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Panel ignites home dreams

In 2003,when his neighbour booked a new flat,Tejas Dalal planned to buy his 1one room-kitchen in Prabhadevi at Rs 5,800 per sq ft.

Written by Shalini Nair | Mumbai |
January 11, 2009 4:05:46 pm

Task force on affordable urban housing backs tenure security for slum dwellers and cheap houses for the low-income group

* Mohammad Umar Shaikh has been living in Mumbai for 27 years but he could never really call it home. “For 15 years,I used to stay in a rented shanty at Reay road. In 1997,I used my savings and bought a bit of marshy land at Mankhurd where I built a 12 ft x 15 ft hut for my family of nine. Since then,my house has been demolished 51 times,” says Shaikh,a hawker who knows he can never save enough to buy a house in Mumbai.

* In 2003,when his neighbour booked a new flat,Tejas Dalal planned to buy his 1one room-kitchen in Prabhadevi at Rs 5,800 per sq ft. Tejas was 25 years old then and his father was planning to get him married. “Five years down the line,when my neighbour’s new flat is finally ready,the price of his old flat has increased by more than 300% to about 16,900 per sq ft. Since I cannot afford it now,and marriage is a long way away,” says Dalal,who stays with his parents and brother in their one-bedroom flat.

Security of tenure for slum-dwellers like Shaikh and ensuring affordable housing for those like Dalal are some of the main recommendations of a high-level task force report submitted to the Central government a fortnight ago. The task force,chaired by HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh,addresses issues like funding,land and institutional framework for affordable housing.

As per the eleventh Five-Year plan,the urban housing shortage in India stands at 2.47 crore units,and 99 per cent of those hit belong to the economically weaker sections. For funding public affordable housing projects,the report recommends that a cess of 0.5 per cent on all Central taxes be credited to a dedicated Shelter Fund. It also recommends increasing the JNNURM funds for affordable housing by 100 per cent along with reduction of stamp duty and registration fees for such homes to 2 per cent.

The report calls for the need for a comprehensive,long-term urban land policy,a healthy rental housing market and revision of FSI,which can help meet at least 15-20 per cent of the urban housing needs.

Some of its suggestions like setting up a real estate regulator and reserving at least 20-25 per cent of developed land in all housing projects for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and Low-Income Groups (LIG) category have already been mooted by the Maharashtra government in 2008. However,after hectic lobbying by developers,they have been kept in the cold storage.

“One of the stated purpose of giving an increased FSI of 2.5 for redevelopment of 104 MHADA colonies last year was that the state government would get a percentage of homes for public housing from the builders. However,last month,the state amended the clause whereby builders now have the option of paying a premium and then commercially exploiting these flats themselves,” said Simpreet Singh from Ghar Banao Ghar Bachao Andolan.

The fine print
The task force has for the first time attempted to define affordability in terms of the requirements and buying capacity of a particular class. Pointing out the lack of cohesive data on the number of households in each of the categories,the task force advocates that the Central government should undertake a separate exercise for the same.
* In case of homes for the economically weaker sections and the low-income groups,it defines affordable home as a unit with a carpet area between 300 and 600 sq ft. The cost should not exceed four times the household gross annual income and EMI/rent should be less than 30 per cent of the household’s gross monthly income.
* In case of the middle class,it would be a house of carpet area not exceeding 1,200 sq ft. The cost has to be less than five times the household gross annual income with an EMI/rent not exceeding 40 per cent of the household’s gross monthly income.

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