Less than two weeks after 33 lives were lost in a building collapse, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has rolled out a new redevelopment policy to prevent such tragedies. The policy will be applicable to redevelopment of tenanted buildings in the suburbs, which have been tagged unsafe. The government will allow enhanced building rights in the form of incentive floor space to builders who take up redevelopment of such buildings. A developer will be able to avail an incentive buildable area equivalent to 50 per cent of the floor space used for rehabilitation of existing tenants. The policy will also allow developers to work around restrictions imposed on construction activity by the Bombay High Court in 2014, citing lack of solid waste management.
The state housing department had proposed that the incentives in suburbs must be on par with those offered in the island city where a minimum floor space index of 3 or three times the size of the plot is provided. The CM had turned it down. But the government has ruled that a developer will be permitted to load the full transferable development rights (TDR) on such plots, even if the available FSI under the new policy was lower.
The policy comes almost two decades after a committee headed by former bureaucrat Dinesh Afzalpurkar had recommended higher floor space index to expedite reconstruction of decrepit structures in the suburbs. The government has restricted the benefits under the policy only to suburban buildings issued a demolition notice by the municipality. Civic sources said that there are hardly 500 such buildings. Some senior officials feared that the rider would lead to developers rushing to get even “perfectly fit” buildings declared unsafe.
A new cess has been introduced for such projects. The Chief Minister has fixed the “additional development cess” at Rs 5,000 per square metre, but the government’s notification states that this rate shall increase by 10% every three years. While the notification states that the amount so collected would be used for “improvement of offsite infrastructure in the area around the development”, questions are being raised in the construction sector over the proposal to levy a development cess. While the government has been collecting a “repair cess” from old and dilapidated cessed structures in the island city, sources admitted that the justification was that the Mhada is responsible for repairs and maintenance of such properties.
“No such role has been defined in the case of redevelopment of tenanted buildings,” the source added. Questions are also being raised over the condition mandating 70 per cent consent from tenants. “Binding the landlord or the developer to obtain 70 per cent consent will delay the process,” said a developer.
The CM has ruled that residential tenants will have to be provided a minimum 300 square feet tenement free of cost in rehabilitated buildings, but has capped the free rehabilitation component to a maximum 753 square feet, beyond which construction cost on the surplus area will be payable.
Only tenancies created before June 13, 1996, will be considered eligible for free rehabilitation under the new policy. Such redevelopment projects would have to be completed within five years. The developers or landlords would have to create a corpus to “take care of maintenance for 10 years.” “This notification pending for a long time will give a new lease of life to the dilapidated buildings in the suburbs,” said a civic official.
Civic officials admitted that the clause of only allowing buildings which have been declared as unsafe by the BMC to avail of the incentive may give rise to corruption. “In a bid to avail of incentives, landlords will try to falsify documents to declare their buildings as ‘unsafe’. However, the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) will assess the structural auditor’s report before making a decision,” said the official.
Asked about additional cess of Rs 5,000 per square metre, Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta said, “With additional development, an upgradation of infrastructure in terms of water and sewer lines will also have to be made and the cess charges will have to be paid towards that.”