The hike in the city's floor space index (FSI) may not necessarily lead to affordable homes for Mumbai. Two weeks after he unveiled the draft development plan proposing FSI up to 8, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief Sitaram Kunte on Monday told Hindustan Times that the FSI hike was just one part of the "many pieces of the jigsaw puzzle" that need to be put in place to make homes affordable in the city.
Speaking exclusively to HT, Kunte also hinted that the state could reject the plan to open up Aarey Milk Colony if it wished to.
What have you tried to achieve in the DP? Where do you see Mumbai in the next twenty years?
The DP has made three major paradigm shifts. We made it a participatory process, we got rid of the idea that FSI is a tool of control of population. We also changed the way we seek land for various public amenities by not prescribing reservations for every possible land use.
Was 2 sqm of open space per person the best open space ratio that we could get? Was there no way to extract more land from the city?
Providing 6 sqm per capita space of open space is quite utopian in Mumbai. We will need 56 sqkm to provide 6 sqm per person of open space. Realistically, 2sqm was the best we could achieve.
The DP is dependent on redevelopment of properties to extract land for amenities. What if the real estate market remains in a slump?
The slump did not take place in the past few years because there was a restrictive FSI regime. Also, one cannot overlook the fact economy will move in cycles. Based on some projections about economic development in the next 20 years, we feel that a lot of urban renewal will happen and we should be able to get land and premises for public amenities.
Do we have a plan B if that does not take place?
We have put out in our report what is the available unbuilt space today- which is very less, in any case. So, we have to go for redevelopment-generated amenity space. The other option is to put a reservation on an existing building, which is not going to work. It's extremely difficult to acquire a land on which there are already buildings and encumbrances.
Why doesn't the DP rely on land reservations?
If I reserve land for a particular use and then my need in the future changes, it is very difficult to change the reservation. That is why we have allowed flexibility in the planning process. As things develop, planning authority will have the flexibility to provide whatever is required within those parameters.
But then, if you erase the reservation on those lands, they cease to be for that particular purpose. There is a fear that the land could be subverted for a more market-friendly amenity while the locality might need a social amenity.
Erasing reservation has a number of objectives. Firstly, for the next twenty years, we cannot visualise what all amenities are required. Things keep changing. Like in 1991, for instance, when the earlier DP plan was made, having STD booths would have been relevant. Today, there is no need as technology has changed the whole scenario. So, in future, suppose we have electric cars and you need charging stations, how do we provide that? I am talking very futuristic but there could be other different ways of technology that could change requirements. So, keeping that in view, instead of hard-coding all the requirements in reservations in so many multiple categories, we have reduced the number of categories, made it more general, so that there is flexibility within a category.
How do you envision the hike in FSI to give Mumbai more affordable houses?
The city's problems cannot be solved merely by the DP which is a spatial plan. It has to be supplemented by policies that ensure affordable housing, like cheaper land rates, easier financing options etc. The purpose of the DP is to ensure greater supply of housing units, which we have. Generally, the market thinking goes an increase in supply will lead to reduction of prices. However, various other efforts will have to add up to ensure that homes get affordable.
You are saying that the FSI hike cannot guarantee affordable housing.
The DP is one part of the jigsaw puzzle which we have tried to correct. Other parts of the jigsaw puzzle also have to find a place. Everybody has to contribute to create affordable housing.
There is a demand for affordable homes whereas the market has provided only premium-category homes. Do you think the DP could have done more, conceptually, to ensure this doesn't happen?
We have dealt with the spatial planning aspect. The non-spatial aspect i.e. having specifically targeted schemes for urban poor, a better supply of credit for housing, establishing a mechanism by which the real estate industry is regulated properly - these go into the domain of fiscal policy, monetary policy in terms of interest rates and other regulations to deal with buyer-seller relationships. These also have to fall in place along with a rational spatial allocation.
You have proposed inclusionary housing which is 10% of plot areas, under development, that are more than 2000 sqm. But, the state policy in 2012 which said this sum should be 20%. Delhi has a FSI of 15% or 35% dwellings. JNNURM, recommended 20 to 25% of land. Why did you dilute the benchmark?
That is because we have also taken land for amenities. In that sense, we are getting 20%.
But, affordable housing still remains the biggest concern. How can we dilute it for our amenities?
A: It does. That is why we have removed the control on supply of development rights. We have made it available to the extent that there is likely to be a demand. This is the first big effort in ensuring that prices do follow a normal market norm. Ten percent of inclusionary housing is for project-affected people and other people requiring such a provision. In the larger scheme of things, non-spatial policies will have to be there to achieve the stated goal of affordable housing.
In areas that have been allocated high FSI, has there been a calculation of inter linkage between FSI and the amenities. Will there be balancing out of amenities and the population?
We have projected a population of 14million by 2034 and we have taken all benchmarks including minimum of 25sqm per household requirement as per the National Housing policy. We have considered providing amenities to 14 million population and also taken into account that Mumbai caters to non-residential as well, particularly when it comes to healthcare.
Our infrastructure is already burdened, so how do we deal with the increase in FSI in high density areas. There are many infrastructure projects too which are delayed for decades.
We have worked on five dimensions. One of them is per capita living space, educational, medical and social amenities and road area. We have worked on these five paramaters and given a report on how we are going to provide adequate amenities to area specific population.
In a layman's term how do you envisage an FSI of 8 in a densely populated area like Dadar station premises? It is densely populated and cannot take anything more unless amenities are provided on bigger scale.
It requires local micro level planning. We have not followed the three tier architecture planning. The first level is regional planning made by metropolitan planning committee, second is ... plan which cater city as a whole and third tier is local planning without which we cannot provide different unique requirements of different places. Dadar may require different treatment than what it requires in Koliwada or gaothan. We have to work on detailing of the local plan.
There is no clarity on how many such local plans will come in place.
It will be decided on basis of uniqueness of the area. We have already started working on some local area plans in some places. The number of such plans could be less or more than 150.
Is there a specific time period to come out with a local plan of an area?
Certain local areas will require local features to be addressed also which will come in once DP comes into effect.
Slums continue to be ignored in the DP. How complete can the plan be when nearly 50% of the population has not been accounted for?
This map alone can't provide for the slums. We were not expected to map the slums anyway. But we have started mapping slums and its deficiencies. We have also ensured that each proposed amenity is accessible to all.
But why did we not map them? What hope does this DP hold for them?
We were not expected to map the use of each one of them. We have tried to ensure that we end the builder-driven slum redevelopment. With this FSI, even they can re-develop their own premises.
There has been a debate about the opening up of Aarey Colony. Even minister Eknath Khadse opposed the plan.
This is just a proposal. It will be debated on in the planning committee, corporation and the state government. We have proposed institutional development and make Aarey a critical part of the city's knowledge economy. We are categorical that there will be no commercial development on it at all.
Will all the controversial aspects be reconsidered?
There is no rethink on our part. The process mandates that different authorities modify the plan at their levels. What they decide will be the final plan.