Mumbai builders change tact, push for retention of more agricultural land

Jan 12, 2013, 06:42 IST | Varun Singh

Reason: Farmers and landlords are now selling their land at the market price, making it difficult for developers; builders are asking government to increase FSI in existing areas

Builders in the city are suddenly growing quite concerned over the depleting agricultural land in the state.

Earlier, builders were always pushing for agricultural land to be converted into Non-Agricultural (NA) and then turning it into housing or commercial developments, but now they are pushing to reduce the loss of agricultural land and are focusing on saving the economy. And how do they intend to make up for the loss of land and business? Simple: By asking the government to raise the Floor Space Index (FSI) at existing places.

As we try to get over the shock sparked by builders’ concerns, here is the inside story. On the backdrop of builders charging astronomical prices for homes, even farmers and landowners have hiked their prices and now have reached a point where land prices have become too high for even builders to afford.

While talking about the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) policy, Lalit Kumar Jain, president of CREDAI, pointed out that the solution lies in providing innovative housing solutions like increased FSI rather than forced-conversion of agricultural land for housing, which is routine under SEZ policy. “Most of the SEZ land is agricultural,” he said. “Internationally, it is a well-recognised fact that FSI below five spells disaster. Considering the area to be left for infrastructure like roads and open areas, the net FSI will come to around 2 to 2.5, which is quite acceptable as opposed to destruction of green areas,” he added.

Another builder said, “If we are going to take up all the agricultural land, the economy will suffer heavily because a major mismatch in the food growth and population will happen.”

However, Arvind Goel, president of Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry (MCHI) in Navi Mumbai, shed some light on another aspect.

According to Goel, the farmers selling agricultural land are smart enough to know the price. They ask for unaffordable market rates. “Land rates have gone high and landlords are asking for exorbitant prices,” said Goel.

He also claims that extra FSI will be of no great help unless more infrastructure is put in place to accomodate the population growth.

Meanwhile, housing expert Ajay Chaturvedi, claims it would be wrong to completely blame the builders. “The government should come up with a policy on sale of land and put some cap on how much the rates should be. If the government wants affordable housing, then it will have to step in and put some policy in place to stop price escalation,” he said. 

What is FSI?
>> The Floor Space Index (FSI) or Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is the ratio of the total floor area of buildings on a certain location to the size of the land of that location. the FSI of a particular area can be raised to build more floors atop a building and accomodate more people.

>> Arvind Goel, President of Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry (MCHI) in Navi Mumbai, says that that extra FSI will be of no great help unless more infrastructure is put in place to hold the population growth in the city.  

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