Haryana is a small state in terms of size but big in terms of agricultural production due to fertile soil that is suitable for agriculture. This means that availability of land for purposes other than agriculture will always be at a premium. Given this background, providing housing for an ever growing population will remain a challenge for any administration.
The demand for housing itself is broken up into categories of people, who belong to either Below-the-Poverty Line (BPL), Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) income up to Rs 1 lakh per annum, Low Income Group (LIG) income between Rs 1-2 lakh p.a, Middle Income Group (MIG) income between Rs 2-4.5 lakh per annum and High Income Group (HIG) above Rs 4.5 lakh per annum.
Therefore, the government has to balance the availability of land to meet the demand for housing from each of these categories. The demand volume is a pyramid with BPL at the bottom of the pyramid and the HIG at the top.
Given the sheer size of population and the growing need for housing, the state government has failed to take a long term approach to meeting this demand. Take a look at the policies so far.
Most of the premium residential areas have been offered to private developers, especially in places like Gurgaon and Faridabad. These developers are free to develop residential units as per sizes determined by them and sell them again at a price determined by them. This has resulted in expensive housing units that cater to only the HIG category of persons. This is a segment that would normally not stay in a state government- built colony for HIG category.
But what about the rest of the pyramid? Where do they stay in an area like Gurgaon or Faridabad? The short sighted approach keeping only profits in mind has resulted in these regions only catering to the premium segment of the upper HIG and has done very little for the rest of the pyramid.
Short sighted planning
Now let's take a look at the state government's policies and plans for housing for the economically weaker sections. On June 08, 2013, the Honable Chief Minister announced that under the Priyadarshini Awas Yojana (PAY), the state government would provide 100% funding to build pucca houses for the poor. The aim is to provide 2,00,000 pucca houses for the poor. The payments are released as per construction phases.
In 2013, the Haryana Housing Board announced it would build 1,50,000 houses for the weaker sections. The plan announced was that 50,000 units would be built by the Housing Board Haryana, 50,000 units by the Urban Local Bodies Department and 50,000 by the Town & Country Planning Department through private developers.
The plan offered was a 60 yard plot to a weaker section person, to build a 300 sq ft covered residential unit that will include 2 x rooms, 1 x Kitchen and 1 x toilet. This means that for building 50,000 homes we need 60 sq yd x 50,000 units = 30,00,000 lakh sq yards or 619.83 acres of land and this does not include space for common areas!
Now if we were to build a multi storey high rise building to cater to the massive demand for housing, let's make some assumptions. Instead of 300 sq ft of covered area as allowed in the existing plan, we shall take 540 sq ft super area per flat and build 20 units per floor.
Now, if we build a 20 storey building with 20 units per floor, we get a total of 400 units, which means that for the same amount of land where the government builds 20 units, one can get a total of 400 units. If we add more floors, we get more units @ of 20 per floor.
Now this is basic math. So why does the government plan to give out 1,50,000 plots of 60 sq yards each when it can easily cater to 20 times that number, in the same ground space. Given the shortage of space which will only increase in future, why should the government lose 60 sq yards of land permanently when the usage of that land could be optimised by going vertical? Yes, it does require higher investment to build a high rise but underutilising precious land is certainly NOT an option.
The entire approach to providing mass housing to the poor is wrong and extremely short sighted. At present, we have options of ground, G+1, G+2 and G+3 options for the weaker sections. We have to do away with the notion that a high rise is only for the rich and not for the poor. Russia, France, Brazil and several other countries have all undertaken mass housing for the poor using high rises. The only issue to be handled is cost of building and cost of maintenance. Both can be addressed by innovative financial schemes and people participation.
Vertical construction, need of the hour
As each year goes by, the need to optimally produce food for an ever growing population will continue to rise and land will continue to command a premium. Therefore, it is imperative for us to review our existing policies with regard to mass housing for all sections of society. The fact that we need to go vertical is beyond debate, what needs to be further discussed are the level of facilities that need to be offered to each category and at what cost.
Here again, the government seems to follow the beaten path wherein they build and sell flats directly or get the private sector to build and sell. The government has just not looked at the large segment that is not looking to own a house but to rent it.
Crucial rental segment ignored
The government has left the rental market to follow free market pricing based on demand and supply. This has left the rental market to go beyond reach in places like Gurgaon and Faridabad. A normal 1200 sq ft flat is commanding a rental of Rs 40,000 and above in Gurgaon, so where is the chance for anyone in the pyramid being able to afford living in places like Gurgaon?
The government has to undertake to build and own residential housing, at least a certain part. The government can set a fixed rental for each category in the pyramid and hold rental prices for long periods. If these are built in sufficiently large numbers, these units will have a deflationary effect on the overall rental market, which in turn will ensure that people have more disposable income available to buy other needed goods and services.
This in turn will spur the economy further. As government will continue to hold the land, the only cost involved will be the construction cost. This can be recovered over a long period through innovative financial planning.
Fresh approach needed
The present Hooda administration has proven itself to be extremely short sighted and profit driven. If Haryana has to emerge as a modern developed state then it will have to bring in a Nayi Soch to mass housing for all. Since the present administration has not shown any signs of a Nayi Soch, it is now up to the people to bring in a change that will build a Naya Haryana.