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Price and design can tempt you to buy a house in suburbs,but make sure the area has adequate infrastructure. With a large number of needy and greedy buyers,developers manage to book houses even on the under-developed fringes

Price and design can tempt you to buy a house in suburbs,but make sure the area has adequate infrastructure. With a large number of needy and greedy buyers,developers manage to book houses even on the under-developed fringes....

Abhay Kumar,a former BSNL official,shifted to Indirapuram,a suburb of Delhi. The plot where he constructed his house falls in Ghaziabad district and is about three kilometres away from Delhi border. After shifting from his government accommodation in Luyten’s Zone,his life became miserable as the infrastructure facilities there were grossly inadequate. Power cuts of eight to nine hours a day were routine. Water supply too was erratic. Only after he made his own arrangements for power backup and had a bore-well dug was he able to heave a sigh of relief.

Kumar’s case is typical of the problems home buyers face when they shift to suburban areas where the infrastructure facilities are inadequate. According to Prakash Paddikal of Hill Road Welfare Association (HIRWA),a Mumbai-based NGO,“In Mumbai,suburbs like Mulund and Bhandup have seen manifold growth in population over the past decade,but the provision of basic infrastructure like water and electricity remains inadequate.” This paucity of infrastructure is common to suburbs of all the big metros. Despite these shortcomings,real-estate developers go ahead with their projects,and more often than not,manage to get bookings from home buyers who either have no inkling of what is in store for them,or are so desperate that they choose to overlook the shortcomings.

Says Prof PSN Rao,head-housing of Delhi-based School of Planning and Architecture: “Be it Delhi,Mumbai,Kolkata,Chennai,Bangalore or Hyderabad,the suburbs appear to be a more attractive option now than the old central areas of the city. The lack of space in the central city areas has left home buyers with little choice but to move out. The availability of flats in suburbs at affordable rates is another big reason.”

According to Vineet Singh of 99acres.com,the rush towards suburbs is driven by both need and greed. “As the cost of housing within the city and in suburbs with reasonable infrastructure has increased considerably,buyers have no choice but to buy what their pocket can afford. So,from a need perspective,it is about price and not the location. The second factor is greed: with property prices increasing three to four times between 2003 and 2007,people thought this was the best investment.”

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INFRASTRUCTURE DEFICIT

Often,the development of residential projects on the outskirts of Indian metros begins before the necessary infrastructure has been put in place. This happens because demand for developed spaces in metros is high enough to make even hastily established projects financially feasible for developers. Ashutosh Limaye of Jones Lang Lasalle Meghraj,says ,“Absorption of projects is literally guaranteed,no matter what the drawbacks of the location. Land prices are much lower in the suburbs than they are closer to the city centre. For this reason,the pace of development in fringe areas is always higher than in more central locations.”

“If a fringe location is within the city’s corporation limits,the acuteness of the infrastructure problem tends to be lower. But if the area falls outside a city corporation’s limits,infrastructure development is at the mercy of those bodies that lack the resources,the vision and the willingness.”

GROWTH ON THE FRINGES

The phenomenon of development outpacing a location’s infrastructure is very visible on the fringes of Mumbai. Apart from Navi Mumbai and Thane,all other outlying locations suffer from a chronic infrastructure deficit. Cases in point are Mira Road-Bhayander,Vasai-Virar,Kalyan-Dombivili and Ambarnath-Badlapur. “These areas do,in fact,have their own municipal corporations,but these entities are ill-equipped to handle the incessant demand for infrastructure facilities. So these areas lack proper roads,water and electricity supply,sewage systems,public transport,hospitals and schools. Moreover,these areas do not have strong economic drivers that would encourage implementation of infrastructure projects. These drivers exist within Mumbai proper. The fringes serve solely as home-bases for those who cannot afford to live closer to their workplaces in at central locations,” says Limaye. Since demand in these areas exceeds supply,home buyers are forced to overlook the lack of infrastructure and move in regardless of the inconveniences they will face afterwards.

CAN AMENITIES MAKE UP FOR INFRASTRUCTURE?

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The housing that comes up in the suburbs is of recent vintage. Hence its quality of construction is usually superior and,to some extent,makes up for the infrastructure-related shortcomings. Rao says,“Most suburban apartments incorporate new designs,new materials,and new technology. They are also usually earthquake-resistant.” He adds that for the housewife,these new apartments have a lot to offer in terms of proper provisions in the kitchen and bathrooms. These buildings are also well designed and attractive,in tune with modern aesthetics. Almost all these complexes are safe since they are housed within a compound,with a wall and a gate that restricts entry and exit. Car parking usually comes at a price,but then,there is a place reserved for one and there is no need to engage in daily battles with neighbours for a slot. Children’s play areas and parks for the elderly are also available.

THE AUDA EXAMPLE

In the matter of providing infrastructure,the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) is setting a fine example that other urban bodies in the country could emulate. AUDA ensures that the land it acquires from individual landowners is properly developed. Limaye says,“This body has implemented large-scale infrastructure reforms that do not necessarily involve huge budgets. The model involves acquiring a large tract of land,infrastructurally enabling a significant part of it,and returning that component to the owners that has immediate market value. ”

A FEW TIPS

New home buyers must do some due diligence. “Buyers who are forced to live in infrastructure-deficient locations can ensure that the necessary infrastructure exists at least at the project level. They should patronise progressive developers who ensure that their projects have independent water supply in the absence of a reliable municipal pipeline,electricity backup to compensate for erratic power supply,sump pits in the absence of adequate sewage,and so on,” says Limaye.

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Navin Raheja,CMD of Raheja Developers,says,“Make sure that the suburban areas are not very remote. They should be located within 10-12 km of existing developed areas. Secondly,the buyer should check the development plan of the area where he plans to book an apartment. And thirdly,make sure that the price is less than that of similar-quality accommodation in existing developed areas.”

Much of the initiative for developing the infrastructure in suburban areas will have to come from the government. Complains Singh of 99acres.com,“The government has not indicated a clear plan for developing suburban cities.” Rao says,“Unless and until urban management gets on top of the government’s agenda,little improvement can be expected. Till such time,suburban living may not be all that pleasant and people will have little choice but to grin and bear it.” Above all,buyers must exercise caution — they should first learn about the availability of infrastructure or lack of it,and only then make the decision to buy. l

praveen.singh@expressindia.com

First published on: 25-07-2009 at 02:00:26 am
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