The Noida Extension dream - which was floated to support a global slowdown-hit real estate sector three years ago - has crashed, creating a never-before crisis for homebuyers.
In 2008, the economic crisis forced realtors to shut shop. The government came up with a plan - affordable housing. Those unable to own a house of their own saw possibilities. A nondescript cluster of villages across the Hindon was chosen and a term "Noida Extension" coined to woo buyers. Greater Noida was still a no-no.
Now Noida Extension is a no-go zone. Court orders have quashed land acquisition in several villages, leaving thousands of homebuyers in the lurch. The Allahabad High Court will decide on the fate of rest of Noida Extension villages on July 26. There is no relocation plan. Refunds are hard to come by. Home loan EMIs are driving buyers crazy. "Even if there are refunds, we will not be able to buy houses elsewhere because of price difference. Any new deal between farmers and the authority will mean costlier land and the burden will be passed on to the end user," said Prashant Garg, a buyer.
The mandate of the project was to provide the middle-class buyer his dream two-bedroom house Rs15 lakh against the existing rate of Rs25 lakh. "Land acquisition was done for industrial development. The authority used the urgency clause. It also changed, in many cases, the land use to residential and allotted plots to builders. The floor area ratio or FAR (controlling bulkiness of a building) was increased to ensure delivery of maximum units," said an official, now transferred from Noida.
Changes were also made in the allotment policy - builders were allowed to start contraction after payment of only 10% of the land cost. Earlier, they needed to pay 30% of the land cost before they could start construction. In no time, Noida Extension left Noida and Greater Noida behind in terms of buyers' interest because of its affordability and location. Air became thick with dust. Trucks ferried construction material day in and day out. The number of property agents grew by the hundreds. Hoardings of celebrities endorsing housing projects swarmed the belt. Plus, there were text messages and FM radio.
But things have completely changed. With farmers reclaiming their land, sites are looking deserted. There is no client walk-ins. Bookings have stopped completely.
So when did the trouble begin? "Farmers basically wanted their abadi land should not be acquired. The officials did not listen. Even developed land plots - promised prior to acquisition - were hard to come by. This allowed farmers to be organised and a cycle of protests began, which finally led to groups moving court," said Roopesh Verma, a farmer leader. Plus, there were issues of lower compensation, urgency clause and land use change.
There is little hope for revival of Noida Extension dream. "Many court orders have quashed land acquisition. More verdicts are likely on July 26. All land in Greater Noida has been acquired using the urgency clause of Land Acquisition Act - something held illegal by the court and used as a ground to quash the acquisition in Shahberi and Patwari," Verma said.