As things stand currently, neither homebuyers nor realtors are happy with the housing sector. Case in point: Homebuyer Rohan Shah, 35, has been busy scouting for a house for the past two years in the city, but he can’t buy one because of the unaffordable cost. On the other hand, for Manju Yagnik, vice-chairperson, Nahar Group, a major professional hassle is the virtual paralysis of the realty sector in recent times. With a change in power in the state, however, both of them share a common hope: The BJP-led government will bring respite to the ailing sector.
Topping the wish list is reduction in property prices, faster approvals, an effective housing regulator, clarity in policies, improved infrastructure and connectivity, along with easing the high taxes on real estate.
Housing activist Ramesh Prabhu, who heads the Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association, blamed the artificial shortage of houses created by the state government for the mess. “If redevelopment speeds up, more houses will become available in the market, resulting in a fall in rates,” said Prabhu.
The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority, which provides low-cost housing also has a dismal record, making just 18,648 houses available in the past seven years, while the number of applicants stood at 12.28 lakh. Mhada has also hiked prices, with flats costing up to Rs. 85 lakh.
According to Yagnik, affordable housing is possible because both the government and builders are on the same page on this issue. “The state just needs to give us incentives and lower taxes,” said Yagnik. “We have to pay 25-35% taxes in various forms, which we then recover from consumers. Lowering them would result in reduction of prices,” said Yagnik.
A majority of experts agree improving connectivity and beefing up infrastructure can work wonders because various hubs such as Vasai-Virar extending to Bhoisar, Navi Mumbai-Khargar and Thane-Kalyan-Shahpur belt will see massive real estate development. With the BJP government both in Delhi and the state, there are expectations that various infrastructure projects will speed up.
According to Nayan Shah, CEO and MD, Mayfair Housing, connectivity is the key to housing. “People will not shy away from purchasing houses in the outskirts of the city if travel is eased,” said Shah. For many living in the city, redevelopment is the biggest issue as a majority continues to languish in matchbox-sized houses in subhuman conditions. In the past few years, delays in passing cluster projects as well restrictions on open spaces have paralysed redevelopment.
“We are forced to risk our lives because we have no choice,” said Balu Sawant, who lives in a chawl at Girgaum. The ambitious cluster redevelopment scheme, aimed at a holistic revamp, was mooted in 2008 but continues to move at a snail’s pace.
Activists said a strong housing regulator is needed. “Currently, builders rule the roost and the homebuyer is at their mercy. We need stringent time-bound justice so that it ushers in transparency,” said advocate Vinod Sampat, who deals in real estate issues.
Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar said, “Affordable houses and shelter for all will be a cornerstone of our new government.”