At any launch of a township nowadays, the first aspect that a developer often discloses about the project is that it is targeted towards the high-end segment. The feature list in such homes often includes a modular kitchen, Italian flooring, chic bathrooms – all of which come at a price that sometimes runs past a crore, and often past Rs. 50 lakh. But, in a country where the middle-class and even lower sections form 60-70 per cent of the urban population, where do the less privileged go looking for their dream home?
Mercifully, there are options available apart from the drab DDA flats in Delhi or the less fancied cooperative societies in Mumbai, though they have fewer fancy features.
And the lower ends of the middle class can take heart that the higher ends involve hidden costs that make the places more difficult.
Says Maria Mishra, who shifted to Gurgaon two months ago, “Hi-tech townships give suburbs like Gurgaon, Noida, Navi Mumbai etc. an international feel, but they also involve high costs and are high on maintenance. Further, the cost of living is too high for a middle-class household as even the educational and healthcare facilities and shopping for basic needs come at an extra cost. So much so that the high cost of living has prompted me to start looking for a job and a crèche for my two-year-old son. Otherwise, sustaining ourselves in such an environment is proving to be quite difficult.”
The 2001 census further lends credence to this. It pegged the aggregate number of people in Indian cities with a population of one lakh or more at 178.2 million.
The current shortage of housing in these cities is 24.71 million units, meaning that nearly a 100 million people, equivalent to a population exceeding that of an average European nation, do not have a home of their own.
Therefore, it is no wonder that the Rs 20-40 lakh market (a price range that a middle-class household in the country is comfortable with) today exists primarily in Tier II and III cities. Only certain areas in the bigger metropolitan cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata now fall in that range and are usually located 10-15 km (and in some cases even 40 km) away from the city centre. So, with a cheaper tag comes the additional burden of transportation and lack of good schools and healthcare facilities and poor connectivity.
In the Delhi NCR, the best bet as far as mid-income housing is concerned is the suburbs of Ghaziabad across the Yamuna, which include areas like Vaishali, Vasundhara and Indirapuram. Dozens of builders are building match-box apartments in these zones. While they try to make the design and inside facilities attractive, the simple fact remains that access roads and other infrastructure surrounding the colonies are far less convenient.
Bahadurgarh, Kundli, Dharuhera and Bhiwadi around the Capital are the other areas where housing options in the Rs 20-40 lakh price range are available. In and around Mumbai, the areas to look out for are beyond Bhayander including Vasai, Nala Sopara and Virar. Even Thane, considered to be a poor cousin of Mumbai, does not have many options in that price range.
In Pune, the areas where mid-income housing is abundant are Pimpri-Chinchwad, Wadgaon, Dhayari, Phursungi and Wagholi.
Chennai has areas like Minjur, part of the Old Mahabalipuram road, Kattankulathur near Tambaram, Avadi, Poonamallee and Kelambakkam.
Bangalore has Yelahanka, Tumkur Road, Sarjapur Ring Road, Raja Rajeswari Nagar, Kaggadasapura, Marathahalli, Hosur road, Coffee Board Layout, Sri Gandada Kavalur, Jalahalli, CV Raman Nagar, Bommasandara, Gigini etc. In Hyderabad, the affordable areas are Rajendranagar, Malkajgiri, Uppal, Alwal, Kukkatpally, Malakpet, Dilsukhnagar and Madhapur.
In Kolkata, the preferred areas would be Jadavpur, Behala, DumDum and RegentPark. Chandigarh has its Sector 44D where an apartment on the second or third floor can be bought for Rs. 25 lakh.
While many of these places are dominated by small and mid-size builders, the middle class hunger for homes has propelled a few developers to announce mid-income housing schemes.
Realty majors DLF and Unitech have already announced their intention to get into this segment. In fact, Rajiv Singh, Vice-Chairman, DLF feels that mid-income housing will form 20 per cent of the company's business in the next 3-5 years. “The current 20 million square feet of development will rise to 50 million square feet. primarily because of the rise in demand of mid-income housing,” he says.
However, until the majors come out with options that could reflect their reputation, experience and brand value, the present ones will have to hold the fort.