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From slums to homes

The centrally sponsored scheme will cover 4,041 towns and will be implemented in three phases.  

The government’s recently launched ‘Housing for all by 2022’ scheme is expected to create over two crore homes for the economically weaker sections (EWS), including slum-dwellers and low income groups (LIGs). The centrally sponsored scheme will cover 4,041 towns and will be implemented in three phases. The scheme will reportedly provide the poor with financial aid as well. All this, experts suggest, will significantly increase the demand for low-cost homes.

The big driver for low-cost housing in Chennai are the government initiatives, as Naveen Nandwani, executive director, Cushman & Wakefield, points out. Some of these initiatives include the granting of additional FSI and the development of residential layouts and apartments by the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board and the Tamil Nadu Housing Board. But even more important is the fact that the scheme gives an interest subvention of 6.5 per cent and incentives to private builders.

This has encouraged private developers to enter the segment with compact homes ranging between 300 sq.ft. and 700 sq.ft. in 1BHK and 1.5BHK configurations. “The EWS/ LIG segments have been redefined,” says Sriram Mahadevan, business head, Mahindra Lifespaces, which has low-cost projects in the city. “The interest subvention is a great move to make the cost of ownership lower for the end user,” he adds.

Mallika Ravi, CEO, Lancor Holdings, says the demand for houses in the low-cost segment is caused by people frequently migrating from rural areas to cities. Escalating land prices have resulted in unaffordable houses and the sizes of units have shrunk in the last couple of years. “Under the new scheme, the government should proactively facilitate faster approvals through an online gateway. The projects will be priced from Rs. 8 lakh onwards and the targeted buyers include those with a family income of Rs. 20, 000 and above a month.”

How does it work

Affordable housing rests on the principle of low margins and high volumes. Private developers keep this firmly in mind. Also making sure the turnaround is quick. “This can give us a higher return on capital compared to conventional projects,” says Mahadevan. High-end amenities such as swimming pools, gymnasiums are excluded from the design and this keeps maintenance costs low.

There are other ways in which builders keep their costs low. For instance, they use aluminium formwork and building information modelling. “Such technologies allow developers to complete projects within a short span of 18 or 24 months,” says Shushmul Maheshwari, chief executive, RNCOS.

Low-cost, not low quality

It is important to make a clear distinction between affordable housing and cheap housing. There is a misconception that low-cost housing is substandard and built using cheap material, but Arun Kumar, founder, Casa Grande, says this is not true. “Projects are developed with proper resource management. Factors like location, amenities, size and project specifications are given priority.”

While project sizes depend on the plan and the facilities offered, they typically use locally available materials and alternative materials. “Constructing funicular shell roofs instead of RCC roofs, using stone, wood, lime, sand, bamboo, and low-maintenance materials such as vinyl siding and metal roofing are common in such projects,” says Nandwani. Pre-fabricated, modular construction techniques and technologies such as glass fibre reinforced gypsum (GFRG) are also used.

An interesting point to note is that by increasing the income limit covered under the EWS and LIG categories, the government has ensured that a large section of slum-dwellers are covered under the scheme. Unfortunately, the scheme might still leave out the urban poor who don’t live in slums because they don’t meet the income criteria.

As Anuj Puri, chairman and country head, JLL India, points out, providing the poor with cheap houses is only possible if land is unlocked in urban areas. “The kind of housing supply the government is targeting seems out of the question if lands are not made available,” he says.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 5:02:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/home-finance/housing-for-all-by-2020-scheme-to-boost-the-lowcost-housing-sector/article7382753.ece

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