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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

‘Govt must use land from loss-making entities for homes’

india Updated: Nov 28, 2017 22:33 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta
Moushumi Das Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
In the 2015 guidelines, affordable housing projects were put at the bottom of the priority list.
In the 2015 guidelines, affordable housing projects were put at the bottom of the priority list.(HT FIle Photo)

Affordable housing projects of the government should be given the top priority while disposing of land assets of loss making Central Public Sector Enterprises, a committee headed by cabinet secretary PK Sinha has said.

The committee has also suggested that such land that will be utilized for building affordable houses should be disposed of at a reserve price, which is fixed based on the circle rate of the area. The reserve price will be fixed by the land management agency appointed by the government.

The recommendation, if accepted by the Union cabinet, will give further leg-up to the sector, which got a fillip recently after the Centre increased the carpet area of houses for the middle income group eligible for interest subsidy under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY).

Government sources said a committee of secretaries (CoS) headed by cabinet secretary PK Sinha gave these suggestions at a meeting on October 20. The CoS was reviewing the earlier guidelines of the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) related to disposal of land belonging to sick CPSEs.

In the 2015 guidelines, affordable housing projects were put at the bottom of the priority list. The top priority, while disposing of such land was given to central/state government departments and PSUs

Earlier, a sub-committee headed by DPE secretary Seema Bahuguna had recommended that the first priority while disposing of such land should be given to all government flagship programs including affordable housing.

“But the CoS has recommended that instead of all flagship program, the first priority should be given to affordable housing projects under the government’s Housing for All program,” a senior government official who us privy to the developments told HT.

As per the 2015-16 Public Enterprises Survey, of the 320 CPSEs 78 are loss making. Official estimates put the land available with such CPSEs upward of 200 sq. km. NITI Aayog, the federal think tank has already recommended closure of 26 such entities.

The cabinet secretary led panel has said that after utilizing land to construct affordable housing, the next priority should be given to other central and state government departments, followed by private parties.

It has recommended appointing National Building Construction Corporation as the land management agency for the exercise.

Vidyadhar Pathak, former chief country and town planner, Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority said that considering the fact that land is the most critical component in any affordable housing program, the proposed move is in the right direction.

But at the same time, the government will have to do a delicate balancing act, he cautioned. “If the idea is to dispose of land assets of sick CPSEs, then they will be looking for commercial price rather than pre-determined price decided by the government. How do you reconcile the two? Also, many of the CPSEs are located in the outskirts. Unless you address job and transportation issues of the targeted beneficiaries, no one will go there,” said Pathak.

First Published: Nov 28, 2017 22:33 IST