To break builder monopoly, housing projects to go tech-neutral

The suggestion was based on a study of tenders floated by the Delhi Development Authority for creating affordable housing by maintaining a technology-neutral approach.

Written by MANASI PHADKE | Mumbai | Published: December 27, 2015 4:51 am

After receiving much flak for creating a near monopoly in government housing projects by permitting only contractors who can build with the pre-fabricated construction technology, the Maharashtra government is now considering to adopt a technology-neutral approach whenever it floats bids for any housing works.
With the government having identified a requirement of at least 25 lakh low-cost houses across the state, consideration of all technologies instead of relying on only one is also critical for the state to create a large stock of affordable houses in a speedy manner, government officials said.

The state government had in August formed an expert committee under the principal secretary of the housing department to make suggestions on the latest technologies in the construction sector for large-scale housing projects, and to explore construction methods beyond pre-fab.

The committee also comprised the secretary of the state public works department, chief executive of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), a chief engineer from the housing authority and experts from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI).

“Although the committee is yet to formally make recommendations, members have studied the various technologies available in the market today and discussed that having a technology-neutral approach while calling bids for housing projects could be ideal,” said a housing department official, who did not wish to be named.

The suggestion was based on a study of tenders floated by the Delhi Development Authority for creating affordable housing by maintaining a technology-neutral approach.

“This way, agencies can pick the bid with the most suitable technology for the project at the lowest possible price. A single technology may not work well for all projects. A particular construction methodology might appear expensive, but could prove to be cost effective for large projects. The pre-fab technology might be the best suited for a certain kind of projects, and so on,” the official added.

For over three decades, the Maharashtra government mostly relied on the pre-fabrication construction methodology in creating government housing and affordable housing projects. Pre-fab construction involves the use of factory-made light-weight components that are assembled on site.

For more than 12 years, the government has been inviting applications from developers using the pre-fab technology for a yearly empanelment. State agencies such as MHADA, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, the Public Works Department, the City and Industrial Development Corporation and so on, can then pick an empaneled developer and award housing contracts.

However, due to extensive experience in pre-fab housing from 14 years of assured government contracts between 1984 and 1998, a Pune-based developer has so far been the only company to be empaneled for state government pre-fab housing contracts.

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