Since 1974, the Pune District Cooperative Housing Federation Limited has been working in the sector of cooperative housing societies. Pune and its surrounding areas have seen a construction boom as more and more buildings have started coming up. As the chairman of the Federation, Suhas Patwardhan has been at the forefront of demanding better representation for housing societies. Recently, the Federation launched a special programme to help in redevelopment of housing societies. In an interview with Pune Newline, Patwardhan speaks about the latest initiative as well as other issues affecting the housing sector
Why did the Federation take up the initiative for redevelopment? What do you think are the main difficulties faced by societies that plan to go for redevelopment?
The growth of Pune has happened in various phases which is reflected in changes in the construction history of the city. Back in early 1970s, people wishing to construct their houses used to form a cooperative society and the state government used to provide land to the society that used to take it forward. This scenario changed after builders moved in. They took on land parcels and started construction. Such buildings are now 20-30 years old and are ready for redevelopment. These buildings are in need for modern amenities like lifts and intercoms. Societies that have extra Floor Space Index (FSI) would likely benefit from such amenities, which can only happen after they go for redevelopment.
Societies that have issues with their members can face some problems, which can range from the accusation of nepotism to corruption. In some cases, societies that went for redevelopment were duped by builders and are still to get their tenements back. As a Federation, we have been getting complaints from such societies and are trying to help them in their predicament.
The Federation has been in the forefront of organising special meetings of societies to guide them for redevelopment. As a Federation, we can help societies in going for redevelopment on their own. A special forum of professionals will be formed to help societies that want to go for redevelopment.
In a city like Pune, what are the main problems faced by housing societies? Has the Federation taken steps to address them?
Problems for housing societies in Pune range from builders not complying with government rules to lack of proper manpower. The city has around 16,000 housing societies while 3,000 would be apartments and condominiums. Also, around 3,000 projects are without conveyance as builders have not taken any step to form societies. Such societies are at loose end and we are helping them to get conveyance.
Lack of manpower to run societies is also a major problem. In this regard, the Federation has teamed up with Gargi Self Help Group (SHG) to provide trained managers. The SHG can provide trained managers who can manage a couple of societies. As some societies consist of just 10-12 flats, it would be difficult for them to employ a full-time manager.
We are working to develop an app that will help societies. The Federation has also established seven offices across the city to help societies.
As you mentioned, the issue of conveyance is a major hurdle for the societies. What happens when a builder does not form a society?
If a builder does not form a society, then technically the housing society does not own the land on which its building stands. It will not be able to enjoy extra FSI or go for redevelopment. While deemed conveyance is a way out, in many cases, there are legal hurdles to it. Also, the website for deemed conveyance crashes at times, which is again a problem for societies. That is why, the Federation has asked the state government to ensure that societies that are existing for 12 or more years without formation of society be immediately declared as registered cooperative housing society.
At the Federation level, we have repeatedly taken up the matter with the state government, asking them to make laws more user-friendly. Our main demand is to have a separate cell in the cooperation department to deal with cases of housing. The state government has allowed a department dedicated to housing, but it is only on paper… We want a separate district deputy registrar (DDR) for housing and a separate appellate authority.
How have laws like MahaRera and Maharashtra Ownership Flats Act (MOFA), 1963 helped the end customer? How have elections and GST affected the societies?
MahaRera has stopped the diversion of funds by builders and helped customers ensure timely possession of their flats. While MOFA is a very stringent law with criminal provisions but in reality very little of it is implemented.
Elections for cooperative societies are supposed to be a good idea, but in reality have added to their problems. They have to pay for the process as well as returning officers. As for the GST, it is illogical how the society would have to pay GST as it does not have any income other than the maintenance charges. GST has added to compliance cost for societies and that is why we have asked for housing societies be exempted from it.