Maha’s new housing policy may not make homes affordable | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Maha’s new housing policy may not make homes affordable

From a stage in one of the city’s largest suburbs, Ghatkopar, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena together announced a real estate bonanza for the teeming suburbs that promises unlocking more space to build homes and redevelop shaky buildings here, both of which have been sluggish so far.

mumbai Updated: Sep 02, 2016 23:51 IST
Manasi Phadke

From a stage in one of the city’s largest suburbs, Ghatkopar, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena together announced a real estate bonanza for the teeming suburbs that promises unlocking more space to build homes and redevelop shaky buildings here, both of which have been sluggish so far.

The two parties, in the presence of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, decided to extend the cluster redevelopment scheme and revamp incentives for old tenanted buildings to the suburbs, apart from increasing the Floor Space Index - the ratio of the total built-up area to the plot area.

The announcements puts the densely-populated suburbs - home to 93.56 lakh people, of which 76 lakh are registered voters - in focus like never before, but urban planning experts branded them as nothing but poll gimmicks. They pointed out that an isolated increase in FSI for certain sections will neither boost redevelopment, nor provide a solution to Mumbai’s pressing problem of unaffordable real estate.

“Friday’s announcements are just a notional uplift. The main problem is there are no large plots in the suburbs, so an increase in FSI alone isn’t of much help,” said Sulakshana Mahajan, urban planner with the think tank Mumbai Transformation Support Unit. “There are still restrictions on small plots, such as complying with fire norms, for instance.”

Mahajan added that the provisions are not likely to make a major disruptive impact any time soon considering the languid real estate market.

“There is just no demand now, and even with the additional FSI, what will come out in the market are luxury apartments beyond the realm of common affordability,” she said.

Neera Adarkar, a practising architect and urban researcher, said the move will only make the suburbs more dense, but without ensuring any increase in physical and social infrastructure.

“These announcements should not be seen in isolation. To consume all this FSI, the government will also have to start giving concessions while creating open spaces. The density on the available narrow plots is going to increase, and providing the required amenities will be impossible. The quality of life will worsen,” she said.

Extending the cluster redevelopment policy and redevelopment incentives for individual old tenanted buildings, both of which are currently restricted to the island city, will make an FSI of at least 4 and 3, respectively, available for such structures. As of now, suburban buildings are eligible for a maximum FSI of 2 for redevelopment.

The CM also announced an increase in overall FSI for redevelopment of 56 MHADA colonies, a vast majority of which are nestled in Mumbai’s suburbs.

For plots less than 2,000 sqm, Fadnavis promised to change norms to allow developers to take up these buildings for redevelopment by paying a premium instead of parting with a share of the total housing stock to be created.

Paying a premium was a major deal breaker for developers, who refrained from taking up such projects until now. With a dwindling fresh land bank, MHADA for years has been eyeing the redevelopment of its existing colonies to create housing stock for sale in its annual draw of low-cost houses.

Besides, Fadnavis also promised free housing in- situ, or on the same site, for those eligible among the 90,000 slum dwellers occupying a significant portion of sensitive airport land, and rolled out a scheme to regularize illegal residents in transit camps, originally meant to house residents of old buildings under redevelopment.