“We will keep our word… 10 lakh houses in two years”

The Central Government’s economic stimulus packages have laid special emphasis on the housing sector.

Written by Shalini Nair | Mumbai | Published:February 22, 2009 1:52 am

The Central Government’s economic stimulus packages have laid special emphasis on the housing sector. Recognising the housing shortage-25 million at the start of the Eleventh Plan in 2007-the onus has now been placed on state governments to revive their housing boards and take necessary steps to help create affordable housing. The Sunday Newsline spoke to Pritam Kumar Shegaonkar,Maharashtra’s Minister of State for Housing,on how the government plans to go about this. Excerpts from the interview:

What has the government done to make housing affordable for Mumbaikars?
We have promised that over the next two years,our government will build 10 lakh houses in the state. These include 2.5 lakh houses each under the Indira Awaas Yojana,the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Nivara Yojana and Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). Another 1.5 lakh houses will be built under the Slum Rehabilitation Authority and 1 lakh will be constructed by the MHADA. As for our promise of extending the cut-off date for legalising slums in Mumbai,we will move an ordinance to legalise all slums. Recently we have even increased the area of free homes under the SRA from 225 sq ft to 270 sq ft. Since then,there have been about 900 proposals that have come to us for approval.

Till date barely a few thousand slumdwellers have been resettled under the controversial SRA scheme as against the target of rehousing 5 lakh within the first five years. Does it not show that the SRA scheme has been a failure?
No,it is a good scheme where every slumdweller gets a free home. Besides the homes used for rehabilitating slumdwellers,the developer’s incentive share has also generated thousand of houses. The issue is not that of corruption but the delay that occurs due to absence of one-window clearance,improper supervision and slumdwellers challenging the projects in courts. The scheme will take time to show results.

Despite the slack in the realty market,developers have been holding on to their prices. The draft bill for housing regulatory commission,which would have allowed the state to play a regulatory role with regards to pricing,has been kept in cold storage. Has the state given into demands of developers and is avoiding regulating them?
The bill has been kept on hold as it is awaiting the sanction of the central government. Developers say that people are not purchasing houses due to the slump.

But just this month over 4 lakh home hunters applied for the 3,800 MHADA flats proving that the demand is just as strong as long as prices are affordable.
The demand for MHADA projects cannot be compared with that for projects by private developers as the MHADA sells its flats at nominal ready reckoner rates. As far as affordability of homes is concerned,the only remedy is that the MHADA should construct more houses. Also the government has to ease out any obstacles faced by developers so that prices are under control. One way is to increase the FSI as it reduces the land cost in a construction project.

In the last one year,the Floor Space Index (FSI) has been increased for several projects. Why has the government done nothing to ensure that this benefit is passed on to home buyers by limiting the cost of some flats at government regulated prices?
The government cannot regulate prices of flats built by private developers as they are determined by demand and supply. On our part,the MMRDA are constructing around 5 lakh houses that can be rented out. We will soon come out with steps to create more affordable homes in Mumbai.

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