Photo essay: Mumbai residents risk safety for affordable housing

India's most populous city is the most expensive place there to buy a home

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Among the luxury towers and expansive villas of Mumbai's most exclusive postcode, a crumbling apartment block is an example of the risks some people are willing to take to live in one of the world's most expensive property markets.

About 600 people, mainly middle-class civil servants and their families, live in the dilapidated, government-owned block, across the Arabian Sea in the same Worli neighbourhood that is home to the daughter of India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani.

Children play outside their units along corridors with rusted, broken railings held together with rags, while the steel bars reinforcing the structure are visible from where the cement has fallen off the floors and ceilings.

"Anything can fall here, especially during the monsoon," said Anil Aiwale, a government employee who has been living in the block with his family for the past five years. "The lack of affordable living options causes people to continue to live in high-risk structures."

Mumbai, capital of Maharashtra state, is India's most populous city, and the most expensive place to buy residential property, according to data from Anarock Research.

Prices for prime properties, such as those in Worli, recorded the sixth fastest year-on-year growth in the world so far this year, a survey by international property consultants Knight Frank shows, just behind global financial centre Singapore and ahead of China's financial capital Shanghai.

Some families living in the Worli block, which is particularly vulnerable to the monsoon rains that lash Mumbai from June to September every year, say these statistics reinforce their determination to stay put, despite the risks.

Because the block faces the sea, the walls and doors of many units are waterlogged and mouldy. Resident Rahul Makwana, who moved to a lower floor, said the entire fourth floor was going to be demolished because of structural issues.

"It's dangerous, especially with parents and children," said resident Sumit Shinde. "But it's not possible for me, or any middle-class family, to purchase a new home in Mumbai. It's very expensive."

Depending on their unit's size, residents pay between 8,000 and 13,000 rupees ($97 and $158) a month in rent to the state government. That would cover rent for a property on the fringes of the city, but not anything more than a unit in a slum near Worli.

A state government official, who declined to be named, said the block's residents had not been served an eviction notice, but that the state has offered them alternative accommodation in the suburbs.

Several residents, however, said transport to and from their offices in Worli would cost too much and take too long.

"The location of this building is great, it's very convenient for me to go to work," Mr Aiwale said. "Affordable housing is impossible to find in a city like Mumbai."

Updated: January 27, 2024, 5:19 AM