1. Sri Lanka: Housing Scenario 2. Housing ownership indicators 3. Housing Policy 4. Laws on Housing a) The Constitution b) Rent Act 5. National Housing Development Authority Act 6. National Housing Act 7. Housing policy in the period before 1977 8. Housing subsidies 9. Housing policy, programmes and performance 1977-1983 10. Government departments and agencies 11. Public sector housing schemes 12. The centre on housing rights and evictions (COHRE) 13. Conclusion 14. References

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HOUSING HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA 1.000 IDPs in Sri Lanka*over 750.000 have been displaced in the recent upsurge in violence between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). social and cultural (ESC) rights. Many still await restitution claims from the government or international organizations. the establishment of High Security Zones.500 still live in temporary camps. Secondary occupation. Sri Lanka’s ongoing 20 year-old civil conflict has produced one of the largest populations of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the world.000 IDPs in Sri Lanka. Page | 2 . of which 300. Three years after the Asian Tsunami many displaced persons still have not received adequate housing and over 11. the number of conflict IDPs is increasing on a daily basis. It is es over 750.PLAN. SRI LANKA: HOUSING SCENARIO Sri Lanka currently faces a severe crisis in which access to land and housing permeates the various challenges of developing the country and providing a stable and peaceful environment for all of its citizens. Women are particularly vulnerable to housing violations and have suffered from gender based discrimination related to titling schemes. restitution. and the complete destruction of houses and property await those lucky enough to be able to return to their homes. However.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. These include slum and plantation communities who lack security of tenure and who are vulnerable to the forces of the economy and government sponsored ‘development’ projects resulting in forced evictions. many others have fallen through the policy gaps and have been forgotten or in some cases purposely discriminated against. Other vulnerable and marginalized groups do not have access to judicial remedies for violations of their economic. and other elements of emergency/disaster relief. With the escalating violence following the breakdown of a ceasefire agreement.

annexes. line rooms and shanties. Sri Lanka’s housing stock includes single houses. Table 1 details the types of housing in the urban.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. Slum and shanty dwellers have increased to 0.3 per cent of people live in condominiums or flats while 2. rural and estate sectors. attached houses.9 per cent of people live in line rooms. HOUSING 2. According to the survey carried out by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in 2003/2004. flats. 18 per cent consist of large inland waters while 33 per cent consist of forests and forest reserves.7 per cent own their homestead lands and 35. this represents an increase in the number of single-unit houses.8 per cent. row houses. Page | 3 . condominiums.4 per cent own their agricultural lands. Of the State owned lands. A survey carried out by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in 2003/2004 indicates that 88. 27 per cent of the lands are agricultural. 91 per cent of people live in single-unit houses. HOUSING OWNERSHIP INDICATORS Surveys conducted in 1982 revealed that 84 per cent of the lands in Sri Lanka are State owned while only 16 per cent are privately owned.PLAN. comparing data from the surveys carried out in 1996/1997 and 2003/2004. 1. 3.8 per cent live in attached houses or annexes. In comparison with a survey carried out in 1996/1997.

PLAN. HOUSING Table 1 Nearly 90 per cent of housing units are self owned. rural and estate sectors.3 per cent in the urban sector. but this represents an increase of nearly 10 per cent since 1996/1997. This is particularly so in the urban and rural sectors.5 per cent of people live in leased or rented accommodation. A total of 2. In the estate sector only 21.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. with that proportion rising to 8. Page | 4 .5 per cent of housing units are self owned. Table 2 details the types of ownership in the urban. In the estate sector nearly 75 per cent of housing units are either State owned or owned by employers.

and they are found predominantly in Colombo city. HOUSING Table 2 As indicated in Table 1.8 per cent of people live in shanties. Table 3 details the number of shanty units in Colombo city in 1993. A majority of these settlements are on Government land. Table 3 Page | 5 . 0.PLAN.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M.

including the Hundred Thousand Houses Programme (1979‑1983) in which those living in extreme poverty were provided with free housing. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Housing. the NHDA is carrying out several housing projects which address issues of underserved settlements.5 Million Houses Programme (1989 ‑1994) which provided housing assistance to low-income families. the Urban Development Authority and the National Housing Development Authority (1979) and the Mahaveli Development Authority.and middle-income groups and public servants.000 families are Page | 6 . These include the National Housing Department (1952). and not as part of a broader and wellformulated policy. and the 1. Since then. Under this scheme. the Greater Colombo Economic Commission (1977). Successive governments have dealt with the issue of housing by adopting ad hoc policies catering to particular situations as they have arisen. At present. The Mahaveli Development Scheme is one of the largest resettlement schemes that Sri Lanka has undertaken. a sustainable housing programme for the estate sector and the provision of social infrastructure for the estates sector. The first Ministry of Housing was created in 1952. the National Housing Development Department (1977).PLAN. HOUSING 3. The National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) has undertaken several housing projects. low. approximately 58. HOUSING POLICY Sri Lanka does not have a well-formulated housing policy. several government departments and agencies have been established to formulate housing policy and to carry out housing projects under successive governments.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. as well as housing loan programmes and cluster housing programmes in rural areas. the Sustainable Township Programme sought to provide houses for approximately 66 000 slum and shanty dwellers in Colombo and to release the vacated prime land for development purposes.

Similarly. under the Plantation Human Development Programme several housing projects have been implemented to construct and upgrade housing conditions in the estate sector. several public sector housing schemes aimed at particular target communities have been implemented.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. HOUSING placed as a result of the Kotmale and Victoria development projects were relocated in the Mahaveli area. coordinated by the Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation (TAFREN). early encroachers of State land and the landless. For instance. Special housing programmes. In addition. Page | 7 . Among those relocated were the inhabitants of ancient villages from the area.PLAN. have been launched to assist those affected by the tsunami. the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has implemented several housing projects since the 1970s to assist fishing communities.

” The Directive Principles are declaratory only and are not justifiable in a court of law. the continuous improvement of living conditions and the full enjoyment of leisure and social and cultural opportunities. not socioeconomic rights. Roman Dutch Law was found to be inadequate for addressing housing issues created by Page | 8 . 7 of 1972 Rent legislation in Sri Lanka dates back to the 1940s. the relationship between landlord and tenant was governed by Roman Dutch Law. Article 14(1)(h) of the Constitution deals with the freedom to choose one’s residence. Initially. Article 27(c) of the Constitution provides that the State must ensure: “The realization by all citizens of an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. However. The Constitution The Sri Lankan Constitution recognizes only civil and political rights. B. Therefore.PLAN. clothing and housing. LAWS ON HOUSING A. HOUSING 4. there is no express provision to safeguard citizens’ housing rights in its fundamental rights chapter. including adequate food.” The only constitutional protection of housing rights is in the Directive Principles of State Policy. Rent Act No. and provides that: “Every citizen is entitled to the freedom of movement and of choosing his residence within Sri Lanka.

Residential premises constructed after 1 January 1980 and let on or after that date.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. In 1942. the following premises are now exempt from the purview of the Rent Act. Excepted premises. HOUSING industrialization. 7 of 1972 ushered in a socialist approach which did not favour private ownership. Residential premises let after 12 December 1980 to a person or company referred to in the preceding paragraph. d. As will be shown later. Through amendments to the Acts of 1980 and 2002. c. b. tenants of the Page | 9 . the Rent Restriction Ordinance12 was enacted and several amendments were subsequently brought in. The effect of the 1980 and 2002 amendments has been to exempt a large number of premises from the purview of the Rent Act. holding the bargaining power. Vulnerable tenants were subject to exploitation by landlords who. A statutory framework designed to favor the tenant was introduced to govern this area. e. This framework. 1 000 per month. which was heavily weighted in favour of the tenant. residential premises occupied or possession thereof taken by the landlord on or after 1 January 1980 and let on or after that date. The rapid growth of industry resulted in a rising concentration of people in cities and consequent housing shortages. or of a non-resident company which has been exempted by the Commissioner for National Housing. Residential premises occupied by the owner on 1 January 1980 and let on or after that date. was then subjected to changes that strengthened the position of the landlord— consistent with the open economic policies adopted by the Government.PLAN. and f. The Rent Act No. strengthening the bargaining power of the landlord: a. Residential premises in the occupation of a person issued with a visa under the Immigration and Emigration Act and whose income exceeds Rs. demanded exorbitant rents.

They restrict landlords from demanding as rent amounts in excess of the authorized rent. the amendments introduced several provisions that favor the tenant. and there are similar restrictions on demanding excessive advances.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. HOUSING exempted premises are denied the protection of the Rent Act. They impose restrictions on increasing rent15 and provide for instances where such increases are permitted. especially in relation to ejectments. Tenant of residential premises for which the standard rent exceeds Rs. 100 and the annual value of which does not exceed the relevant amount can be ejected if the rent is in arrears for one month or more. the landlord can institute action to eject the tenant. premiums or other additional payments.PLAN. these are as follows: a) Arrears of rent Where the standard rent of premises does not exceed Rs. The Act attempts to strike a balance in relation to the ejectments of tenants. b) The premises is reasonably required by the landlord or a family member for residential or business purposes Where the landlord or a member of his family requires the premises for business or residential purposes. the landlord can institute action to eject the tenant if rent has been in arrears for three months or more. There are certain grounds on which a landlord can institute action to eject a tenant. 100 or a business premises for which the standard rent exceeds Rs. Page | 10 . At the same time. 100.

f) Change of the character of the premises Where the character of the premises has been changed by the tenant from residential premises to a business premises or vice versa without the permission of the landlord. In this case. action can be filed to eject the tenant. HOUSING c) Termination of employment A tenant of a premises occupied by him because of his employment by the landlord can be evicted when the tenant ceases to be employed by the landlord. 150 000. fails to define the term ‘development’. however. whichever is higher. d) Use of premises for immoral or illegal purposes Where the tenant is guilty of conduct which is a nuisance to adjoining occupiers or has been convicted of using the premises for immoral or illegal purposes. Page | 11 . The Act. the landlord can institute action to eject the tenant e) Unauthorized structural alterations where structural alterations to the premises have been done by the tenant without prior authorization by the landlord and the local authority.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. or 20 per cent of the market value of the premises determined by the Chief Valuer on the date of filing action. or the condition of the premises has deteriorated due to the negligence or default of the tenant. the landlord must deposit with the Commissioner for National Housing a sum equivalent to ten years’ annual value of such premises calculated on the date of institution of the action. g) Development of the premises The tenant can be ejected where the premises is required for the purpose of development. or Rs. for payment as compensation to the tenant.PLAN.

for the continuation of the tenancy after the death of the tenant. a tenancy terminates upon the death of either party. i) Subletting The tenant cannot sublet the rented premises without the prior written consent of the landlord. Page | 12 . k) Continuation of tenancy after the death of the tenant Under the Common Law. in limited instances. HOUSING h) Abandonment Where the tenant of residential premises has ceased to occupy the premises without reasonable cause for a continuous period of six months. the Rent Act makes provision. j) Destruction of property The destruction of property or the subject matter is grounds for the termination of the contract between the landlord and the tenant. the landlord can file action to eject the tenant. However.PLAN.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M.

b) Management of all lands. houses and living accommodation. NATIONAL HOUSING DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY ACT NO. the powers and functions of which include: a) The preparation and execution of proposals for:  The erection.  The sale.  The resettlement of persons displaced or likely to be displaced by any of the operations of the Authority. unsightly or unsanitary. 17 OF 1979 The National Housing Development Authority Act established the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA). flats. houses and other living accommodation and buildings vested in the Authority. lease. tenements and other buildings which are congested. to purchase lands to construct flats and houses. house or other living accommodation or any building for residential purposes. d) Establishment of new housing estates. improvement and extension of any flat. encouragement of self-help housing projects and the provision of amenities for the inhabitants of such estates or projects including transport and other services. shanties.  The clearance and redevelopment of slums. mortgage or rental of such flat. house or other living accommodation or building. HOUSING 5. c) Provision of loans to enable persons to purchase flats. Page | 13 . houses and other living accommodation.PLAN. and to construct flats.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M.

such purpose shall be deemed to be a public purpose. Where privately owned land is required by the NHDA for carrying out a housing object. HOUSING e) The acquisition. sale or other disposal of any movable or immovable property. mortgage. For the purposes of the Land Acquisition Act.PLAN. pledge. lease or hire.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. such land can be acquired under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act upon a certificate issued by the Minister that such land is so required. Table 4 Page | 14 .

in the absence of such agreement. such land will be acquired under the Land Acquisition Act and made available to the Commissioner. management or control of buildings and building. undertaking guarantees etc. electricity. g) The grant of assistance to carry out housing objects by lending money. water. The Act empowers the Commissioner to carry out any housing object declared by the Act. including: a) The construction of buildings for residential purposes or any other purpose connected with housing objects. NATIONAL HOUSING ACT NO. e) The provision of amenities for the inhabitants of a housing scheme. Where the Minister certifies that any land should be acquired by the Government to carry out a housing object. Page | 15 . c) The provision of roads. The Act declared certain objects to be housing objects.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. The Act also provides for the grant of assistance by the Government for such development. d) The administration. It makes provision for the promotion of housing and building development by establishing building societies. housing bodies and housing companies. HOUSING 6. f) The development of land in order to carry out a housing object. b) The manufacture or supply of building materials. gas and sewerage. Such entities are also empowered by the Act to carry out housing objects.PLAN. by agreement with the majority of the owners. The Commissioner can carry out a housing object on any land by agreement with all the owners of that land or. 37 OF 1954 The National Housing Act created the office of the Commissioner for National Housing.

they should be so let on such terms as will enable the occupiers to become the owners of such houses after making a certain number of monthly payments as rent.PLAN. One such instance is where a premises consists of land which is mortgaged to a person and on which there is a building occupied by the mortgagor or where such premises has been sold in execution of a mortgage decree while the mortgagor was residing in the premises. Page | 16 . HOUSING Section 49A of the Act provides a list of instances in which land can be acquired by the Minister. the Minister must have regard: a) To the interests of the public generally including those persons requiring housing accommodation. The Act also makes provision for the disposition of State land in order to carry out a housing object. Section 50 of the Act specifies that in disposing State land. and b) To the following policy considerations: except in special circumstances it is desirable that houses constructed should be let at a reasonable rent to individuals who are citizens of Sri Lanka. the Commissioner can let the premises to the mortgagor on such terms as will enable him to become the owner of the land after making a certain number of monthly payments as rent. In such instances.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. upon acquisition of the land. Such disposition is subject to conditions that may be imposed by the Minister as well as those contained in the Act. A similar provision is made in the case of acquiring land which is mortgaged as security for a loan granted by the National Housing Fund and where the mortgagor has not complied with the terms and conditions of the loan.

The development strategies. Page | 17 . which were introduced particularly in the early 1970s. But first. there were a number of specific measures which were directed towards low income households. These measures. exists which can be taken and analyzed component by component. covering all aspects of housing provision. for example. access to land. 'housing policy' must be described in terms of a series of legislative and administrative measures which bore either directly or indirectly on the provision of housing.must be seen against the relatively limited direct investment by the public sector in housing in Sri Lanka.PLAN. adopted by successive governments before 1977. rent controls and the introduction of self-help house building procedures . In quantitative terms. attempted a redistribution of income towards the poorest households. HOUSING 7. The overall qualitative impact of a variety of measures – governing terms of finance.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. In the period before the change in government in 1977. are described below. it is necessary to sketch the background to the question of housing subsidies. of the total capital which had gone into housing by 1976. HOUSING POLICY IN THE PERIOD BEFORE 1977 No single comprehensive and coherent 'policy'. only about 9 per cent had been provided by the public sector. Although housing was not perceived as an area where generalized income transfers could occur and thus no national housing policy was formulated on this basis.

The Housing Loans Act of 1949 aimed at the promotion of private sector housing for the upper income groups. In 1953 the Rent Restriction Act was amended to exempt new houses and some existing houses from rent control.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. gave rise to gradual state intervention. Conditions associated with the war and the ensuing shortage of housing. however. It was in public urban rental housing. while responsibility for housing the 'middle class' and working class was assumed by the government. although to a relatively limited extent. HOUSING SUBSIDIES Prior to the Second World War. however. the resettlement of shanty dwellers and for working class housing schemes. Housing expenditure by government has not constituted a significant budget outlay: it accounted for only 1 per cent of government expenditure during the 1960s and averaged at slightly less in the early 1970s. the Rent Restriction Act. HOUSING 8. there was no central public authority vested with the regulation and control of housing. Yet. The National Housing Fund was a revolving fund. and its functions included the allocation of loans to home-builders and the provision of finance for the Construction of working class housing and housing for the middle class. which held rents at prevailing levels in an effort to prevent landlords from exploiting the situation. the housing actually provided by the public sector was minimal. Various amendments in subsequent years were consolidated in legislation in 1948. despite the provision of grants to local authorities from central government for slum clearance.PLAN. At the same time it was recognized that rent restrictions would have possible repercussions on the house-building activity of the private sector. From 1955 the state became involved in the provision of housing. within which the Housing Loans Fund was incorporated. and several measure were taken in an attempt to counteract these effects. Legislation was enacted in 1942. that the state was required to contribute a Page | 18 . and in 1954 the National Housing Fund was established.

200/. By 1973. the annual subsidy had built up to Rs.361.27 per cent of all urban households.58 per cent of urban households were included in this category in 1973. 43.per month. 400/.884.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. a total of 15. The urban income group Rs.to Rs.benefited from only 1 per cent of the units built and 1 per cent of the subsidy. As reflected in Table 6. The distribution of these subsidies among the different income categories: Alailima (1978) shows that the urban households with the lowest incomes in 1973 . 3.below Rs. received 50 per cent of the total subsidies (Alailima 1978:67. Table 5 Page | 19 . HOUSING subsidy. 200/.per month .PLAN. 74). Table 5 shows the provision of public housing in urban areas from 1955 and the impact of increasing costs of construction on the rental subsidies which accrued.


PROGRAMMES AND PERFORMANCE 19771983 Under the new economic strategies introduced from 1977. HOUSING 9.000 housing loans. c) Interest rates charged maximum of 9 per cent. were as follows: a) The Direct Construction Programme (primarily urban). HOUSING POLICY. During these years the allocation of funds to housing amounted to 12 per cent of total public sector investment. From quite a Page | 21 . It is not the intention to undertake a comprehensive analysis of housing practice in this period. b) The Urban Loans Programme targeted to families owning their land.PLAN.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. but did not include house improvements. and the interests reflected in housing policies. construction became a lead sector in development. which was to comprise 50. There was an enormous increase in construction activity. the issues confronted in housing the urban poor. 36.000 Houses Programme' which was launched in 1979.000 rural units. Several detailed studies exist which focus on different aspects of state intervention from 1977 to 1983 and together provide an extensive coverage of the 'housing question'. and the Urban Development and Housing Programme. ASH Programme (primarily rural) which provided financing for a building material package. d) The Slum and Shanty Upgrading Programme. particularly in civil engineering with the Accelerated Mahaveli Development Programme and other irrigation works. The main components of the '100. there was a massive allocation of resources to carry out the '100. Steinberg's (1982) analysis of housing conditions and state response provides insights into the class structure in Sri Lanka.000 urban units and 14. which provided for upgrading infrastructure in slum neighborhoods. Under the latter.000 Houses Programme'. e) The Aided Self-Help. In particular.

PLAN. emphasizing 'individual initiative' and 'self-help'. and leading to an absolute reduction in the allocation of public resources to the housing sector as reflected in Figure 1. Figure 1 Page | 22 . actual and planned from 1979 to 1987. HOUSING different standpoint. the housing strategies formulated after 1983 concentrated on the role of the private sector. with the reorientation of policy in 1983. And for the most comprehensive description of housing during this period.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. which shows public sector investment in urban housing. Ganesan's (1982) study of the construction industry in Sri Lanka deals comprehensively with the conditions and the impact of housing policy on the development of the industry during the first years of the UNP government's economic strategy. Robson's (1984) report on the aided self-help housing programme undertaken in the rural sector leaves one in no doubt as to why the state would come to favor this approach to the provision of low income housing.

•The Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation (TAFREN).HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. have been launched to assist those affected by the tsunami. Page | 23 . PUBLIC SECTOR HOUSING SCHEMES •The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has implemented several housing projects since the 1970s to assist fishing communities. GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES Several government departments and agencies have been established to formulate housing policy and to carry out housing projects under successive governments.PLAN. •These include the National Housing Department (1952) •The National Housing Development Department (1977) •The Greater Colombo Economic Commission (1977) •The Urban Development Authority and •The National Housing Development Authority (1979) •The Mahaveli Development Authority 11. •The Plantation Human Development Programme several housing projects have been implemented to construct and upgrade housing conditions in the estate sector. HOUSING 10.

PLAN. policy makers. Its detailed analysis is confined to the main laws relating to land and housing. in particular for those displaced by conflict and by the tsunami. to empower local communities with regard to their housing. practising lawyers. Page | 24 . land and property rights. social and cultural rights. COHRE’s work focuses on protecting housing rights and preventing forced evictions. Its aims are also: to influence and develop jurisprudence. legislators and local communities in Sri Lanka — particularly in the field of housing rights and generally on economic. THE CENTRE ON HOUSING RIGHTS AND EVICTIONS (COHRE) The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) is an international nongovernmental organization founded in 1994 and having offices in nine countries.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. In pursuing its aim to develop housing rights jurisprudence in Sri Lanka and in building the capacity of practicing lawyers in the field of housing rights. NGOs. HOUSING 12. social and cultural rights violations in Sri Lanka. This publication is based on the findings of this project and is intended to provide an introduction to Sri Lanka’s housing and land laws. In July 2005 COHRE opened its office in Sri Lanka to assist and seek redress for victims of economic. to conduct relevant research projects. COHRE Sri Lanka initiated a research project on housing and land laws in Sri Lanka. legislation and policies in the field of housing rights. and to train the judiciary. COHRE is one of the largest and most influential human rights organizations dedicated to securing the right to adequate housing.

HOUSING 13. b) Without a stable family unit with access to adequate housing. REFERENCES a) An introduction to housing land laws in Sri Lanka. CONCLUSION a) Housing. d) The Government of Sri Lanka faces an enormous task in finding durable housing solutions for its current displaced population.PLAN.google.com Page | 25 . COHRE b) The formulation and implementation of housing policy in Sri Lanka: the origin and implications of the "million houses programme" by Marni Piggott c) www.HOUSING POLICY: SRI LANKA M. e) A coherent policy and plan for return and restitution are urgently needed to address the complex socio-economic issues facing almost 3% of Sri Lanka’s population and to help build and consolidate peace. land and property rights are fundamental to ensuring a successful and sustainable recovery process and the prevention of renewed conflict. 14. c) The government has an obligation – with the assistance of NGOs and international agencies – to ensure that return and restitution programmes address key human rights concerns. recovery will not be possible in the long run as insecurity will prevail and returnees will be vulnerable to a host of other human rights abuses.

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