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Overhaul of slum rehab scheme soon

The revised model would be applicable to all cities in the state where SRA is currently in force.

Written by Shalini Nair | Mumbai |
February 24, 2015 1:57:57 pm

The two-decade-old Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) scheme is in for a major overhaul with the Maharashtra government deciding to junk the redevelopment model mooted by the developer for a more transparent bidding process aimed at generating a significant amount of affordable housing stock.

Under the proposed SRA policy, the state will have the right to earmark clusters of slums, invite bids from developers and then award it to those who, in addition to rehabilitating slum dwellers free-of-cost, agree to hand over the highest number of public housing stock to the state.

The revised model would be applicable to all cities in the state where SRA is currently in force, including Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nagpur. The new SRA scheme will be part of the Maharashtra Housing policy which has been taken up for revision following a two-day-long “Housing for all” seminar in Nagpur that concluded this Sunday. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is set to unveil the revised housing policy in May this year.

“Most SRA schemes are taken up on public land and yet the state is short-changed as it gets nothing in the bargain. Also, there is a lot of opacity in the process, which the CM feels will be done away with if a bidding process is adopted,” said state Housing Secretary Satish Gavai. He added that the state might choose to buy the social housing stock at construction cost from developers as awarding them incentive floor space index (FSI) in return for free housing stock would lead to increasing the already high density of such schemes. Currently, slum plots with an average density of 300 tenements per hectare, with its post-scheme rehabilitation and sale component, end up with densities as high as 1,200 tenements.

According to the existing SRA policy, developers zero in on slums on prime public plots and propose a redevelopment scheme after acquiring the consent of 70 per cent of the eligible residents. However, since its inception in 1998 in Mumbai, the scheme has been ridden with controversies with merely one lakh families being rehabilitated against the target of re-housing 8 lakh families within five years. While the new policy eliminates ad hoc land grab by developers, it doesn’t require consent from the majority of slum dwellers for the rehabilitation process as it is being undertaken by the state government. Much of the preliminary work, such as drawing up the list of beneficiaries and deciding the eligibility, will be done by the SRA itself and not by developers as is the case now.

The new policy will, nonetheless, continue with the free housing model of SRA that has come under much criticism since it leverages public land and FSI to developers who get to construct their sale component after rehabilitating slums on a small part of the land. The recently released Development Plan of Mumbai notes that while 42 per cent of Mumbai lives in shanties that occupy only 8 per cent of its geographical area, under the current SRA model, slum dwellers are further crammed into less than half of the slum area. “There has been no regard to planning norms in SRA scheme so far. The revised policy will stipulate a minimum geographical area for rehabilitation of slums on a plot,” said Gavai.

The revision of the Housing Policy, issued in 2007, is mainly to cut down the approval time for real estate projects and thereby lower the project cost which the state government believes will bring about affordability in the housing sector. The Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA) is expected to collate all inputs received by various stakeholders during the two-day meet and submit it to the state government before April.

Chief Secretary Swadheen Kshatriya said that the revised housing policy will be issued in the first week of May. “Once the proposal gets an in-principle approval from the cabinet, it will be placed in public domain to invite suggestions following which the housing policy will be brought into effect,” said Kshatriya.

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