Home truths of realty

BDA plans a PPP model of layouts with all facilities, where the high-income group will offset the cost burden on houses for the not-so-rich

Home truths of realty

Here’s why: The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has been hugely unsuccessful in the past few decades in meeting the land needs of the people. No thanks to increasing land prices, cost of acquisition and indiscriminate denotification of lands, BDA has been struggling to fulfil the needs of the growing population.

Worth nearly Rs 7,000 crore, BDA has been able to create only 74 layouts since the days of its erstwhile avatar, the City Improvement Trust Board (CITB). Apart from these layouts and 1,50,000 sites that have been distributed, the Authority has approved over 300 private layouts. This has left little space for the horizontal growth of the City. Site applicants have had to be satisfied with only empty promises by BDA.

The city’s premier planning agency is, thus, in an unenviable position. It is looking for clues to meet the requirements of a city that has now expanded to over 800 sq km, adding thousands of site seekers everyday.

With job opportunities increasing in Bangalore, there has been tremendous influx of people, thus adding to the expectations from BDA. With its shrinking land bank, BDA is now looking at vertical alternatives.

“Bangalore, like Mumbai, is growing at an extraordinary pace. The City population is nearing one crore while Mumbai has a population of more than 1.25 crore. Just like Mumbai, Bangalore is also facing a severe space crunch. Group housing is something that BDA has to consider in the long run for the burgeoning population,” said a urban planner who is working closely with the Authority.

In February 2010, the first proposal for group housing in BDA layouts was made by then Commissioner, Siddaiah. The logic applied was the same that most urban planners believe in, easing the demand for land in the City. By July 2010, the idea was approved and ratified by the BDA board.

Mega township

Instead of distributing sites, Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) is now likely to build a mega township at Kempegowda Layout in the coming months, thus providing a precedent for future group housing projects in its four layouts in the pipeline.

BDA sources told Deccan Herald that the Authority was looking into the possibility of creating a suburb in Bangalore to provide housing to a minimum of 22 lakh citizens in the next few years. This move, many urban planners believe, is the way forward.

“The primary objective of any citizen who buys land is to ensure he can travel to his work place in the shortest possible time. Presently, if a citizen has to get to the International Airport from Electronics City, it takes at least two-and-half hours,” said a urban planner with BDA.

Here’s what the BDA proposes to build in Kempegowda Layout: Housing projects for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and villas and condos for the High Income Group (HIG). The plan is to provide all possible options for citizens to choose from under a public-private partnership (PPP) model.

“Currently, the plan is before the BDA board and has to be ratified by the Commissioner to initiate any sort of ground work on the proposal at Kempegowda Layout,” said the source.

The plan, being worked out by a third party consultant, has provided BDA options to increase its profitability and also to apply the brakes on the haphazard growth of the City.

But this project will take time. BDA Commissioner Bharatlal Meena explains the Authority’s current focus: “Our priority is to provide sites for farmers and revenue land owners. Only then will we look at the group housing project. We are yet to take a call on what kind of group housing will be available in the layout.”

However, in July this year, the BDA board had approved the plan of its officials to experiment with group housing at Kempegowda Layout, pegged to be the largest layout proposed by it.

During the days of CITB and initial days of the BDA, the layouts were planned on a smaller scale involving a land bank less than 10 to 30 acres. “But with 4,000 acres at our disposal, it will have to be utilised to the maximum possible extent. Vertical growth is the answer to this,” said a  BDA official.

Sources said there will be different Floor Area Ratios (FAR) in the layout, depending on the income of people buying the houses. “For example, for EWS or Lower Income Group (LIG) housing, the FAR may be restricted to four to five floors, as the road width will be a little less. For the Middle Income Group (MIG), apartments with more floors are being proposed,” said the source.

For the higher income group (HIG), BDA is likely to initiate housing projects that will have a mix of luxury homes, condos and villas with broad 100 feet roads and if possible, sprawling lawns.

According to sources, the  housing projects for the HIG are being initiated to offset the cost burden on BDA and private builders in providing civic amenities on a 4,000-acre expanse of land where LIG and MIG housing projects are also planned. “While the LIG housing will only be a fraction of the total investment, no private builder will come forward if there is no possibility for making profit. Hence, the proposal to have HIG housing, which will help in providing the best of facilities and access points in the layout,” said the sources. 

The nay sayers

But there are also voices of dissent against the group housing plan. Rashid, a resident of Jayanagar, said: “You are espousing a wrong model. A spreadout city eases congestion and allows for growth that is manageable. The highrise concept is good for countries that are land-starved. Highrises will lead to traffic chaos and cause an unhealthy environment as they impede natural air circulation”.

‘Quality, affordability can’t co-exist’

While admitting it was a noteworthy effort to provide group housing by BDA, Anand Sirur, a resident of Malleswaram, was nonetheless sceptical. “Look at the quality of housing in National Games Village. Can anyone stay in such accommodations after investing the life’s savings?” he said.

Sirur said the venture under the PPP model could only be looked at as a profit-making plan and nothing more. “Who can provide housing at an affordable rate with good quality? If they can provide it, then it will be a miracle,” he said. It is a view that most citizens might agree with.

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