Thirty-year-old Paras Vira has been hunting for a house in Mumbai for the last few years.
Everywhere he goes, builders insist that part of the payment be made in ‘black’, i.e. in cash, something that is difficult for people like Vira, who have to rely on a home loan to fund their purchase. As if that isn’t enough, most builders are focusing on bigger, luxurious apartments, which are way beyond Vira’s budget.
Vira’s case represents the frustrations of lakhs Mumbaiites who are watching their dream homes slip fast out of their reach. There are several factors to blame for this, but chief among them is the ugly nexus between civic officials, politicians and the builders.
Municipal authorities, as well as those from the state government, have conveyed a lack of control over the strong builder lobby, which openly flouts rules and regulations.
The builder community claims that it is being blamed unfairly. “How can we control prices when land rates have shot through the roof? Even government agencies auction land,” rued Anand Gupta, secretary, Builders Association of India. He claimed that the ‘poor developer’ is left to the mercy of the officials who twist rules at whim. Agreeing with him, Sukhraj Nahar, director, Nahar Builders, said that all rules were followed. “The agreement specifies the carpet area accurately and there is no black money transaction at all,” Nahar claimed.
Housing activists, however, debunk these claims. “Builders charge flat purchasers on the basis of super built-up area [includes open spaces apart from the carpet area] instead of the carpet area when the law clearly prohibits them from doing so. Even parking lots are sold openly,” said Sreedhar Sharma. He added that many builders do not convey the land to the flat buyers, despite being required by law to do so.
“The industry desperately needs a regulator to streamline the working,” said Advocate Vinod Sampat, an expert in legalities of real estate. “The state is under pressure from the builder lobby and is hesitant to put in place a real estate regulator,” added Sampat.
But till such a regulatory mechanism is in place and builders are brought to book, the common man will continue to suffer.
Interview | Sachin Ahir, state minister for housing
‘Prices cannot be regulated’
Apartment prices have shot through the roof. Is there any way in which the government can intervene?
A: Prices cannot be regulated, but we are encouraging the MHADA to go in for more low-cost houses. We are exploring various means to increase the supply of houses, which will help control prices.
Builders continue to defy rules and charge consumers on the basis of super built-up area. The state government is doing nothing about it.
A: I agree that there are builders indulging in such practices and the only solution currently is to approach the civil court. However, this will be curbed after the regulatory authority comes into force.
When will the regulatory authority come into force? It has been pending for long.
A: My ministry has finalised the draft. It took time as the law and judiciary department had raised some queries. The changes have been made.
It seems there is pressure from builders to delay this move.
A: There is some opposition, but they are not exerting any pressure. In fact, in the last six months, the state government has taken steps to crack down on unscrupulous builders.