Budget 2020: Real estate needs bold fiscal measures

Budget 2020 expectations: Bold fiscal measures needed to boost real estate sector

By Surendra Hiranandani

Given the policy reforms undertaken by the government over the last few years, we are hopeful that the upcoming budget will provide much needed stimulus to the real estate sector. We expect the budget to push for investment in infrastructure, relax income tax slabs, assist the private sector and announce more measures that will boost the real estate industry. There are a few key points that should be looked into by the government in the upcoming Budget that will positively impact the real estate industry.

There is an urgent need to address the challenge of liquidity faced by the sector, especially after the NBFC crisis. Liquidity will enhance sentiment in the market with a steady supply of ready to move in homes. If the challenge is not treated on priority, it will hamper the confidence of developers as well as buyers which may severely impact the sector as well as economic growth.

Quick allotment of the Alternative Investment Funding with an initial aid of Rs 25000 cr needs to executed on priority basis. Another measure can be reviving the Input Tax Credit for housing sector. After reduction in GST rates, the government had withdrawn the Input Tax Credit. Its revival can provide a relief to the developers and housing can be made available at a lower cost.

In order to push the fence sitters to buy homes, along with the existing subsidies on affordable housing, there is a need for deductions in personal taxation. This measure can go a long way in boosting overall consumer demand and help in lifting the economy.  An increase in the existing  ₹2-lakh tax rebate on home loan interest rates will once again be a good move. This could result in higher demand for housing especially in the affordable and mid-segment categories. Interest rates on home loans needs to be reduced. Reduction in stamp duty to at least an extent of 50 percent can also help raise demand.

While these are the demands that need to be resolved on a priority basis, following are some demands that have been pending for some time, and , if cleared,  it can help in reviving the sector considerably.

Since a long time the real estate sector needs an industry status which can help them with finances at a lower cost, especially at times when availability of funding is a major headwind for the industry. Single window clearance can aid in quick approvals and execution of the project.

There is need to redefine ‘affordable housing’. As per GST and income-tax laws, a house has to meet the dual condition of not exceeding 60 square metres of carpet area and a price cap of Rs 45 lakh to avail of reduced GST rate of 1% for affordable housing and also the benefit of tax exemption for such projects. However, this condition related to price cap of Rs 45 lakh needs to be extended.

Affordable housing will be a major growth driver in real estate. However there are other multiple concerns such as unavailability of urban land at reasonable prices, rising costs of construction, high taxes, regulatory issues and unfavourable development norms owing to which developers are hesitant to enter into this segment.  The momentum of infrastructure development should continue so that growth is decentralised and migration to urban areas remains under control.

In conclusion, it can be said that implementation of these measures will revive real estate growth to a great extent and give a boost to demand, which in turn will revive the economy. We are hopeful that the upcoming budget will chart out fresh stimulus in terms of bold fiscal measures for real estate sector to outperform its growth traction.

(Author is Chairman and Managing Director, House of Hiranandani)

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