The latest tweak by the Maharashtra government to Development Control (DC) rules governing slum rehabilitation projects has opened the doors for developers to avail a massive construction bonanza in the island city of Mumbai, where land prices in certain belts are among the highest in India.
Despite opposition from experts and activists, high-level sources in the government confirmed that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had approved an amendment to DC Rule 33 (14), which would allow builders to avail construction benefits in lieu of building transit camps for slum dwellers or rental houses for economically weaker sections. While the benefit was originally available only to builders in suburban Mumbai, the CM has now extended it to the island city too.
A developer can now build a transit camp or a rental accommodation in far-off suburbs where land prices are far lower as compared to those in the island city, and gain additional construction rights on a plot in the island city.
While Mumbai’s DC Rules allow developers a zonal FSI of 1.33 times the plot area in the island city, the SRA scheme has offered them an FSI of 3. FSI is a development tool which defines the extent of construction permissible on a plot. In other words, the scheme allows the developer to build up to three times the plot size.
In a windfall for suburban builders, the FSI has also been substantially hiked for such projects in the suburbs from 2.5 to 4. In fact, the sources said the original proposal was to provide an FSI of 4 even in the island city, but the government restricted it to 3, fearing intense opposition.
Following Fadnavis’s approval, the state’s urban development department has issued a notification over the amendment, inviting suggestions and objections from the public. Ironically, the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) had last year filed an FIR against a Bandra-based builder for misusing the provision and cheating the agency. The sources said the hike for suburban projects might also pave the way for regularisation of such an illegality.
Records show that the SRA had first submitted the proposal for amendment to the government in September 2015. But following objections by experts and activists, the government had deferred its approval to the modification.
Under the scheme, an island city developer could use up to an FSI of 2.15 for sale component, while utilised the remaining 0.85 for construction of transit tenements or rental houses to be handed over free of cost to the SRA. Meanwhile, in the suburbs, developers would now be able to construct their free sale component on 2.5 FSI, while utilising the remaining 1.5 FSI for the SRA’s component.
The government has stipulated that the additional FSI (over and above the zonal FSI) used for the developer’s free sale component will be provided on the payment of a premium. The government has also permitted clubbing of two or more schemes. “Out of the total premium collected under the regulation, two-thirds shall be kept in a separate account to be utilised as shelter fund for the state government,” states the UD notification. Questions are also being raised over the modification since it comes at a time when the city’s new DC rules are about to be unveiled. The sources confirmed that the notification was intended at ensuring inclusion of the modification in the new development plan.
“Under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, the government would have required publication of a draft excluded plan if the revision had directly been introduced in the new development plan. This would have delayed the process for sanctioning of the plan since suggestions and objections would need to be invited on it afresh. But with the government now proposing modification in the existing DC regulations itself, there would be no need to follow this process,” said a senior official. The sources said the CM was keen to approve the new development plan before March-end.
The government has justified the modification stating that there was a need to boost the affordable housing stock and transit camps, especially after it adopted a policy of providing rehabilitation even to the non-protected residents of slums.