After various failed attempts of the government to provide affordable housing to citizens, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has now proposed opening the ecologically significant no-development zones (NDZ) in a bid to create 10 lakh affordable homes through real estate development. However, there are some grey areas in the plan — like the portion of housing kept for lower-income groups (in need of affordable housing) is not clear. Activists said the promise of affordable housing is a farce and a deliberate attempt to exploit NDZs in the city.
As it did with the city’s mill lands, the civic body will open up 33% of the NDZs for affordable housing, another 33% for open spaces and the remaining portion will be allowed to be developed by the owner. The 33% allotted for affordable housing will include the 8% for public and social amenities. The civic body will look at constructing houses for three sections; the higher income group, middle income group and the lower income group. Construction will be the prerogative of the owner coming forward to develop his NDZ plot.
The inclusion of various groups will mean the civic body will not be left with much space to cater to the lower income group in need of affordable housing. As the area available for affordable housing calculated by the civic body will be 750 hectares of the 3,000 hectares. The civic body’s plan of affordable housing will need 3,000 hectares of land to construct 10 lakh affordable houses. A majority of land will come after opening up the 2,100 hectares of NDZs, along with 500 hectares of tourism development area, 140 hectares of Mumbai Port Trust and will also need 260 hectares of saltpans in Mumbai.
Rishi Aggarwal, environmentalist, said, “The government has been fooling the citizens in the name of affordable housing. It is a complete farce. There are large pockets of slums in the city. It they were developed under slum rehabilitation, the NDZ land would not be needed at all. Even the promises made to mill workers of affordable housing are yet to be fulfilled. This is a serious problem because the civic body will disturb the eco-sensitive saltpans, which are important to protect the habitat.”
“The civic body should clearly state what they mean by announcing affordable housing. Look at the price at which Mhada sells an apartment. It was essentially created to give us affordable homes, but is it really giving us that? The civic body could easily plan the development by vertically developing slum pockets and have affordable housing there, but they have turned to natural areas. The saltpans should be handled with utmost care and as they are recognised as wetlands, the civic body should not jump to developing saltpans,” said, D Stalin, director NGO Vanashakti.
Pankaj Joshi, executive director, Urban Design Research Institute, said, “If the civic body really wants to provide affordable housing, it will have to create transportation, infrastructure and make it affordable. This cannot happen by allowing FSI for NDZs and let other things fall in place on their own.”
Civic chief Ajoy Mehta said, “The construction of these affordable homes will be taken care of by the owner, but the distribution will be done by us based on lottery. The plan about how many HIG, MIG and LIG will be constructed is yet to be worked out.”