Evaluating Housing Health Hazards: Prevalence, Practices and Priorities in Delhi’s Informal Settlements

Emily Nix & Jacob Paulose & Clive Shrubsole & Hector Altamirano-Medina & Michael Davies & Renu Khosla & Kristine Belesova & Paul Wilkinson

Housing quality is crucially linked to health and sustainability goals, yet there is limited research on informal housing and settlements where housing quality is poor, and the health risks are expected to be greatest. This paper describes the investigation of housing conditions in a low-income resettlement colony in Delhi. A novel transdisciplinary methodology to evaluate multiple housing health hazards and establish intervention priorities in participation with the community was developed. Findings from housing surveys and indoor environmental monitoring were contrasted with a participatory self-assessment—revealing the widespread prevalence of hazards and suboptimal housing conditions as well as substantial differences in priorities, and thus perspectives, between participants and researchers. Focus group discussions explored the findings and built consensus on priorities. Our findings uncovered how poor housing conditions affect daily practices and thus are likely to adversely affect socio-economic development and gender equality. We highlight limitations in current frameworks to assess housing hazards and argue that a transdisciplinary approach is vital to provide a holistic understanding and to develop effective interventions. These insights are crucial to inform inclusive solutions for adequate housing and human settlements that can support improved health and help achieve the sustainable development goals.