REDEVELOPMENT: THE BEST OPTION FOR DILAPIDATED BUILDINGS

REDEVELOPMENT: THE BEST OPTION FOR DILAPIDATED BUILDINGS

Collapses of old buildings and the loss of lives related to them, have become a regular affair in Mumbai. Despite the redevelopment option, many continue to live in these dangerous buildings, risking their lives. examines the reasons for the same

    Monsoon doesn’t just mean torrential rains in Mumbai; it also means building collapses. That is not to say that collapses don’t happen at other times of the year. However, dilapidated buildings become more vulnerable during heavy downpours and tend to cave in easily. Every year, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) carries out a survey, lists some buildings unfit for human occupation and serves eviction notices to the residents. The latter however, continue to live in the decrepit buildings, putting many lives in danger.
    Three buildings already collapsed in the first month of monsoon this year and many lives were lost. The number of casualties is only increasing, despite the availability of a surefire option: redevelopment. All the parties concerned – right from government authorities, civic officials, landlords and tenants to owners, are aware that redevelopment is the only solution and yet, redevelopment of old buildings has been moving at a snail’s pace.
RED-TAPE RAMIFICATIONS
The Maharashtra government has introduced several regulations and incentives to promote redevelopment, including the cluster redevelopment scheme for dilapidated buildings constructed before 1940, largely in south Mumbai. However, the procedures for approvals are lengthy and complicated, aver industry pundits. Corruption among approving officials is another major hurdle, allege some.
    “There are several reasons for the slow redevelopment of old buildings,” opines Viren Kapadia, survey coordinator of Remaking of Mumbai Federation (RoMF), which submitted its pilot proposal in 2010 for redeveloping a cluster spread across 30 acres in the C ward. “We are yet to receive the LOI, while a private builder developing 16 acres in Bhendi Bazaar has already received it. The government process is very slow and corrupt,” alleges Kapadia. According to a survey conducted by RoMF, the C ward alone has 2,950 old buildings (including 2,600 cessed buildings). Of these, only around 15 buildings have gone in for redevelopment so far.


INADEQUATE INCENTIVES
The government’s frequent change of rules regarding redevelopment and a different set of incentives for different areas, is another reason for less redevelopment in the suburbs, according to architect BH Wadhwa, who is involved in redevelopment projects in Chembur and Ghatkopar. “In the city area, the government has provided an attractive FSI incentive for redevelopment projects, whereas in the suburbs, there is no such incentive. Hence, it is not viable for many developers. The government has recently announced that incentives will be provided for redevelopment in the suburbs too but it has not been implemented yet.”
    The lack of incentives is another reason, reiterates Kapadia. “The government has increased the flat area for the current occupants of these buildings in south Mumbai, from 225 sq ft to 300 sq ft, which has reduced the developers’ profit margin. As a result, the response from developers is also unenthusiastic,” he explains. Steps like a simplified procedure, single window clearance, approval on fast track and higher incentives, have been suggested by industry players for speeding up the redevelopment process.
MHADA MAKEOVER
The redevelopment of the old colonies of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) have also been slow, more so since 2010, when the premium option was closed and sharing of flats was made compulsory. Now, MHADA is planning to revamp its redevelopment rules and has submitted a proposal to the state government. NK Sudhansu, chief officer-Mumbai board of MHADA, gives details of the proposal. “Earlier, the incentive (free FSI) was the same for both, single buildings and cluster redevelopment. Now, a higher varying incentive for cluster development, which can go up to 200 per cent, has been proposed. There is an increase in the entitlement area for current occupants and everything has been defined. We will have a model agreement, specify the qualification required for developers, etc., which will standardise the redevelopment process,” he explains.

QUICK BYTE
THE MAHARASHTRA GOVERNMENT HAS INTRODUCED SEVERAL REGULATIONS AND INCENTIVES TO PROMOTE REDEVELOPMENT, INCLUDING THE CLUSTER REDEVELOPMENT SCHEME FOR DILAPIDATED BUILDINGS BUILT BEFORE 1940, LARGELY IN SOUTH MUMBAI. HOWEVER, THE PROCEDURES FOR APPROVALS ARE LENGTHY AND COMPLICATED.
CLUSTER CATCH
Large-scale cluster redevelopment is definitely an uphill task, as it involves obtaining consent from tenants and landlords; providing temporary housing/business accommodation for occupants; duly compensating the landlords; reconstructing the building and developing the infrastructure in the area. “In a cluster development, bringing the landlords and tenants of several buildings together and making them agree on redevelopment terms, is very difficult. That in itself takes a long time,” informs Kapadia.
    Even in standalone societies, obtaining the consent of members is a herculean task, which inevitably delays redevelopment. There are several reasons for the reluctance of members – fear of losing their homes forever; reluctance to move to distant alternate accommodations or transit camps (in case of cessed buildings); disputes with the landlord/builder over compensation terms; etc. Other causes are lack of sufficient FSI; no conveyance or Occupancy Certificate; etc. A case in example is the redevelopment of Laxminarayan CHS in Ghatkopar, which is yet to take off even five years after the move was initiated by its members. Since, no conveyance was executed by the landlord, the members applied for deemed conveyance and obtained it in 2011. The change in the property card is yet to come through, although the required procedure was started in the same year. “That is not a major hurdle now, since the landlord is cooperative but three members are not cooperating as they are demanding a larger area and because of them, all the other members are suffering and living in a dilapidated building, in fear of a collapse,” laments the secretary of the society, Praful Mehta. Though, members of the Park View CHS in Andheri, are not living in fear of their forty-year-old building collapsing, they are keen on developing it before its condition deteriorates. The redevelopment process was started almost eight years back in this three-building complex, having 80 members. However, the members did not have the conveyance. So, they asked the builder appointed, to undertake the project to get the conveyance from the landlord. “The builder instead negotiated with the owners and purchased the entire plot, housing another society. He has now offered to give us the land on a long-term lease! We have filed a case in the court seeking conveyance in our society’s name. We have also applied for deemed conveyance early this year,” reveals Rajesh Joshi, chairman of the society. The problem is more acute in tenanted buildings, where neither the landlord nor the tenants undertake repairs. Disputes also arise between landlords and tenants in the redevelopment context. Tenants of a building in Mulund for instance, allege that since the landlord has plans of redeveloping the building into a commercial venture, he is trying to get rid of them by paying a meagre amount as compensation, which is much lower than the market rate. Some tenants also allege that municipal officials in connivance with landlords/builders, purposely declare their buildings as dilapidated. In all this confusion, it is hardly surprising that the redevelopment of old buildings is not taking place as expected. Hopefully, the new rules and policies being framed by the state government will give a fillip to the movement.

SIGNS INDICATING THAT A BUILDING IS IN A DANGEROUS CONDITION:
Large cracks on beams, pillars and walls. Cracks in ground floor tiles. Vibrations in the building. Fall of plaster and visible steel rods. Upheaval of floor tiles. Leakages in walls, which keep spreading. Sudden jamming of windows, doors. Inoperative lifts.