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Go west, further west

mumbai Updated: Jun 21, 2011 00:47 IST
Naresh Kamath

Lolling in his 800 sq ft flat at Oswal society in Boisar, Sachin Jamdar, a 26-year-old sales executive, says buying the two-bedroom house last year was a dream come true.

Jamdar, who works in Andheri, takes around two hours by train to reach home everyday, but having his own space at home makes it worth it. “Our previous house in Kandivli was too small — 200 sq ft — to accommodate six members of our family,” he said. “Today, every member has a space to call his own.”

Dipen Rathore, 26, who runs a transport business, bought a spacious 1,080 sq ft flat for Rs 10 lakh in Boisar in 2009. “I would not have been able to afford such a big flat even in Virar. Buying a house in Mumbai or its nearby areas is impossible in the current market, and Boisar is a great opportunity for people like us,” said Rathore. “Things are improving each day and the place is also not crowded.” Today, his house, located two minutes from the station, commands approximately Rs 35 lakh.

The Jamdars and Rathores are among the many people who have opted to move to Boisar city, located 150 km north of Mumbai (Churchgate) by road, after real estate rates made buying a home in Mumbai and Thane an unattainable dream.

The Palghar-Boisar belt has become an attractive alternative for homebuyers, especially for those who work in the western suburbs of Mumbai. Property prices are much lower, and the flats a little more spacious.

“The advantage of this place is that homebuyers can get spacious flats at affordable rates with all the modern amenities,” said Virendra Singh Shekhawat, partner, Shree Shyam Developers, a leading real estate firm. “Even middle-class families can afford amenities such as swimming pools, health clubs and landscaped gardens here, unlike in Mumbai where it is the monopoly of the ultra rich.”

Two factors are working to make the Palghar-Boisar belt even more attractive. Recognising that Mumbai is becoming unaffordable for many homebuyers, big investors have started evincing interest in these areas. Major realty firms such as Tata Housing, Usha Breco Realty, Housing Development and Infrastructure Limited (HDIL), Haware Builders and Samruddhi Builders are all constructing large townships with modern amenities.

HDIL is planning to construct 20,000 flats in its 1,600-acre plot at Palghar while Tata plans to build 3,000 houses on its 67-acre plot in Boisar; Usha Breco will offer 1,400 apartments on 30 acres and Shree Shyam is constructing 300 flats as well as bungalows on nine acres of land in Boisar.

The other factor working for the belt is the promise of direct connectivity when the local trains service is extended from Virar to Dahanu. Currently, the suburban service terminates at Virar.

The Western Railway is already building the infrastructure to extend the line, and recently, K Muniyappa, Union minister of state for railways, said in Mumbai that the Virar-Dahanu stretch would become operational in about a year. This has triggered development in these areas beyond Virar such as Saphale, Palghar, Boisar and Tarapur.

“The direct train between Mumbai and Boisar will further boost the realty scene,” said Uday Dharmadhikari, CEO, Usha Breco, which got a four-star rating from Crisil for its Chhaya Nivas project; it now plans to kick off a luxury project in the area. “With interest rates on loans increasing by the day, this area offers the best bargain for homebuyers,” he said.

The Palghar-Boisar belt already boasts of industrial development: Boisar has the biggest Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) estate in the state, and Palghar has its share of industrial units.

The belt is bustling with activity now as even malls such as the Big Bazaar have established themselves in the area. “Business is very good here, and in the last two years, our consumers’ spending power has shot up considerably,” said Dinesh Rajpurohit, owner, Green City, a store that sells readymade clothes.

Many companies are also purchasing flats and setting up residential quarters for their staff in the area, which gives a further boost to the sector.

What’s worrying is that all this is also pushing up the real estate rates in the area. Four years ago, flats here cost between Rs 450 per sq ft and Rs 700 per sq ft; the rate now hovers between Rs 1,600 per sq ft and Rs 3,500 per sq ft.

Many people, however, believe that like in Mumbai and Thane, developers are doing their best to raise rates. “Most flats have been booked by investors from Mumbai, not actual users. They are responsible for the rise in prices,” said Devendra Agrawal, manager, Railway Tea Centre, who has lived in Boisar for the past 25 years.

Town planners say connectivity will hold the key to the development of the Palghar-Boisar belt. “Mass rail network is needed to boost the housing sector in these areas,” said Pankaj Joshi, executive director, of the Mumbai-based Urban Design Research Institute.

“Now, people have to change trains, which is cumbersome.” Better infrastructure in the form of water supply, good roads and efficient drainage should be put in place, Joshi said.