, as well as roads during the tenure of the project. Doing so ensures that residents do not face the hardships faced in urban slums and squatter settlements. Since AMC’s approach to housing is holistic, it also facilitates essential social and economic services of education, healthcare, and micro-credit through a network of NGO partners to further enhance the living quality of its residents.

Additionally, AMC arranges mortgage financing for standardized one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom housing units to facilitate clients.

A CSR-Framework for Low-Income Housing

The unskilled/skilled labour force – the average citizen – who earns Rs. 3,000-10000/month, is one of the most neglected segments of society. The government does not cater to their needs, nor does the private sector. The labour class tends to be a sincere group of people, but dire circumstances force them to behave irrationally – to cheat, steal, become violent, and, in the worst circumstances, even kill. The only way to transform the dynamics of this segment is to minimize the occurrence of dire circumstances.

As organizations begin to explore various options to carry out their commitment to CSR, AMC offers a financially viable option that achieves high social and environmental impact. With a plethora of textile mills throughout the country, and a constant struggle to retain good talent at all levels, the AMC model is a mutual solution for the labour force and the organizations that employ them.

The AMC proposal consists of the following principles:

Owners or associations of industrial units, independently or jointly-with AMC investors, purchase raw land in close proximity to their industrial estates;

Plots or built-up units be offered to qualifying laborers/employees (those that have demonstrated commitment to the organization via pre-determined metrics) in strict adherence to the AMC policies (moving in with the family within 60 days);

Mortgages are offered to the residents/employees on a 70:30 debt: equity basis, where the organization can opt to subsidize the equity portion or simply serve as the facilitator during the entire transaction. (This method would allow a labourer to move into a basic housing unit with as little as PKR 25,000);

AMC manages the entire process from land acquisition to post five year community management, including engaging partners (investors, NGOs, etc) to build schools, hospitals, community centers, commercial areas, etc within the community;

With a thriving community of 3000-10000 members (depending on the size of the development), the organization can now sell the remaining
30 percent of the plots (prime, as well as commercial) to the open market, for profit.

Incorporating the key elements mentioned below, AMC designs and implements all of housing projects on socially and ecologically sound and sustainable principles that also serve as metrics for investor/donors:


Simple procedure with rapid delivery;

Effectively target the poor;

Healthy physical environment;

Legal housing with security of tenure;

Socio-economic opportunities;

Financial viability;


Estimated Quantitative Social Impact
The key to alleviating poverty in Pakistan is to provide the poor with assets. If this asset comes in the form of a house, the value becomes manifold. AMC provides this valuable asset.

It not only saves the poor from continuous rental payments, it also provides them with collateral as well as peace of mind, thus contributing to more productive work. AMC focuses on selected indicators for quantifying the social impact of its projects. These indicators include:

Creation of assets;

Savings on rental payments;

Value addition by new employment generation due to new construction;

Health-related benefits accruing due to environmentally friendly practices.

Based on the above, AMC anticipates a social return of
US$ 2.36 on each dollar spent by one household. When annualized, this number progressively swells to over US$ 13 million for all households involved in a standard project of 2500 units.

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Author Information

Jawad Aslam, currently an Acumen Fund Fellow, has been working in the low-income housing sector of Pakistan for the past three years. He has recently launched AMC, a for-profit spin-off of the world renowned incremental housing model of Khuda Ki Basti. Jawad was born and raised in the USA, and currently resides in Islamabad with his family.

One Response to “CSR and Low-Income Housing: A Plausible Framework”

  1. Gul Muhammad Bawa #

    I am interested in studying development issues related to the low and middle income housing sector in Pakistan and would like to get in touch with the people who are actively involved. would appreciate receiving available documentation and also telephone contact – land line or mobile phone number to exchange views and information.
    Gul Muhammad Bawa
    0300-8290332 or

    April 16, 2009 at 10:56 am Reply

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