Making chawl claims: State vs tenants

  • Naresh Kamath, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Mar 16, 2016 00:46 IST

For the past 20 years, the project to revamp one of the city’s oldest chawls has been wobbly at the knees. But the state government now claims it is all geared up to redevelop the Bombay Development Department (BDD) chawls, located on 92.86 acres in south central Mumbai.

The project is significant as these chawls sit on prime land. This means it has the potential to generate a handsome stock of affordable houses, apart from revamping the infrastructure in these areas.

While the state government’s mass housing agency Maharashtra Housing and Development Authority (Mhada), which has been appointed as the nodal agency, has shortlisted architects to prepare a roadmap, all eyes will be on the global tenders to be floated soon by the housing body.

According to Ravindra Waikar, state minister for housing, the entire project will be undertaken under the cluster redevelopment scheme. “We are working out ways where we can offer the existing residents houses measuring at least 500-525 sqft,” said Waikar. This is a major decision as several residents live in 140-160 sqft houses. He said the project roadmap will be ready within the next month.

For Vijay Kamble, who lives in the BDD chawl at Naigaum, it is a welcome move. “Our families are growing, so it is imperative to have at least 500 sqft houses,” he said. However, Kamble, who is an interior decorator, is concerned about the quality of construction of the Mhada buildings. “Anyone who buys a Mhada flat is saddled with repairs owing to the inferior quality of construction. Since we belong to the lower- and middle-class, it will be difficult to cope with such costs,” he said.

The state government said the scheme will ensure a huge stock of affordable houses to Mhada. “We can generate 16,000 houses, which we plan to sell through the affordable housing lottery scheme,” said Waikar.

Real estate experts welcomed Mhada’s move to undertake this project. “Only the government can deliver affordable houses and it is good they are exploiting their own land for this purpose,” said Pankaj Kapoor, CEO, Liases Foras, the real estate research firm.

In addition, given the large open spaces in the vicinity of the chawls, the state government feels new skyscrapers will come up and the people can be shifted directly from their old tenements.

The BDD chawls were constructed by the then British government in the year 1920-25. Currently, these chawls are dilapidated with leakages and falling slabs. The public and works department (PWD) department, which owns this chawls, has failed to maintain them because residents pay Rs100 as monthly rent.

One of the major worries facing residents is the maintenance costs after the revamp. “The government needs to make it zero maintenance as a majority of us are poor working class people. They will be forced to sell off their apartments and move outside the city,” said Sandesh Ghodke, a social activist, who lives in the BDD chawl at Worli.

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