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Premium FAR, recipe for congestion

Rasheed Kappan, DH News Service, Bengaluru, Aug 13 2017, 2:05 IST

The move to boost the Palike's revenues through premium FAR is bound to trigger congestion in core areas.

Now close to retirement, Shankar Rao had always harboured a faint hope: Owning a flat in the city, an eventual end to long stays in rented houses. But that plan just got beyond Rao’s modest means. The ‘premium’ Floor Area Ratio (FAR) proposed in the State’s draft Common Zoning Rules is poised to push property prices up, an unwelcome vertical growth.

Here’s how the premium FAR will work: Every building is allowed a certain permissible FAR to construct additional floors based on the width of the road. The notification reduces the permissible part and asks citizens and builders to pay for the rest and beyond. Builders are bound to pass on the additional burden to the buyer, triggering the spike in prices.

FAR explained
Simply put, FAR is the ratio of the total plot area to the total building area. This is determined by the size of the plot and width of the road in front of the plot. Although permitted FAR carries no fee, the premium FAR has a fee that is based on the guidance value of the plot.

The government claims the premium FAR will reduce congestion in the core areas. But, as N S Mukunda from the Citizen's Action Forum (CAF) argues, the move will have the exact opposite effect. “Property prices will go beyond the reach of the common man. All the old residents, who cannot afford the high FAR will sell their property to get the high price and move out to the periphery. In one stroke, the regulation will remove the ethos of Bengaluru which gives the city its unique character,” he explains.

Loss of city’s character
Commercial interests with deep pockets will end up buying the old houses and replace them with huge complexes. “This is already happening. Many core areas have already lost their cultural moorings. This is a destruction of the very character of Bengaluru,” says Mukunda.

The implication, then, is this: In the name of boosting its revenues for the city corporation, BBMP in Bengaluru’s case, vested interests within and outside the government will eventually benefit. Commercialisation of residential areas and corrupt practices perfected over decades will get a huge boost.

Spearheading a citizen's campaign against the proposed Common Zoning Regulations and the premium FAR in particular, CAF is now meeting people's representatives including corporators, MLAs and MPs. If the government is adamant, the Forum has threatened to take the legal route.
Architects are convinced that the regulation will be scrapped by the court.

Brazen violation of rules
Dubbing the Common Zoning Regulations as a brazen attempt to violate the existing rules, they say the government had no business interfering in a task best left to the Metropolitan Planning Committee.

Builders complain that the concept of premium FAR will severely impact smaller residential projects.
Says Suresh Hari from the Confederation of Real Estate Developers' Associations of India (CREDAI), “As it is, the FAR is not properly utilised. Smaller projects that require setbacks will find the premium FAR very costly. It will become unviable for builders to undertake such projects. How will the city now get affordable homes?”

Unjust move
The exercise is seen as a clear move to raise revenues for the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). As a former advisor to the state government puts it, the basic intention of FAR is to limit the size of a building taking into account the infrastructure, traffic flow and other planning considerations. It would be totally unjust to cut permissible FAR and add a premium price to additional FAR.

By asking people to buy more FAR, the government is actually encouraging more development in the core areas, leading to congestion, contends civic evangelist V Ravichander. “The message is: Go ahead and build more. But there is a problem. It is impossible to build more unless the property size is more. The question of leaving more setback area comes in,” he says.

On the Metro route, a property owner can use an FAR of 4 only if two to three different plots of land are aggregated. “But aggregating land is not easy. You need to change the law for that,” he explains.

Master plan issue
Former Town Planning department director Shanthappa Honnur says the government, instead of drafting zoning regulations, should have only advised those preparing the Master Plan for Bengaluru.

“You need a development vision. You cannot apply uniform regulations for the entire city. Plan for a Bengaluru Metropolitan area, classify it as different zones with different regulations. Chickpet cannot be treated in the same fashion as Jayanagar,” he explains.

Although Honnur is in favour of a premium FAR, he feels it is too high. “The draft regulations show that the premium FAR is almost equal to the permissible FAR. This is very bad in spirit,” he says.



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