The city’s vast slums are set to grow some more, this time vertically, as the state government plans to make upper floors in slums also eligible for redevelopment.
So far, only one level was considered for redevelopment under the Slum Rehabilitation Authority’s (SRA) scheme —approximately 12 lakh slums and 50 lakh people are currently eligible to get better homes at no cost when their slums are redeveloped.
This week, Prakash Mehta, the state housing minister, said the state cabinet had adopted the Centre’s housing-for-all scheme, and to create more homes, his department plans to expand the scheme to include the upper floors of Mumbai’s slums. An announcement will be made soon, he said.
Experts, however, said the plan is a recipe for disaster as it will encourage the vertical growth of slums and add pressure on an already burdened infrastructure.
The decision is also seen by many as a political one — with civic elections due in 2017, no political party will oppose the move keeping in mind the large vote bank. For private builders, who undertake the redevelopment in return for extra floor space index or buildable area, the move will lead to a windfall of profits, which means more political donations for the ruling party. According to the new rule, people living on the first and second floors would not get free homes, but will be given homes at affordable rates.
To make up for this subsidy, the state will seek aid from the Centre.
While experts said the move will result in people building additional floors in slums across the city, in the hope of getting an additional home, Mehta defended it saying it will create more houses. “We will get more houses, these would be given to people at affordable rates. It is not easy to build slums or add an additional floor anymore,” Mehta said.
According to housing activist Ramesh Prabhu, “The mushrooming of vertical slums would create a strain on current infrastructure.” The 12 lakh slums in the city right now houses 50 lakh people. This figure would double if the new rule comes in.
The revised scheme will keep 1995 as the cut off date. Here is another problem, experts said, as there is no foolproof mechanism to ensure when the shanties came up.
The NGO Janhit Manch, which has filed several public interest litigations on housing, said the entire scheme is designed to suit slumlords and the builder lobby.
“The state is only encouraging slums to grow vertically, so builders benefit. More slums means more incentive FSI (Floor Space Index) to builders,” said Utsal Karani, the secretary.
Urban planner Akhtar Chouhan said the new plan will cause complications in the SRA scheme. “Such policies go against sustainable urban development. We should go for a long-term vision instead of adopting ad-hoc measures to solve problems. The basic issue of affordable housing will stay unaddressed,” Chouhan said.
From the time the SRA was first mooted, approximately 1.60 lakh slum dwellers have shifted to newer homes, another three lakh units are being built. The scheme has been mired in controversy as there have been allegations of manipulating number of slum dwellers, as well as other cheating cases involving builders.