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No longer back of beyond

mumbai Updated: Feb 12, 2010 01:25 IST
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In space-starved Mumbai, where an average of 23,088 people crowd into every square kilometre and where the annual per capita income is a mere Rs 49,000, hundreds of people like Vishwanath Bhosale (35) are choosing to buy homes in far-flung areas. A home in Mumbai is, quite simply, unaffordable.

The soaring property rates, among the highest in the world, have created new real estate destinations like Uran, Taloja, Dahanu, Panvel, Kasara, Titwala, Shahpur and Karjat, which were earlier dismissed as back of beyond.

The affordability, say buyers, is worth the extra time — as high as 120 minutes one-way — it takes to get to the city every day.

“The houses are roomy and easy on the pocket. The only problem is the long commute. But it’s an acceptable price to pay for having your own house,” said Bhosale, a marketing professional who bought a house in Karjat, about 70 km north of Mumbai.

The rates in these new realty destinations are half the lowest rates offered in Mumbai. Bhosale, for instance bought his 800 square feet house for just under Rs 10 lakh. A house of the same size in Borivli would have cost at least Rs 40 lakh. Besides, he pointed out, the surroundings are verdant and residents are optimistic that infrastructure and the transport makeover that Mumbai is putting in place — a network of new train lines, a Metro and monorail system, as well as sea bridges — will ease their commutes.

“We plan to make commuting within the Mumbai metropolitan region easy and quick,” said Metropolitan Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority is looking to offer Metro connectivity to such distant areas after it completes nine lines within the city. The government has commissioned the Sewri-Nhava Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, a sea bridge that will make getting to Panvel and Karjat easier. The Virar-Alibaug Multi Modal corridor will enhance connectivity to Alibaug, Bhiwandi, Panvel, Kalyan and adjoining areas. The proposed Inland Water Transport System will ensure connectivity as far as Mandva.

The government is also developing Taloja, Uran, Bhiwandi as satellite townships.

Builders are having a ball — low land prices and cheap labour translate into higher margins despite property rates being low.

For those who shifted, the move seems to be paying off. House values have been rising, though the strain on the threadbare infrastructure is immense — there are water and transport woes aplenty.

But, said Bhosale, “I am happy here. If the pace of infrastructure development stays what it is, we have no cause for worry.”