ISLAMABAD, SEPT 21 (DNA) – The supply of housing for low-income groups in Pakistan remains negligible despite high demand, while the mortgage finance market remains critically underdeveloped, according to a new study from IFC highlighting opportunities in the country’s housing finance sector.

The study, “Pakistan Housing Finance – Is there a business case for Financial Institutions,”highlightsthe need for financial institutions (FIs)to expand into housing finance across different income segments—particularly low and middle income households—and regions. Substantial volume in the mortgage finance market could also be tapped if FIs expanded their portfolios across different urban income groups.

With a growing population of over 208 million people, Pakistanis inurgent need ofnew housing. Its estimated housing shortage stands at about 10 million homes and is expected to grow by 400,000 units per year.Increasing urbanization, continued rises in the cost of land and construction materials, and low levels of mortgage lending have also all contributed to the country’s housing gap.

Despite the acute demand for housing, the mortgage depth ratio—the total volume of outstanding mortgages to GDP—remains low at 0.3 percent, significantly lower than the South Asia average of 3.4 percent. This reflects the lack of housing finance products, the limited capacities of financial institutions, thelack of long-term funding, and legal and regulatory issues, according to the report.

“IFC’s study highlights the need to open up housing financing for different customer segments in Pakistan, which is a critical component of the country’s COVID-19 response and recovery. Spurring private sector participation in mortgage financeis also vital to create a new market to boost competitiveness, growth and inclusion,” said Shabana Khawar, IFC Regional Head of Operations for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Tackling the country’s need for housing is one of the key pillars of the government’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy, which IFC and the World Bank have been working together to support. That has included advice and financing for the country’s first private sector-led housing finance institution, the Pakistan Mortgage Refinance Company (PMRCL).IFC has also supported reforms on foreclosure laws, the Real Estate Regulatory Authority Act, and housing finance company regulations in Pakistan.

IFC’s current committed investment exposure in Pakistan amounts to approximately $1.2 billion in 47 companies, across sectors including power, infrastructure, financial markets, and manufacturing, agribusiness, and services.