Despite fears that the island city of Mumbai remains ill-equipped to cope with the unprecedented real estate boom that the region has witnessed in the past decade, the Maharashtra government has plans to attract people back to south and south-central Mumbai.
In a major policy shift, the commercial capital’s new 20-year development blueprint (Development Plan-2034) has decided to repopulate the island city of Mumbai, which had reported in a 10 per cent drop in the residential population in the last Census.
With average population densities in south and central Mumbai higher than those in the suburbs, successive state governments in the past had adopted a policy of decongesting the island city by incentivising residential construction in the suburbs and satellite towns. In the 2011 Census, the island city was found to have seen a 10 per cent drop in population — from 33.26 lakh in 2001 to 31.45 lakh in 2011 — which had coincided with an 8 per cent population growth in the suburbs. Smaller municipalities, including Thane and Navi Mumbai, recorded an even higher decadal growth rate.
But the new development plan, sanctioned by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday, has raised construction rights for both residential construction and commercial spaces in a bid to attract people back to the main land.
As reported earlier by The Indian Express, the new plan has raised the permissible floor space index (FSI) levels for all kinds of residential construction in the island city to three. FSI, also known as floor area ratio, is a development tool that defines the extent of construction permissible on a plot.
Mumbai’s existing development plan, formulated in 1991, had capped the FSI levels in the island city at 1.33. While the previous Congress-NCP government had later allowed additional FSI on payment of premiums in the suburbs and the extended suburbs of Mumbai, the benefit wasn’t extended to parts of the island city. While the new plan has retained the zonal (basic) FSI of 1.33, it has allowed an additional FSI up to 1.67 to be loaded in the form of paid FSI, either by paying premiums to the municipality or purchasing transferable development rights (TDR) from the open market, or a combination of both.
This is also the first time since 1991, when the permissible FSI levels in the island city have been raised higher than those in the suburbs (FSI up to 2.5). Real estate rates in certain pockets in south and central Mumbai are the highest in the country. In November, 2016, the Fadnavis government had first allowed paid FSI in the island city by permitting utilisation of the TDR.
Government planners have also adopted a co-living and working formula of sorts, which is expected to have maximum impact in the island city.
The government has raised the FSI levels for commercial developments to five. While this would be applicable across Mumbai, urban planners are of the opinion that the immediate beneficiaries of the move may well be developed commercial business districts and retail hubs in south and central Mumbai. Promoting the co-living and working concept, the town planners have introduced a clause, stating that “residential construction up to 30 per cent of the permissible FSI can be undertaken in such commercial developments”.
According to the DP document, the main target behind the enhancement of the commercial FSI is to “reassert Mumbai’s primacy as India’s commercial capital” and create 23 lakh more jobs in the city. Government planners expect that the residential construction condition will gain traction, especially among the younger lot.
Principal Secretary (Urban Development) Nitin Kareer argued that the “infrastructure available in the island city is better than that in the suburbs”. He added that the government’s development plan scrutiny committee, of which he was a part, felt that the city can absorb more construction.
Mumbai civic commissioner Ajoy Mehta, another panel member, claimed that the “development plan proposal will improve the island city’s demographic population”. He added that the FSI hike in residential construction in the region was also to push redevelopment of aging non-cessed properties.
Incidentally, last September, a rush-hour stampede at the Elphinstone Road railway station, which took 23 lives, had shown how the island city remained woefully inadequate to cope with day time populations. The move also comes at a time when work on new coastal ring road connecting prime areas in south Mumbai to the western suburbs is about to get underway.
Urban planners and designers appeared divided on the policy shift. “This is nothing but another move to cater to the expensive real estate in the island city,” said urban planning consultant Sulakshana Mahajan. Architect Anil Darshetkar, however, said the plan, if implemented well, will greatly reduce transportation woes of the working population.
Kareer, however, disagreed that the FSI hike for commercial developments would result in a further concentration of the office and retail spaces in developed pockets. “You can’t plan a city without jobs. The (universal) FSI hike for commercial developments is in fact meant to promote for a more even spread for such activities to be taken up across Mumbai,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a major sop for thousands of private housing societies over 30 years old, Kareer on Wednesday announced that they would be entitled to an additional incentive area of 15 per cent for their redevelopment. “If the built-up area is found to be less than the permissible FSI, such societies can also avail the balance area in the form of FSI/TDR,” an official said.
The government has already incentivised redevelopment of tenanted buildings in the island city and the suburbs.
The move to offer incentives to housing societies was recommended by the planning committee, which had evaluated the draft DP. It was later accepted by the government. New concessions have also been offered for premiums payable in the redevelopment of cessed buildings.
Meanwhile, the government has accepted the civic general body’s recommendation that public reservations on lands already encroached by slums be lifted. It has also relaxed the norms regarding development of additional amenity spaces in developing layouts over 10,000 square meters in size.