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imageISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Friday urged the country's experts and planners to come up with a comprehensive idea of a mass-scale housing project that caters to the needs of millions of downtrodden and shelterless people.

"Around 10 percent of some 40 million families in Pakistan have their own houses. We have to take care of the downtrodden, who work hard but have no shelter. So come up with a concept of creating new cities," he said in his remarks at the concluding session of a two-day International Conference on "Affordable Housing and Mortgage Finance" held here at a local hotel.

The Prime Minister - who was briefed through a presentation about the proposed scheme of constructing 500,000 housing units for low income groups with 50,000 to be built in the first year - said keeping in view the country's population at around 200 million it was a very small scheme and should be amplified.

"It is very difficult for a poor man, who works hard to feed his family members, to purchase even a small piece of land to build a house for his children. There are many people in cities and villages, who do not have their own houses and we have to take care of them," he remarked.

The Prime Minister said places should be identified outside the big cities for large housing schemes, so that the government could allocate or acquire, if it was not state land for the purpose.

He said besides the cooperation of banks, the government could also give subsidies for such projects.

The Prime Minister recalled that his government in 1997 had launched a mega housing scheme for low income groups, but due to the toppling of government that scheme could not be materialized.

He said the experts should deliberate on this subject and come up with concrete recommendations and proposals, which could later be presented to him.

"There are vast chunks of state land across the country. The new cities should be created, as our religion also call for it," the Prime Minister remarked and assured the government's all out efforts and support to achieve this goal.

Finance Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar while speaking on the occasion said this subject was very close to the heart of Prime Minister Sharif and the government was also working on it.

He said the housing industry in the country needs to revitalize as it would not help remove the shortage of houses but would also spur gross domestic product (GDP) growth through enhanced industrial and economic activity.

About the Mortgage Finance, the minister said, the issue of foreclosure was very serious and the existing law under the Financial Institutions (Recovery of Finances) Ordinance 2001 needs to rectified through amendment in the ordinance.

He also mentioned government's initiatives such as the setting up of Mortgage Refinance Company with a capital of Rs 1.2 billion as well as launching of the Housing Finance Credit Guarantee Scheme.

The Finance Minister said the government will introduce special schemes in housing, agriculture and aviation sectors in the forthcoming budget to be presented on June 5, 2015.

Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Ashraf Mahmood Wathra and Deputy Governor Saeed Ahmad also spoke on the occasion and highlighted the aims and objectives of the conference as well as the deliberations made during the two-day conference, which was also attended by experts from Canada, Malaysia, France, UAE and Bangladesh.

Copyright APP (Associated Press of Pakistan), 2015

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