Government push needed for affordable housing: Expert
Real estate experts say that the reason for the increase in illegal colonies is that the majority of buyers are totally priced out of the formal housing market controlled by private developers.Updated: Jan 24, 2020 17:47 IST
Despite the Ullawas building collapse leaving seven people dead, illegal colonies have continued to crop up around the city in 2019. According to an estimate by the department of town and country planning (DTCP), over 100 illegal colonies, over 450 acres, have mushroomed and thrived in the city in the last year. Over the last 12 months, such colonies have cropped up extensively in Bhondsi, Farrukhnagar, Manesar, Pataudi, Sultanpur and in parts of Sohna.
Real estate experts say that the reason for the increase in illegal colonies is that the majority of buyers are totally priced out of the formal housing market controlled by private developers and people are forced to buy houses in illegal colonies.
The prospect of the comparatively low cost of plots, payment in instalments and the fact that construction can be done without following norms is an additional advantage, say experts. Also, these colonies offer buyers a chance to run shops, dairies and other businesses, which is not possible in planned developments.
The failure of the state government to intervene in the housing sector and its withdrawal from developing real estate, in favour of private players, is another reason that people are pushed to invest in illegal colonies, say town planners.
Officials also said that illegal colonies are coming up on agricultural land, against the rules, as a change in land use (CLU) permission is required from the departments concerned and it is easier to take action. In comparison, the settlements in Ullawas are more difficult to check as these come either under the ‘lal dora’ or an extension of ‘lal dora’, wherein the town planning department has minimal authority, due to which almost all 40 villages under the MCG have turned into urbanised ghettos, said officials.
The phenomenon of illegal colonies is not new and goes back to 1980s. Rishiraj Rana, a former councillor and city-based politician, who has taken up the cause of illegal colonies, says that growth of these colonies was fuelled by migrants who came in search of jobs in 1980s and 90s. “The plots were sold for as little as Rs 100 per square yard in the 1980s whereas the current rates have risen to around Rs 35,000 sq yd. A majority of the people who bought the properties were lower middle-class residents,” said Rana.
Despite the low plot costs, residents said that living in these colonies remains a major challenge as the state does not provide basic utilities or other important facilities.
However, there is still a rush to buy houses in illegal colonies, as the state has stepped back from providing housing to different sections, a deviation from its own policy, says Rajvir Singh, former chief town planner, Haryana.
“In Haryana, the real estate space has been ceded to private builders as the Huda/HSVP and state housing board have failed to do their jobs. Even houses built by these agencies don’t get sold due to poor planning,” he said, citing the ‘Ashiyana’ scheme, in which houses could not be allotted even after two decades.
“Apart from the few affordable housing projects, an apartment in the city is priced over 70 lakh and a plot in an authorised colony is close to 1 crore. How many people can afford such houses?” says Sanjay Sharma, a real estate consultant.
In comparison, plots in illegal colonies are cheaper as they are available for Rs 5,000-30,000 per sq yard, depending on the location. In colonies, such as Dharm Colony, Sheetla Colony and Om Vihar, developed around 900 metres of the IAF ammunition depot, plots were sold for Rs 15,000-30,000 per sq yard despite minimal basic amenities.
“Residents compromise on parks, dispensaries, play areas, clubs and government schools so that they have the assurance of shelter. Living without a house in an expensive city such as Gurugram is difficult,” said Mushtaq Ahmed, a resident of Dharm Colony, who rues that access to an HSVP park, just across his shop, is denied to them because they don’t reside in Sector 23.
The rate of plots in nearby, regularised colonies, is close to Rs 1 lakh per square yard, placing them out of the reach of the common man, says Ahmed.
Sanjeev Mann, senior town planner, MCG, Gurugram, said that there is no provision for providing basic infrastructure to unauthorised colonies. “There is a criterion for notifying the colonies. Only those, where 50% of the total area has been developed, can be legalised. The plan of the colony is juxtaposed onto the existing master plan and a board headed by the DC gives the approval, after which the services can be given,” said Mann.
In 2016, the MCG had asked Haryana Space Applications Center (Harsac) to survey illegal colonies and proposed that 64 such settlements should be considered for regularisation. A proposal to regularise 48 such colonies was sent to state government, after which 35 colonies were notified and the rest awaiting a study. “The regularisation of colonies is a long process and takes time,” said Mann.
Experts said that affordable housing should be given a push on a large scale and the growth of illegal colonies should be checked through strict enforcement. “Floor area ratio and density are the two major determinants for achieving optimisation of land resources and rationalising housing costs. FAR and density should be redefined to make housing cost-effective. The government fees, charges and taxes should be brought to minimum for affordable housing,” a report by Institute of Town Planners, Haryana chapter, states.
It was in this context that Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar had also asked the builders during a recent meeting in the city to plan for constructing 1 lakh low-cost houses, costing Rs 15-20 lakh, across the state.
On the enforcement front, the DTCP and district administration say that the action against illegal colonies has been continuous, but will make it more effective by working in tandem. “We have decided to install boards in all illegal colonies to make buyers aware that buying plots is a violation of the law. It has also been decided to register police complaints even against buyers in such colonies,” said RS Bhath, district town planner, who holds the additional charge of enforcement.
In the last four years, the department has got 50 cases registered against violators and these cases are currently being pursued more vigorously, he said.
Revenue officials have also been asked to not register a sale/purchase deed of small plots, for which a no-objection certificate from the DTCP is not available, said Bhath. The department, in collaboration with the district administration and police, will also launch large-scale demolition drives to prevent new houses from coming up.
However, Singh said that demolition drives are no solution to the housing problem and the state should, instead, focus on creating more housing. “The average decadal growth of population in a city is around 25%, but no provision has been made for even this minimum number in the city,” he said.