Slum Rehabilitation Scheme
The way forward for Slum up-gradation
In an irony of sorts, some of Mumbai city’s most affluent residential complexes have been built on slum land. While, some observers feel the slum rehabilitation scheme is a win-win situation for urban cities, others regard it as a government’s largesse to the private developers.
With an aim to address the shortage of affordable homes as well as improve the city’s infrastructure, government introduced various slum rehabilitation (SR) schemes. Some of them accommodate the tenants on the same land by creating a structure in the existing FSI while others relocate them to another area. A real estate developer provides free housing to a slum dweller where each tenant is given a 25sqm unit which incorporates a living room, kitchen, toilet and bedroom. The remaining land after accommodating the slum dwellers can be utilized for commercial purposes.Kaushik More, Director, Omkar Realtors explained, “Slum rehabilitation schemes such as DCR 33(10) & 33(14) intend to transform the livelihood in all slum pockets and create more open spaces by freeing reserved areas on encroached land in Mumbai. In fact, DCR 33(10) should supersede all DC regulations since SR schemes are in extension affordable housing projects being promoted by the government.
Rohan Agarwal, Managing Director, Geopreneur Group considers the SR scheme the need of the hour. He said, “Mumbai has a scarce supply of real estate due to every increasing demand and slums that covers the city’s major part are the only land left for the developer. So, such schemes help increase the supply of real estate, bring the cost down as well as beautify the city’s skyline. It also improves the living conditions of the slum dwellers by providing them proper shelter and hygienic living conditions. The projects under SRA are low cost too and unlike slums which are horizontally spread, these structures are vertical and thus free up a lot of surrounding land too. Having said that, the slum belts of Mumbai are most of the time nestled in the heart of the city and thus have emerged as gold mines for the developers too. For example, the slum sprawls that are mainly located in south and central Mumbai, the high-end apartments sell for anywhere between Rs 25,000- 50,000 per square feet.”
Pointing out another important fact, Vipul Shah, Managing Director – Parinee Group said, “Almost 51% of the city is in slums and the government machinery cannot evacuate the slums nor has the adequate funds to rehabilitate the slum dwellers. In the given scenario engaging private developers to rehabilitate them in lieu of attractive FSI potential makes the model work holistically. For slum residents, there are only advantages as their standard of living improves manifold to add to it developers provide for a reasonable corpus to maintain the building.”
Omissions and Commissions
Architect P. K Das of PK Das & Associates has been part of the policy framework for mass housing and reclaiming public space. He was also engaged in some of the largest slum rehabilitation projectsin Mumbai. According to him SRA policy is promoting haphazard development, increasing density levels without improving the infrastructure of the area thereby deteriorating the quality of living. But the other side of the coin, as Shah stated is that Government needs to categorise the developers from the brokers, claiming to be developers. He added, “A lot of developers not having the intent to develop the scheme have also entered SRA with the objective of selling schemes and making a quick buck in connivance with the slum dwellers committee who currently have unreasonable powers.”
Some housing activists have questioned the Slum Redevelopment Authority’s sweeping powers to grant construction permissions and have alleged favouritism on its part.
Briefing on the challenges faced by the developers, More stated “Under DCR 33(10) all reservations under D.P such as, RG, Roads etc., have to be handed over to MCGM on par with open plot developments.The slum rehab and free sale portion of the developer have to be consumed in the remaining land mass, there too various regulations, have to be adhered to. Hence to make any slum rehabilitation project feasible, high rise buildings are the key and therefore road width restrictions should be made more practical based on CFO recommendation.”
Another major hurdle that developers state is that slum rehabilitation projects mean clearing the land of all encumbrances which in itself is a long and tedious process.Also, verifying the antecedents of the huge number of slum dwellers is a difficult task even for the collector as pointed out by one of the developers.“The slum dwellers have understood the business model and use their importance in the execution of the scheme to extort unreasonable amounts from developers by unnecessary stalling and creating issues in the scheme on one pretext or another knowing that they have the sympathy wave coming their way. The authority needs to regulate their powers and conduct too,” added Shah.
Agarwal corroborates the statement, “A project can only be executed if 70% of the slum dwellers agree and this is one of the major barriers for SRA projects. Long gestation period for starting a project adds to the hassle of a developer. If SRA rules are further streamlined, and the government approves of a particular SRA project where the slum dwellers are compelled to clear the area for new construction to come up where they will be provided with a house, the entire process would become smoother.”
The industry experts recommend a policy review of handing over public land at a rock-bottom rate to the developer executing the slum redevelopment scheme suggesting inviting of global bids to sell the land to the highest bidder. This will give a level-playing field to all developers instead of a few as well as eliminating any chance of prejudice by authorities.
Benefits & Potentials
Factors such as positive SRA policy,availability o FDI capital and skyrocketing realty prices have meant that Slum Rehabilitation projects today attract the biggest of developers.But as Sarang Wadhawan, MD Housing Development and Infrastructure Ltd cautioned, “The policy is effective but as far as implementation is concerned, there should be some sort of screening of the developer who takes it up.” Indeed, this is one scheme which has several advantages –
- Permanent beneficial asset for the slum dweller
- Social uplifting of the slum residents
- Improving of sanitary conditions
- Freeing up of real estate
More stated, “When reputed builders take up the SRA scheme they make sure that all the legal compliances are in place. Also, before taking up any project, SRA authority along with the developers designs the project within the framework of all the rules & regulations of the scheme ensuring the transparency and gaining trust amongst the residents.”
Shah explaining his company’s approach said that they don’t use agents to communicate with the slum dwellers but, have their own ground team who understands the SRA scheme and the sentiments of slum dwellers. “One cannot ignore the potential the SRA scheme offers to create land in a city like Mumbai. We currently are executing three SRA projects spread across 50000 meters.”
Many developers to entice high net-worth individuals offer ultra-luxury residential with state-of-the art security & access control and amenities ranging from climate-control swimming pool, restaurant, a cigar room to business centre, concierge services, international salon & spa, to name a few.
From sales point of view, an SRA project is sold at a cheaper rate compared to the market and this does tempt the buyers who are looking for affordable options. These projects are most of the time located in the heart of the vicinity so from commuting point of view they are good choice too. Agarwal who has completed a project in Bandra East,Mayur – a MHADA project and has under-construction project of 40 storey residential tower Sky Abodes in Vikhroli comprising 1200mts notified slums, mentions a crucial aspect, “Many home buyers are hesitant to buy a flat in SRA projects, as the middle-class or the upper middle-class strata that avail such housing, do not like to stay in the same vicinity as the slum dwellers rehabilitation units and expect accommodation away from them.”
A positive factor for slum rehabilitation scheme is the fact that it is driven by market forces and does not involve spending by the government which is a good example of public private partnership and the right step in the direction of achieving housing for all, though riddled with challenges and shortcomings.
This is what slum rehabilitation residents have to say
Vasant Kamble (62) used to live in a slum at Worli with his family before the slums went under rehabilitation scheme. “Earlier, the area had a high crime rate of petty offences lke theft, eve teasing, local fights and brawl between women and others. After our area was redeveloped the standard of living of all the tenants has improved drastically.Nearly 2500 families have moved to high quality permanent houses constructed by Larsen & Toubro and are today leading a quality life.
Kasare Ashok (60),a Bhoiwada resident stated that cleanliness was a major issue in the slums and diseases used to make the children suffer. “Random quarrels used to take place for water usage as there were hardly any water taps in the slums. I have a daughter and two sons in my family. We live in a two room flat. Electricity and water facilities are quite good in this building. However, there are problems of blackouts sometimes. My daughter got married in a good family which is also a reason we appreciate living here.”
Arun Dhadve, a resident of the same building faced the worst incident while living in slum when his brother got stabbed over a small issue of water shortage. “Life has become secured now, the rooms provided are spacious and our children are getting good education and space to play. There are some issues like cooperation between all the residents but no major disagreements or security problems.”