After Covid, no takers for over 1,000 affordable homes in Rajkot

The maximum takers were for 2BHK homes for Economically Weaker Section-II (EWS-II) category, followed by 1BHK flats for Economically Weaker Section-I category (EWS-I) and 3BHK flats for middle income group (MIG) category.

Construction of affordable houses in progress in Raiya area of Rajkot. (Photo: Chirag Chotaliya)

FOR THE first time in around eight years, the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) has been saddled with over 1,000 unsold affordable homes as it has received fewer applications than the units available even after the deadline of submitting applications was extended three times.

The maximum takers were for 2BHK homes for Economically Weaker Section-II (EWS-II) category, followed by 1BHK flats for Economically Weaker Section-I category (EWS-I) and 3BHK flats for middle income group (MIG) category. Civic officers blame the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on people’s earnings and say no new scheme would be launched until the inventory is sold.

The RMC invited applications for 1,648 dwelling units (DUs) EWS-I category, 1,676 DUs of EWS-II category and 847 DUs of MIG category in April this year. During the second wave of Covid-19 from mid-March to early-June, the deadline to submit applications was extended till May, then June and for the third time till July 23.

Till the last date, the RMC received 1,349 applications for 1,648 EWS-I flats, and 124 for the 847 MIG flats though the number of forms sold for these two categories was 2,928 and 1,044 respectively. There are no takers for 299 EWS-I flats and 723 MIG flats — a total of 1,022 DUs. The EWS schemes are all under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY).

EWS-II is the only category where response has been good — 3,328 applications for 1,617 flats having two-bedroom-hall-kitchen (2BHK) each and costing Rs 5.5 lakh each to beneficiaries, RMC officials said.

RMC had conducted draws of lots in 2015-16, in 2019 and in 2020 for allotting homes and civic officers say draw of lots will be conducted to decide beneficiaries of EWS-II homes in the latest round as well as to allot homes for eligible applicants for EWS-I and MIG homes.

The EWS-I flats are being constructed in Punitpark (1,248 flats) on 150-feet ring road and near Speedwell Party Plot (400 flats) near Nana Mava, EWS-II flats in Punitpark (432 flats), opposite Selenium Heights on Mavdi-Pal Road (432 flats) and near crematorium on Mavdi-Kankot Road (620 flats). While the MIG flats are being constructed on Kalavad Road, near Sheetal Park on 150-feet ring road, and near Selenium Heights — all posh areas of Rajkot.

The MIG scheme with 1,268 flats was launched last year and applications were invited for the first in February, 2020. But the RMC received only 834 applications, of which only 230 were found valid and eligible beneficiaries were allotted flats in August last year.

In January this year, 210 more of the 834 applicants were allotted flats after they furnished required documents. However, around 30 of the 440 beneficiaries surrendered their flats either because of financial constraints or because they landed a flat in other government scheme, officials say. That left RMC with 847 unsold MIG flats.

The MIG scheme with project outlay of Rs 238.41 crore is not eligible for Rs 1.5 lakh-per-DU assistance from the state and Central government each. The project costs of EWS-I and EWS-II is Rs 120 crore and Rs 158.93 crore respectively.

The government assistance, totalling to Rs 3 lakh per DU, is applicable to only the EWS-I and II flats which are under PMAY, the ambitious scheme that aims at providing housing to all by 2022.

“Covid-19 pandemic has affected people’s finances and sentiment in property market in general. People found it difficult to obtain documents in time as government staff were focused on controlling the pandemic. Banks are also hesitant to extend loans due to delays in disbursement of government subsidies,” Alpana Mitra, RMC’s city engineer for housing projects, said.

The government releases the first 20 per cent of assistance once an urban local body (ULB) awards work order for starting construction and second instalment of 40 per cent after identifying beneficiaries. The third instalment is released after construction is over.

“It will affect the finances but we shall be able to keep the work going, thanks to around Rs 38 crore revenue from selling commercial space in affordable housing schemes over the last two years. We will inivite applications again for the remaining DUs,” said Mitra.

The officer added that the RMC has handed over around 18,000 affordable houses to beneficiaries over the past eight years.

“The government used to give us annual targets for constructing houses. The RMC target was 6,000 DUs last year but this year, no target has been given due to Covid. We will not launch any new scheme till all the DUs of previous year’s schemes are sold,” said Mitra.

Paresh Gajera, president of the Rajkot Builders Association (RBA), said the property market in the city is stable. “Houses costing below Rs 30 lakh are getting sold as people from across Saurashtra are migrating to Rajkot. But the Covid-19 impact is visible in the premium segment houses costing Rs 30 lakh and above as these are the houses purchased by people who already own a home but would like to have a bigger one. Due to Covid-induced uncertainties, people are postponing such moves,” Gajera said.

In Vadodara, the first 400 homes of the planned 11,860 under the affordable housing component of PMAY will be handed over on August 7 by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, said executive engineer of PMAY Pramod Vasava.

“We have conducted a draw and allotted 862 units of affordable housing under PMAY, the demand for which is high. We received three times the applications in proportion to the number of units available,” said Vasava.

According to Vasava, 4,375 units are under construction, 4,241 units are under tendering and projects comprising 2,862 affordable housing units of PMAY are under approval. “We will soon invite applications to hold a draw for 3,000 more units,” he added.

In Surat, of the 1,929 homes 1,875 have been allotted, while in Ahmedabad of the total 31,989 homes planned for EWS under PMAY-Urban -AHP (Affordable housing in partnership) over last three years , draw of lots has been conducted for 14,749 units. Officials said work is in progress for the remaining units that will be completed this year.

(Inputs from Aditi Raja in Vadodara, Kamaal Saiyed in Surat and Ritu Sharma in Ahmedabad)

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