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Housing market and class formation in the Colombo Metropolitan Region: a sociological aspect


N. Chandrasiri Niriella

Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo, LK
About N. Chandrasiri
Lecturer at Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo
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The main focus of the study is on understanding the emerging relationship between state, market and social classes in the Colombo Metropolitan Region (CMR) in the context of emerging housing market and citizens’ access to a livable house in the Colombo city and its suburbs. This main objective is achieved through the questions of enquiry, listed as: to identify the role of state on formulating various housing policies and their implementation; to describe emerging institutional mechanisms, public or private in facilitating, developing and implementing land and housing properties; to investigate the housing market and its socio-economic impacts on the residents of three communities under focus; to examine residential patterns and formation of social classes in the communities; and to enquire into the nature and forms of relationship among the state, the market and the social classes in regard to urban housing. The main research question addressed in this study is to investigate the impact of recent neoliberalisation policy on urban housing, more so in the context of CMR. The commercialization of housing as a commodity by the private builders, whom the state has found impossible to exclude, due to its dwindling resources and infra-structure, has successfully manipulated the consumerist zeal of consumers, both rich and poor alike, obsessed with status consciousness. Three housing units have been studied in detail;Shahaspura (a heterogeneous public sector condominium housing complex inhabited by lower class residents), Mattegoda (a public sector housing complex inhabited by lower middle class residents), and Millennium City (a private sector housing complex inhabited by middle & upper middle class residents). In all, 325 households were selected randomly for a primary household survey. The sample survey was supplemented by qualitative data collected from respondents by contacting them for detailed informal interviews and non-participant observation. Secondary data presented by the research paper relates to the changing housing policies under various political regimes in the country; constituted institutional bodies to implement land development; housing and policy interventions; emerging public and private financial institutions for facilitating property development sector; role of private developers and promoters in developing lands and housing properties; and finally numerous housing schemes implemented by the public and private sector, in the CMR. The analysis reveals significant variation among these three study areas in terms of neighbourhood relationships and status enhancement. Shifting into these housing complexes signifies for the residents, not just an alternative residence, but more of a status enhancement. However, the study reveals that the rising demand especially among middle and upper income groups for private housing colonies, selling their products along with multiple amenities, has resulted into a steep rise in land prices, hence making the private housing out of reach for the low income groups, who then look for government housing schemes. Further, the study has shown the banking facilities for housing loans have further enhanced the interest of people in private housing societies, providing a big boost to the housing market. The whole process has led to the emergence of urban social classes very distinct from one another and drawing an identity from the housing structures.

Sri Lanka Journal of Social Sciences 2015 38(1): 13-29
How to Cite: Niriella, N.C., 2016. Housing market and class formation in the Colombo Metropolitan Region: a sociological aspect. Sri Lanka Journal of Social Sciences, 38(1), pp.13–29. DOI:
Published on 03 Feb 2016.
Peer Reviewed


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