STRUGGLING TO meet the target of building 19.4 lakh affordable homes by 2022, the BJP-led state government is planning to dish out fresh sops for affordable housing projects on private land.
To bring more construction projects within the ambit of the government scheme, the state housing department has decided to lift the curbs imposed on the construction of such projects in the peripheral areas of municipalities in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
In January last year, the Devendra Fadnavis government had first opened doors for private builders to participate in the government’s ‘Housing for All’ scheme under the Centre’s flagship Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (PMAY). Accordingly, builders using their own land for the construction of homes for the economically weaker sections and the low-income segments were provided buildable area or floor space index (FSI) incentives if they agreed to the condition that 50 per cent of the homes would be sold as rates determined by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA). Later, it was revised to the construction cost of homes or the ready reckoner rates of the plots, whichever is lower.
FSI is a development tool that defines the extent of construction permissible on a plot. Under the government’s incentivisation policy, such projects are entitled to an FSI of 2.5 (2.5 times the plot area) in residential zones. Additionally, in a bid to release more lands for the development of such projects, the FSI for such projects in green or no-development zones has been raised from 0.2 to 1.
Incentivising the scheme further, the government had in February allowed the scheme to be undertaken even in peripheral areas of municipalities in MMR, where the response from builders to the policy has been the most aggressive.
But after the CM-led urban development department raised concerns regarding the “lack of adequate” infrastructure in such peripheral areas to cope with the additional construction, the government had introduced a rider stating that such projects can be approved only up to two kilometres beyond the boundaries of the bigger municipalities in the region, and up to one kilometre in the case of smaller municipalities.
But sources said that the housing department has now proposed that this rider should be withdrawn, allowing more areas to avail the benefit of the construction scheme.
Even as a senior department official said that the withdrawal of the rider won’t be universal but only for cases where the local body certifies that the necessary infrastructure was available, government’s own town planners have raised the red flag. “Most of these constructions are coming up in green zones, which were originally meant to serve as buffer zones to preserve the environment against rampant urbanisation. While the move would benefit the land holders and also enable creation of fresh housing stock, the impact of the move on the environment and liveability index of the locality must first be studied,” said one of them.
Some officials also said that there was a need to map the affordable housing requirement in such peripheral areas before sanctioning such projects.
About 43 per cent of affordable housing projects under PMAY are coming up in MMR alone. As per latest statistics, the government has so far approved projects for construction of 11.40 lakh houses. Of these, construction has begun for about 4 lakh-odd houses. But so far, only 34,000-odd houses have been completed.