Up. That's the way Mumbai’s suburbs are headed, with the state government announcing on Wednesday that anyone may now buy the right to go vertical.
The cap is still low — a floor-space index (FSI) of 1.33. But it means that, if you live in a three-storey building in, say, Bandra, you can get together with your family or neighbours and easily add extra rooms or an extra floor.
You will have to buy the right to develop the extra space, but at official rates fixed by the state in its ready reckoner, which are usually considerably lower than market rates.
Builders, though, are not too excited. Most were already using an FSI of 2, procured through a scheme that offers transferable development rights. This means the builders could develop a total area twice that of the original plot. “We were expecting an increase of 1 in FSI; 0.33 is too little and not really sufficient to increase housing stock,” said Niranjan Hiranandani.
And while the state government is claiming this is good news for the city at large — Finance Minister Jayant Patil is expecting Rs 1,400 crore in revenue from the sale of such development rights, which can be used for infrastructure and development— urban planners are not so sure.
Former World Bank planner Alain Bertaud had termed the city’s FSI restrictions draconian, but called for a comprehensive, block-by-block plan for vertical development.
Urban planner V.K. Phatak was also sceptical of an increase in FSI that has not been clubbed with changes in the development plan. “FSI must relate to accessibility to suburban rail lines or the Metro,” he said.
So far, no such planning has been done by the state.
In a step in the right direction, though, a contribution of Rs 1,150 crore was announced for Phase II of Mumbai Urban Transport Project, which will add new, modern rakes and help decongest local trains.
Patil also admitted — a first for state politicians — that the government was planning to introduce a congestion charge in some areas. HT first reported on the need for a congestion charge last year, in The Mumbai Project.