Developers sore over amendments to building rules

Special Correspondent

Come out with suggestions

New rules specify “ridiculous norms” for car parking

Affordable housing cannot be conceived with these rules

KOCHI: The city-based prominent builders are sore over the recent amendments to the Kerala Building Rules and have come out with suggestions to tide over the problems faced by the construction sector.

One of the bones of contention is the changes with regard to the “access width” to newly constructed buildings. K.V. Abdul Aziz of Skyline Builders, who is the chairman of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers' Association of India (CREDAI), Kerala chapter, points out that there are very few roads of more than five metres width in Kerala.

He says that proposals and schemes for future road widening should be clearly laid out and sanctions should be based on the proposed road width. Linkage of the number of units and floor area of buildings to access width is “irrational and will result in only large apartments catering only to the affluent few being constructed.”

Affordable housing projects for the middle income group cannot be conceived with these rules, he says. “Rules are irrational and can be circumvented by sub dividing large plots into smaller plots resulting in better FAR utilisation for smaller plots. Hence old rules should be retained,” he says.

Mr. Aziz says the government itself is convinced that buildings cannot be constructed according to the access width norms introduced and have, therefore, included provisions for reduced access width exemptions for government buildings where public entry and traffic density are much more.

M.V. Antony, secretary of CREDAI, Kochi, says the new rules specified “ridiculous norms” for car parking. Thirty per cent visitors' car parking space for residential apartments has been made mandatory without any scientific study, he says. “Even a cursory study of existing apartment projects will show that virtually no cars are parked outside existing apartment complexes,” he says.

The typical occupancy rate of an apartment project is only 50-60 per cent. Even NBC (national Building Code) norms for cities of 10 lakh population specify only one parking space per residential unit up to 200 square metres of built-up area. Hence, mandatory parking should be specified as: one for every four (up to 60 sq.m); one for every two (60-100 sq.m); one for every apartment (100-200 sq.m) and 1.5 for every apartment (above 200 sq.m.).

He says that guest parking should be limited to a maximum of 10 per cent of off-street parking.

Parking should be permitted on mandatory setbacks leaving out minimum access widths specified and recreation areas.

K. Lava, managing director of SFS Homes, says the changed amendments regarding “owner shall ensure protective works” are impractical. He says that the possibilities cannot be assessed and only precautionary measures are to be suggested.

A private agreement between owner and developer has nothing to do with construction aspect and will only lead to leakages of information to competitors, he notes. The amendment that advertisements should carry all details of permit and issue date can be enforced. All other details can be given on the web site. He points out that any detail can be collected from the local body by any person on knowing the permit number; it is not practically possible to give all such details in the print and electronic media.

Najeeb Zacharia, president of CREDAI, Kochi, says that the amendment “setbacks shall be the same for the total building from the lowest floor” is a dampener. Basements used as parking areas, ramps, driveways and service areas such as electrical, pump, generator rooms should be permitted with setback required for buildings up to 10 metre height.

George E. George, a former chairman of CREDAI, Kochi says that the rule that the minimum distance between centre-line of street and building shall be 4.5 metres has now been changed. The minimum distance has been increased to 5.5 metres, which is “unfair.” This results in reduction of constructible area, he notes.

This will mostly affect small plots of three to six cents on existing roads of 4-4.5 metres, where all existing buildings will have a smaller set-back.

These rules do not affect high-rise buildings but will be a great burden for owners desirous of constructing houses on small plots.

Hence, the modification needs to be withdrawn, Mr. George says. Raffi Mather, joint secretary of CREDAI, Kochi, says the government should provide transferable development rights (TDR) to landowners who do free surrender of their lands to the government so that they can get market rates for their lands.