The Millennium City came to a virtual standstill last week because of water logging after incessant rains. The reasons were apparent – bad master planning, rampant construction, encroachments on the main Badshahpur drain and concretisation of drains. However, this might not improve for the city because, last month, Haryana approved the state’s Building Code, 2016, allowing for additional floor area ratio (FAR) on payment. It’s being offered for residential plots (located in Haryana Urban Development Authority or private developer colonies) and the mass transit corridor, which is part of the government’s transport oriented development ( TOD) plans. Simply put, FAR allows builders to build more. It is the ratio of a building’s total floor area to the size of the plot on which it is built.
Though the code does not propose changes in the number of dwelling units allowed on residential plots, planners say they can’t see how density in these areas will not increase if builders get more space for construction.
Denying that the extra FAR would lead to more densification, P Raghavendra Rao, additional chief to government of Haryana, town and country planning and urban estates department, says, “The intention is not to increase the number of families that can be accommodated on a single plot. We are only increasing the average size of the units. In case of additional FAR offered along TODs , however, infrastructure will have to be strengthened and the concerned executing agencies will have to spend money to take care of the infrastructure.”
Many countries around the world allow high FAR, which can be bought in developed areas. Housing authorities aim to accommodate more people in these parts to utilise the facilities provided. Now when it comes to Haryana, will the state’s authorities provide additional infrastructure to cater to the increasing population in these established areas, ask urban planners.
So, what does the code include? For additional FAR for plotted developments, instead of 2.5 floors allowed on a 100 sq m plot earlier, three floors can be included now as the new code allows for an additional half floor with purchasable FAR. Now supposing the cost of constructing the half floor comes to Rs 25 lakh, why would anyone want to spend so much without intending to add more people, ask city planners. Purchasable FAR can be best utilised for greenfield projects both for plotted developments and group housing where ground coverage has not been exhausted, probably in phases where construction has not yet begun.
The authorities should have learnt lessons from the water logging chaos. They should now come out with a white paper highlighting the incremental impact on the city’s infrastructure following the implementation of the code. The document should provide details of the new infrastructure that needs to be created, the timelines and the budgets. In this case, the attitude of the government has been simply mercenary. Pricing FAR should be linked to meeting the cost of additional infrastructure, say planners.
The code also provides for an increased FAR of around 3.5 for dwellings located within a radius of 500 to 800 m from the mass transit corridor. It also seeks to offer additional FAR for buildings rated green for integrated habitat assessment (GRIHA). So, subject to the rating of the building, if it qualifies for 1, 2 or 3 star or 4 or 5 star, the additional FAR will be 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, respectively.
Various countries charge impact fees payable to local authorities to mitigate the impact of additional built area. When FSI is increased, there is enormous load on the city’s infrastructure, the carrying capacity of sewage pipelines, the road space etc. Authorities charge extra for supporting the high population density and retrofitting of existing infrastructure. In an ideal situation, additional purchasable FAR is expected to raise additional capital for providing extra infrastructure. In this case it seems to be a simple fiscal tool aimed at merely collecting revenue and not as a planning tool, experts say.
Additional FAR needs to be handled efficiently. Some cities, including Gurgaon, have introduced the concept of transfer of development rights or TDR. This tool can be used to control FSI. Under the TDR regime, places where people relinquish their rights using TDR can have less density. More density can be planned for the alternative site for which the TDR certificate is being exchanged.
Rohit Raj Modi, director, Ashiana Homes and vice president, Credai, says that the code calls for creating additional stock in existing plotted townships by HUDA and private colonisers and makes it compulsory for them to construct stilt parking. It serves two purposes – gets the authorities additional revenues and makes housing affordable with creation of new supply. Ideally this amount should be used to improve infrastructure in areas where the new housing supply is expected to come up to avoid the situation that Gurgaon faced during the monsoons.
Till date, allege some builders, the external development charges (EDC) collected by developers over decades have not been utilised for creating infrastructure in the catchment area where projects have come up. While the government claims that Rs 23,000 crore in dues from private developers as EDC and IDC (internal) are pending since 1981 – the main reason for the shoddy state of civic infrastructure in Gurgaon – developers (who do not wish to be named) claim that over Rs 35,000 crore have already been collected but nothing has been spent in areas where housing projects have come up. Funds, they allege, have often been diverted to constructing projects as bizarre as stadiums.
The new policy also calls for two car parkings for one housing unit. By linking car parks to the built-up area, the purpose of constructing small, affordable units is defeated as units priced between Rs 30 and Rs 40 lakh are unlikely to have a requirement for two car parks. This also seems to go against the TOD policy where on the one hand the government is spending on creating public infrastructure to encourage use of mass transportation and on the other hand laying down rules for providing two car parks, say planners.
According to Amit Bhatt, WRI India, increased FAR along a TOD may not always work. Recent studies have indicated that even though higher FAR has been offered along Metro stations in Bengaluru, owners of properties along the route have not been too keen to utilise the higher FAR as there is ample supply of housing elsewhere in the city. Unless authorities offer the complete package – higher density and reduction in parking slots along TOD, the policy may not work. The uptake of extra FSI is dependent on the supply and demand of residential stock in the particular area.
The code also introduces the aspect of deemed approval of projects, which is a “good” thing, says Anckur Srivasttava of GenReal Advisers.
“The competent authority shall pass an order within a period of 60 days of submission of building plans, accompanied by all necessary documents either sanctioning it or rejecting it. The building plan shall be deemed to be sanctioned if it is in conformity with the building code and in accordance with the permitted land use of the area and all leviable fee/charges have been deposited by the applicant but no orders have been passed by the competent authority within the specified time,” the code says.
“If no communication is received from the competent authority within 60 days of submitting the application for an occupation certificate the owner is permitted to occupy the building, considering deemed issuance of occupation certificate. But the competent authority may check the violations made by the owner and take suitable action,” it says.