Saturday, September 6, 2008
In a ruling that could change the face of Mumbai, the Supreme Court has cleared the way for pulling down more than 16,000 pre-1940 buildings — including chawls — that have become dilapidated, and constructing modern highrises in their places. The ruling has devised a win-win formula according to which people who occupied the old tenements will be given, free of cost, flats of the same size in brand new buildings. Other flats in the building can be sold by the builder, who has been allowed to make his money by relaxing the floor space index (FSI) to permit the construction of high-rises. Cities across the world tackle housing shortages through redevelopment and the construction of high-rises. But rules governing land use remain archaic in Indian cities. That includes FSIs that are low by international standards, inhibiting the construction of high-rises. Coupled with other restrictive legislations that hobble the real estate sector, the net effect is acute housing shortages and the proliferation of slums. Even among Indian cities Mumbai is a byword when it comes to housing shortage or lack of commercial office space. Inability to resolve the former means that the city offers a poor living standard to its residents. And unless it can tackle the latter it can bid goodbye to its dreams of becoming a global financial hub.