Metro Matters: Delhi must look beyond DDA for housing redevelopment | columns | Hindustan Times
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Metro Matters: Delhi must look beyond DDA for housing redevelopment

Delhi Development Authority, the primary landowner and developer of the city, has failed in its basic duty of providing affordable housing. Land pooling policy will enable residents to partner with private developers to build and sell homes.

columns Updated: May 22, 2017 16:21 IST
Shivani Singh
Delhi doesn’t have too much vacant land to develop new housing units. At least 60% of the city’s area is already built-up.
Delhi doesn’t have too much vacant land to develop new housing units. At least 60% of the city’s area is already built-up.(Vipin Kumar/HT Photo)

Last week, Delhi moved a step ahead in enforcing the land pooling policy by notifying 89 rural villages as urban. The residents here will now be able to pool their farmlands and partner with private developers to build and sell homes.

This could be good news for those looking for a legitimate residential address in Delhi. Despite rising incomes, many city dwellers have already been priced out of Delhi into the National Capital Region. Many others have settled for “cheaper” illegal homes in the city’s unauthorised colonies. Clearly, Delhi Development Authority, the primary landowner and developer of the city, failed in its basic duty of providing affordable housing.

The agency’s policy of locking up huge tracts of land and not developing them held up the housing supply. A study by K Srirangan in 1997 found that this forced buyers to shift to the illegal market where they could pick plots in different sizes, at cheaper rates, in desired time and on flexible payment and construction terms.

To make matters worse, from 2001 onwards, the DDA stopped building big projects despite a boom in the property market. According to a 2014 working paper by Jatinder S. Bedi for the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), local builders, who didn’t have the sanction to acquire and develop large plots like their counterparts in the NCR, converted single or double storey houses into multi-storey buildings.

This again helped property dealers more than the final users. While the share of self-owned households increased from 67.4% in 2001 to 69.2% in 2011, property prices increased more than 10 times in a span of fewer than 10 years, the study found.

The houses under the land pooling policy may not be “affordable” either. “It would have been better for the government to have kept the main supply in its hands and allowed private sector participation to accelerate the development process,” the NCAER paper stated, adding that “the land in these zones had already changed hands before the land pooling policy was made public. The real advantage will not be given to farmers or final users, but will go to large operators.”

For many years, the DDA was criticised for being too controlling. It now draws flak for becoming too market-oriented. A panel constituted by the NDA government for restructuring the DDA (its report is yet to be made public) recommended that its key functions be handed over to other agencies. This would not only bring back focus but also open up areas for redevelopment.

Unlike common perception, Delhi doesn’t have too much vacant land to develop new housing units. At least 60% of the city’s area is already built-up. Of the rest, sizeable portions are natural conservation zones and not available for urbanisation.

Much of Delhi has, anyway, spilled over to the NCR towns. But suburbanisation is problematic if most residents are commuting long distances for work and education. It demands heavy investments in flyovers, expressways and mass-transit, and also leads to increased dependence on private cars.

The zones identified for land pooling are also on Delhi’s periphery. Some of these areas are not connected to the mass-transit yet. Many others are already water stressed. Not so long ago, the DDA built Vasant Kunj and Dwarka, which got their piped water supply much after they got inhabited. Narela remained a ghost town in the absence of connectivity and other civic facilities.

To counter suburbanisation, many cities are opting for redevelopment and densification. The current Master Plan also calls for transit-oriented development, dense commercial and residential growth along the new metro corridors, so that people work, live and shop in the same neighbourhoods. This could cover 40% of Delhi’s housing and commercial needs.

Similarly, illegal colonies and urbanised villages could create 15% additional housing if made liveable. At least 40% of Delhi’s housing needs could be met through the renewal of old areas that are long past their expiry.

Reviving Delhi is a professional’s job. Instead of leaving it to DDA, the restructuring panel suggests hiring experts and appointing a special purpose vehicle. Now that the land agency is itself in withdrawal mode, it’s time the government made some bold administrative overhaul. Unless it believes that the good, old promise of Roti, Kapda aur Makaan has lost political currency.