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Homeless in the city: Pune students face shocking home truths

From ethnic and gender-based discrimination to using fraudulent means and quoting higher prices, owners and brokers try it all

pune Updated: Sep 24, 2017 23:37 IST
Ananya Barua
A notice put at a residential society in the city asking student tenants of the society to vacate the premises.
A notice put at a residential society in the city asking student tenants of the society to vacate the premises.(HT Photo)

Being the hub of education, business and a growing IT industry, the city’s housing sector is expanding with young people looking for rental accommodation. In such a scenario, it is the brokers, real-estate websites, newspaper classifieds and social media groups that have become highly sought-after platforms for house hunters.

However, the youth continue to face several issues in their pursuit of a shelter. Students and working professionals share their sour experiences with Hindustan Times.

“Pune is a growing migrant city with people coming here from across the country. So, the process of house-hunting has mostly been a mixed-bag of good and bad experiences,” said Shekhar Ramaiah, creative associate at Gyan Adab.

Ramaiah hails from Nagpur and has been in Pune for the last seven years. According to him, knowing the language has been a great advantage for him, especially while looking for an accommodation. “Owners have often tried to extort money from the deposit based on silly reasons like painting costs. But, for people coming from outside, it is a bigger problem, due to the language barrier and also, many a times, owners have ethnic preferences,” said Ramaiah.

Harping on similar lines, Hema Malini, a 25-year-old bank employee from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, said being a south Indian in Maharashtra has not been very favourable. “There has been deliberate and misleading price hike just due to the language barrier. For instance, when asked what ‘ikkisaw’ (2,100) was in English, I was told its 2,300, and charged higher.”

Further on, claiming that ethnic prejudices often form stereotypes, she said her experiences have often been unfavourable with finding roommates. “Most people think, being a south Indian, I will be traditional, vegetarian and very orthodox. While this could be favourable for a few owners, who look for those qualities in their tenants, for roommates, it was often a turndown, and they would assume that I am traditional and disapproving of their cosmopolitan lifestyles,” said Malini.  

Rajesh, a broker who has been in the profession for six years now, sheds light on this matter. “Stereotypes exist everywhere, but it varies from owner to owner. In my experience, I have met owners who think that tenants from Delhi, or North India are bound to be rough and unclean, and so, have been denied accommodation.”  

He adds, however, there are many more pressing issues that owners are concerned with while renting out flats, especially in society areas. “Societies don’t usually rent flats to bachelors or spinsters, in the fear that they would create a ruckus. Late night partying, noise and unclean conditions also create the reservations in their minds. In that case, family is often a better choice.” 

Meanwhile, many other areas strictly condemn bachelors and prefer only families. Raghunath Kad, chairman of Sawant Vihar, a society near Katraj, which holds up a board stating, ‘bachelors and students not allowed to rent’, clarified on his reservations against them and said, “We use to allow college students as tenants in the society, but then the owners complained as they were creating a nuisance. There have been police complaints also, for creating ruckus late at night. A lot of them would even come drunk. So, five years ago this decision to bar bachelors was taken.”  

Yet, Subhash Hardikar has rented out his flat to college girls in the neighbouring society. “Initially, there were a few bachelors who were not keeping the flat in good condition and so were asked to leave,” he said.  

Although the choice of families over bachelors and spinsters was said to be based upon more reliability, and avoidance of chaos, owners’ preference of female tenants over male is often governed by the idea of hygiene and maintenance.  

“It’s another outright stereotype, that girls don’t drink, girls don’t party and always keep the house clean, so they are better tenants than boys. A lot of my girl friends are just the opposite of this ideal!”, said Ramaiah. 

 Beyond getting accommodation, many complain about the burden of restrictions imposed upon them by owners. “I am not living in a PG (paying guest) accommodation, I made a conscious decision to take a flat instead, to have my privacy beyond restrictions,” said Malini.  

An ex-chairman of a housing society in NIBM, whose name was withheld on request, said, “It is very unsafe to allow bachelors and spinsters to stay in areas with families as they bring their friends over and party with alcohol. Also, girls get their boyfriends over too; we have, in the past, heard cases of prostitution, although nothing was proved.”  

 With the case being this for students and bachelors, finding accommodation for couples also becomes a task.  

“Firstly, it is very difficult and rare for unmarried couples to find a place without having to lie about being engaged and sorts, which most of them actually resort to. But, it is not really impossible to find an accommodation for them. Places like Vimannagar, Koregaon Park, Kalyaninagar, Hinjewadi and Baner, which are much more liberal than places like Kothrud and the Peth areas,” Ramaiah said.  

Stating that an overall mentality change, both in the youth and the older generations, with respect to morality could be a possible solution to this, Alakananda Chatterjee, a writer at Gyan Adab said, “People, especially owners, need to be more accepting of unconventional relationships, tenants who are unmarried couples also should communicate the truth to the owners. Also, there needs to be a general sense of understanding between both parties to avoid being a nuisance to others.”