TIME TO END HOUSING WOES

The Supreme Court’s intervention to set right the wrongs in the housing sector is timely. Chaos reigns in the sector and the scenario is worsening due to lack of governmental interest in this important matter. The apex court has asked the Centre to frame a policy to protect home buyers who are cheated or are put into serious trouble by real estate companies. This directive came in response to petitions filed by home-buyers who put money in the Jaypee Infratech Ltd and were treated to an unending wait for delivery of accommodation. The court stretched the plea to a wider level to cover the problems of home-buyers across the country.

Due to fluctuations in market, legal hassles and other reasons, several real estate firms have not been able to meet the expectations of home-buyers who have put their hard-earned money into such ventures in the hope that they could soon own a flat or a villa. In several cases, the land acquired for the purpose by companies ends up in litigation. Monetary issues too pose problems in the successful completion of housing projects. With a substantial part of the money already put into such projects, the long delay or even cheating they face becomes unbearable.

Notably, most urban dwellers who put money in housing ventures are middle-income groups, though substantial numbers go for luxury, high-end accommodations too. Delay or cheating hurts all more so in the case of the salaried middle income families, as in many cases what they put in is their lifetime’s savings. The gratuity and other end-of-service benefits a white collar employee gets is just sufficient for the purchase of a home at the fag end of his life, and no more. This, at a time when middle-scale flats cost as high as a crore or more in most cities. Once the hard-earned money is put into some private housing schemes, their fate is often sealed. So many crooks are playing games in this sector also because successive governments have not been able to regulate the activities in this sector.

While Independent India started five-year plans, a critical neglect was of the housing sector. Cities began building themselves up with no governmental help or regulations in place. The result is chaotic growth of urban sprawls without proper roads, water facilities and drainage systems. This neglect continues for the past 70 years and it the reason why India hardly has planned cities; the exceptions being Chandigarh, Bhubaneswar, Navi Mumbai and Gandhinagar. The rest is in total chaos. Government cannot be allowed to abdicate its responsibility.

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