Chennai

The shelter stalemate

The city’s housing needs have grown manifold in the aftermath of a constant migration from the districts in the last three decades of the 20th century and then, due to the another rise in demand after the IT upswing from 2000.

With more than 22 lakh households, urban planners point to the persistent challenges in the city, where around 40% of the residents are yet to own a house.

“Chennai is just growing in an unplanned manner. People are building units indiscriminately. It is just bursting at the seams. Civic facilities have not kept pace with the increase in dwelling units,” says former additional chief secretary Susan Mathew, who was vice-chairperson of the CMDA.

She lives in Mogappair and finds the traffic has increased considerably and says many dwelling units in the area are vacant. At the beginning of the century, Mogappair was a sleepy village close to Anna Nagar but now, has become a full-fledged residential area.

“Enough dwelling places have been built. Develop roads, water supply and infrastructure. If you do not have this, do not encourage people to come to the city,” says Ms. Mathew.

Around 15% of the households are categorised as belonging to high income groups. This is one segment that has grown a bit over the past decade. Overall, housing has hit a saturation point. “We developers have not added new houses. Unsold inventories are coming down. If the government fails to take steps, prices will go up soon,” says Suresh Krishn, president of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India (CREDAI), Chennai chapter. The sluggish economy could be another reason. Mr. Krishn says the government has to take initiatives to create more jobs in the city. “The approval process is taking a lot of time and effort. Land cost is high. Registration charges and stamp duty are really high at 11%. The government should bring it down,” he says.

Infrastructure gap

According to CMDA officials, the recent challenges in market conditions have affected housing for the high income and middle income groups, who constitute 35% of the total number. Civic infrastructure has not caught up with the needs of several thousands of housing units.

The housing for economically weaker sections of the society remains a challenge. Senior officials of the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) say the process of resettlement of slums is easier these days. “I had to rehabilitate dwellers in a slum along South Usman Road in the 1980s. More than 100 police personnel were present. There was violence. A group of people were carrying weapons. Our officials were not sure if they would return home alive on that day. We somehow managed to complete the process,” says an official.

The resettlement policy was also linked to vote bank politics. As the DMK had a strong vote base in the city’s slums, not much progress was made till 2006 after which those on the banks of the Adyar and Cooum, and the Buckingham canal were resettled in colonies in far away locations, such as Perumbakkam, Gudapakkam and Ezhil Nagar near Kannagi Nagar, posing fresh livelihood challenges.

Currently, around 2 lakh families rely on dwelling developed by the TNSCB and as the city grows, the demand for better housing for the economically weaker sections is bound to grow.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 9:03:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/the-shelter-stalemate/article19562923.ece

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