Tuesday, October 7, 2014

State Elections & City's Expections!

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today…Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Well, no need to describe the probably most popular US President who is equally famous for his witty wisdom! While seeing the campaigning of State Assembly elections in our Pune city, his above words I remembered; as being an engineer as well a real estate person by myself, what this city’s real estate expects from the candidates while they ask for our precious vote? Many will ask why the real estate people need anything in itself at first place! As have they not made enough money to feed their coming generations, as from common man’s eyes, being builder means loads of money! Also many will say, isn’t the real estate itself cause of this city’s deterioration or degradation, as the city was much better place to live before the specie named  “Builder’ came in existence! Well, I don’t blame these voices as there have been incidences which only have given the real estate its infamous status in the city social life; but does that mean real estate is the only culprit for all the bad things which has happened to the city or is a cause of every single problem the city is facing? Isn’t real estate too is an industry like so many other industries which has been part of the city in growth? Does a city means only Restaurants, IT parks, Colleges or Auto Industries?

Well, like any above industry real estate too is an industry which provide homes to millions of citizens of this very city only & it too has its own needs like all other industries. These needs includes right from  infrastructure support on administration level to policies which will ensure that the end result from the industry will be achieved & here end result is making a simple affordable home available for the common man! As like in any industry there are good elements as well bad elements, but what is important is to look at the industry in larger perspective, as we can’t ignore the contribution of real estate industry. Had it not been the numbers of developers & organizations of the developers like Credai or MBVA, imagine what would have been the city’s condition! Unplanned growth all around with illegal structures & no assurance of quality construction would have made the scene worst. Already nearly 40% population of the city is staying or rather forced to stay is proper term, in slums or illegal structures; this percentage would have gone to much more, had the real estate industry would not have been here! But in doing so, somewhere it’s like a lone warrior’s battle for real estate! Here many will disagree with me as what else they can expect from a real estate person but situation doesn’t change whether a builder is stating the facts or some social activist, facts remains facts! And I am not expecting any sympathy or special concessions for the real estate but just want to put light on the scene & its impact which will make the entire city to pay for it!

And on this back ground once again the State elections are ahead & it’s the State Govt which is majorly responsible for the real estate of not only Pune but of entire State! As very few will know but a city & its planning doesn’t depend on just Municipal Corporation i.e. PMC in our case; rather PMC is just a tool in implementing the State Govt's policies about real estate. They can’t change any single law or rule regarding various aspects such as parking or FSI norm or development charges or height & so many of such types. It goes to Urban Development Dept of State Govt & which for last many years has been under direct control of Chief Minister himself! Some fifteen odd years back Urban Development popularly known as UD was never considered as of any significance but as the urbanization all over the State increased slowly our rulers started knowing its importance & we all know the reasons behind it. In current economics it’s no more gold or share but it’s the land holding is what decides the wealth of any group or the person. And it’s UD which decides any policy regarding the land use, so obvious that head of the State will hold the key to these policies! Now you will understand why the State elections are very much important for real estate of the city as it’s this Govt which holds the fate of real estate!

To start with, once we accept the goal of real estate is to make the homes affordable for every citizen of this city, then what we have done to make it possible? To me good days for real estates doesn’t mean ever rising rates of the flats as it’s the worst sign for any business. As one day the rates will be so high that there will be no buyer for the homes, so what I wish for real estate is there should be constant demand & the supply which will fit in that demand! The rates should match the growth rate like any other industry as sudden rise in rates of lands which we have observed in last three to four years gets reflected in rates of finished products but then one lac sq ft of land can purchased by a single developer, where as it requires hundreds of flat buyers to buy flats built on that one lac sq ft of land. And one man can buy at higher rate not hundred persons can do it! This is exactly where things have gone wrong in real estate. Till just few years back Pune was dear to all kind of segments in the society for various reasons, like from IT professionals to education aspiring youngsters, from all over the State, people came here & that’s the main reason of growth of the real estate here! No Govt or any of the elected members have any part in making Pune real estates’ hot destination & exactly it’s this inefficiency which has been the reason of bringing dooms days to the real estate industry! As look at the way city has spread in past decade, we have every known money earning business here right from education to IT to banking to service industry, needless to mention ever existing automobile segment too, but what about the policies which will ensure that this growth will be sustained by equal strong real estate which in a way is like infrastructure for the city. Because if there are no proper homes for these millions coming here, then there won’t be too long a time when they will go to another city for their “roji roti’ i.e. daily earnings! When I say proper it means affordable & not only on front of price but well backed up with basic infrastructure like water, drainage, roads, public transport, electricity etc!

We have been unable to form the infamous Pune Metropolitan region, which would have ensured uniform & holistic network of this basic infrastructure but when it will come in existence we don’t know. Take every single front of this city from ready reckoner rates which keeps on growing each year without taking in consideration market scene & as PMC’s various building premiums are directly related with ready reckoner rates of flats, the overall construction costs keeps on increasing. Then there is issue of public transport policies as there is no public transport so people needs private vehicles & as people needs private vehicles so what PMC does? It increases parking norms for the buildings, making more area to be build for parking so again addition in construction costs of the building. But State Govt has no time to intervene & make public transport strong as well reduce the parking norms so as to refrain people from buying more vehicle , which every day are killing the city fresh air by their exhausts! On same lines PMC don’t have got enough money to acquire land for roads on its own so whatsoever area of plot goes in road the developer has to pay road development cost to PMC to get that FSI &  who ultimately pays for this cost? PMC has acquired hundreds of lands under the name of amenity spaces reservation & what has happened to use of these lands? Again, there is no policy in place! We have started giving TDR as well reservation for small houses but then who will change the required norms regarding height or coverage or tenement density, of buildings to accommodate this additional burden? We have been announcing about merging of new villages where as our old city limit Development Plan & even the Development Plan of already merged villages has not been cleared by UD or State Govt! We speak about saving our hills & we don’t have a single policy in place that how we are going to save them & in actual every day hills are surrendering to slums! We make promises about Metro & on other hand, in agenda of many candidates they have been mentioning fly over on the same track where Metro is supposed to be built! A simple policy like tree cutting we are unable to draft & for cutting a single tree even for legitimate reasons, one has to go to high court, shows what kind of state we are in on policy & governance level! And these are just tip of iceberg, there are such thousands of issues which has been awaiting proper policies about them! My God, so many questions & issues unanswered or even untouched by every party’s candidates & we expect this city to be ideal city in State!

We speak about making Smart Cities but what I feel, need of the time is Affordable Cities! As first make at least one Pune city a proper livable, affordable to its citizens & then show us the dreams of Smart City, this is what real estate of city expects. On this background what is unfortunate that no candidate has mentioned even a single logical solution to any of the expectations of real estate. As ultimately who are the clients of real estate industry? Who else but very citizens of this city only, so whatever real estate’s expectations are, they are for the city only! 

As to blame some bunch of people for every failure is very easy but for how many days we are going to dodge our responsibility by doing so? As the wise US president has said each candidate of every party who is contesting the election should remember this as it’s for the people of this city they are responsible & just by giving promises the responsibility isn’t going to be fulfilled! And this every single voter has to keep in mind while vote, as it’s the future of your own city you will be voting for & if you fail to vote responsibly then you your self will be at blame & then even Gods won’t be able to save the city! So let’s unite & act up on call of your city is what I will say, as five more such years will be too late to recover!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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