Pune: The Social Welfare Department of the Maharashtra government has proposed an affordable housing scheme for the transgender community, a senior official said.
Transgender persons often find it difficult to buy or rent a house in a good locality because of the stigma attached to their gender identity, hence the scheme would be helpful, he said.
Under the proposed scheme, around 150 flats of 450 sq feet each will be offered in a dedicated housing complex in Nagpur city for the transgender community.
"The Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) has ready flats available. It has agreed to sell them to us. Using the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) funds and taking rest of the funding from the state government, we will make these flats available to the transgender community. They will own these flats," said Dr Prashant Narnaware, Commissioner, Social Welfare.
If approved, this will be the first dedicated housing scheme for the community in the state, he added.
"We hear of shelter houses or hostel facilities for this marginalized community, but our scheme envisages that they will own the flats, own the complex and can lead a dignified life," Narnaware said.
A proposal was received from the NIT, and the Social Welfare department said it will purchase the ready building, he said.
"It has been sent to the state government for approval. Once we receive the finance department's nod, the flats will be purchased from the NIT and we will start allotment," he added.
Asked if the scheme might draw criticism for 'segregating' the community instead of bringing it into the mainstream, Narnaware said the ultimate goal would always be that community members get assimilated in the mainstream society, but finding housing was a real problem for them.
Regular conferences of representatives of the transgender community are held in the state to understand their issues, he said.
"The issue they are facing is that nobody is ready to give them a house even if they have the money to buy or rent it. In these conferences, we hear a common grievance that they struggle to find a house or flat in a decent housing society," he said.
Some of them are forced to live in slums, Narnaware added.
Community members suggested that the government consider setting up dedicated housing colonies where they can live and even start businesses, said the commissioner.
"We too do not want segregation. They should co-exist with others, and this initiative is a first step towards it," he added.
Those seeking flats under the proposed scheme will need to possess an identity card and certificate issued by the government which recognizes them as a trangender person, Narnaware said.
"The beneficiaries will have to pay only 10 per cent of the flat price and the balance will be paid through the PMAY and state government. If needed, bank loans will be made available to pay the 10 per cent share," he added.
Bindu Madhav Khire, Director of Bindu Queer Rights Foundation which works for the LGBTQ community, said the objective of the scheme was laudable.
But he warned that there was a possibility of fraud with fake transgender persons taking advantage of the scheme.
According to him, there are an estimated 20,000 transgender persons living in Maharashtra.
"It is a fact that the transgender community faces discrimination while seeking accommodation in a decent area. But there is also a possibility that a beneficiary who has paid a mere 10 per cent of the total cost will sell it for profit and return to the old address," he said.
To "mainstream" the transgender community, they can be given a quota in general housing schemes of the Maharashta Housing and Area and Development Authrotiy (MHADA) and other government-run housing corporations, Khire said.
In MHADA scheme there is no room for discrimination as flats are alloted through a lottery, he added.
"Also, as some persons fraudulently declare themselves as transgender only to take benefit of government schemes, there should be sufficient checks," Khire added.