Informal Rental Housing Typologies and Experiences of Low-income Migrant Renters in Gurgaon, India

Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 28 September 2015

A significant proportion of the working poor in Asian cities live in slums as renters. An estimated 60–90 per cent of low-income rentals in Asia are in the informal sector; 25 per cent of India’s housing stock comprises informal rentals. Yet informal rentals remain an understudied area. Through an empirical study, this article illustrates the typologies of informal rental housing in urban villages and unauthorized colonies in Gurgaon, a city of 1.2 million located within India’s National Capital Region (NCR). Further, through qualitative fieldwork, the article sheds light on how renters, usually low-income migrants, leverage informal rentals to negotiate the city. The research finds that while informal rentals offer advantages of affordability, flexibility and proximity to livelihoods for migrants, they are also sites of exploitation and poor living conditions. Further, the study reveals that social networks that carry over from places or origin as well as household migration strategies strongly influence housing choices in the informal rentals market.