Though the current slowdown may have hit the realty sector hard, the Maharashtra government has asked real estate companies to be patient, assuring them of all the necessary help. In an interview with Sanjay Jog, Maharashtra’s Housing Minister Sachin Ahir talks about the government’s stand and underlines the importance of transparency in the sector. Edited excerpts:
How hard has the slowdown hit the realty sector in Mumbai?
The slowdown is there, and it is visible in the realty sector. A large number of investors are backing from their investment plans, owing to the current economic conditions, while home buyers, expecting a price correction, have clearly adopted a wait-and-watch policy. Besides, following amendments to the Development Control Regulations, the issue of expediting various approvals, is also there. The government and the agencies concerned have already taken corrective steps to ensure projects take off. I sincerely feel builders and developers should be patient, as the current situation would definitely change.
The realty sector has criticised the government’s policy paralysis and a lack of trust at the government level.
I want to clarify there is no policy paralysis and lack of trust. The government has tried to bring in transparency and sanity. It has also made a series of attempts to change the perception of an unholy nexus between the political class and realty players, and this is instrumental in taking policy decisions. Ultimately, it is the government that takes key policy decisions. It would provide all the necessary cooperation with transparency, which is very important.
I also want to clarify there are ample business opportunities for realty companies in Mumbai. These companies can tap opportunities in the redevelopment and rehabilitation of slums and old and dilapidated buildings. The government is not anti-builders and developers. Let us work together.
What about the proposed redevelopment of Dharavi sector 5?
Recently, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan reviewed the project thoroughly and directed the Maharashtra Housing & Area Development Authority (MHADA) to issue tenders at the earliest. All the necessary clearances have been secured, and the tenders would soon be floated. The project, to be developed by MHADA through contractors, envisages constructing a 22-storey building in the first phase and providing 300-400 sq ft to slum dwellers. They would also be provided all necessary amenities during the redevelopment stage, and the entire cost would be borne by MHADA. I want to reiterate the government is keen to showcase the redevelopment of Dharavi and send a clear message that its undertaking is capable of carrying out such key projects in the city. The government also wants to earn the faith and confidence of all stakeholders.
What is the status of the redevelopment of old and dilapidated buildings in Mumbai?
All the necessary clearances under Coastal Regulation Zone are in place. The government is keen to redevelop these buildings by adopting a cluster approach under 33 (99) of the Development Control Regulations. It has already decided to provide a 4-floor space index for developing 13,000 old and dilapidated buildings. Private sector players can form joint ventures with MHADA.
The progress on the mass housing front has been slow...
Mass housing projects have been launched in Vasai, Virar and Thane. MHADA has formed a joint venture with the Nagpur Impro-vement Trust. It has also purchased land in Pimpri Chinchwad and Aurangabad for affordable houses.
The government and MHADA would provide the necessary funds for slum rehabilitation under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. About 5,000 houses would be built in Pimpri Chinchwad, while about 3,000 would be constructed in Kalyan.
Is government serious about setting up a regulator for the housing sector?
Had it not been so, it would not have tabled the Maharashtra Housing (Regulation and Development) Bill in the state legislature. The Bill has been referred to the legislature’s joint select committee, which has received a record 3,520 suggestions and objections, and many relate to car parking space. Many have also questioned whether the provision of criminal proceedings against builders would remain after the Bill was passed. The government is keen on an effective and balanced regulatory authority for the housing sector. We are trying our best to table the Bill in the monsoon session, once the joint select committee gives its recommendations.