Builders play game of pass the cluster with state govt

  • Naresh Kamath, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Mar 16, 2016 23:46 IST

Eight years after it was first mooted as a means for a holistic revamp of the city’s congested areas, especially the island city, the Cluster Redevelopment Project still remains a slow starter — just two projects have taken off till date. Despite the state government amending the policy in September 2014, it has received just one new proposal.

While the government assures it has set up an apex body to review various projects, the real estate sector remains unsure of this urban renewal scheme.

The example of Bhattad Group is enough to gauge the situation. The state has been stting on five of the firm’s cluster proposals since 2009. “Had permissions been granted in time, 3,200 tenants would have shifted into new homes. Today, these tenants are living in dilapidated structures,” said BR Bhattad, director, Bhattad Group. The group has submitted proposals for areas like Sewri, Bhuleshwar and Girgaum. The proposals covered more than 13 acres of land. While the high-powered committee headed by the municipal commissioner passed the proposals, they were held up at the Urban Development Department for years.

According to the policy, any developer undertaking a revamp project on a minimum one-acre (4000 sqft) plot is entitled to a Floor-Space Index of 4. It was supposed to be a win-win situation where the builders make a profit, tenants get bigger flats, and the government gets its quota of free houses. But procedural delays seem to have marred the scheme.

The two projects currently underway — 1 Avighna Park by Nish Developers at Lalbaug and the other Saifee Burhani Upliftment Project at Bhendi Bazaar, faced a lot of hurdles. “I was supposed to complete my project in 2013, but the authorities wasted four years of my time by withholding permissions. How can any revamp take place in such circumstances,” said Kailash Agarwal, chairman, Avighna India Limited.

The cluster project has gained more importance ever since a December 2013 judgment, which mandated 6m open spaces as a fire safety measure. This completely halted revamp projects on small plots and hence cluster was the only option. The National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO) has written to the government seeking clarity on the cluster scheme. According to Rajendra Chaturvedi, advisor, NAREDCO and chairman and MD, Shreepati Group, delays have made builders’ life miserable. “We have to face the ire of the residents who blame us for the delays,” he said.

A leading builder, who does not wish to be named, said the UDD is the main culprit. “It’s all a matter of vested interest and corruption as they are all high-profile projects,” he said.

Another reason harming the scheme is the 70 % consent clause of the residents. “Many tenants make unreasonable demands like bigger houses along with massive amount of money as corpus fund. No builder can fulfill them and hence the projects suffer,” said Agarwal.

Ravindra Waikar, state minister for housing, said an apex panel will review all the projects. “We will make any changes to simplify it,” said Waikar.

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