GUWAHATI, Aug 26 � With the North-East Realty Expo-2011 currently on in the city, the organizers, Assam Real Estate & Infrastructure Developers Association (AREIDA), has suggested the State Government to consider creating special residential zones (SRZs) in order to ease the city�s mounting demand for housing.
Floating this idea, PK Sharma, president of AREIDA said that while the Government could consider notifying SRZs in line with special economic zones (SEZs) in comparatively degraded specific locations, tax concessions would only further make them attractive and viable.
Reasoning that land might be allotted or purchased at the SRZs, which can be also declared FAR (floor area ratio)-free zones and eligible for tax concessions, Sharma said that this would enable high-density vertical growth of buildings and would drastically reduce land cost per unit as well as make support-infrastructure like water supply, sewerage disposal, garbage disposal, transport, commercial centres, etc., financially and physically feasible.
In addition, he said, large concentrations of population would facilitate rapid growth of business activity in the periphery of the proposed SRZs.
According to Sharma, these measures, once implemented, could significantly reduce the cost of housing and make it affordable for a larger section of the population. �Guwahati faces housing shortage of about three lakh units during the current Master Plan period. Had it not for the private entrepreneurs, things would have been even worse than what it is today,� he said.
Dwelling on the city�s worsening civic problems, Sharma said that a lot of those issues were consequences of serious deficiencies in the earlier master plans. �However, we have at present the first and only scientific Master Plan in 40 years. We face the challenge of housing shortage of approximately three lakhs within the current Master Plan period,� Sharma said, adding that the PPP model mooted to meet the challenge had assigned the private sector the role of building construction and post-occupancy management, whilst land assembly and the bulk of support infrastructure had been assigned to government agencies.
�It is imperative to note that as high as 55 per cent of the housing need in Guwahati is in the low-income category, 35 per cent in the middle income category, and only 10 per cent from the affluent class. The skyrocketing cost of habitat is pushing it out of affordable limits of the low and middle class, so much so that we already have 30-40 per cent of Guwahati living in slums or slum-like conditions,� Sharma said.
Deliberating on the cost aspect, Sharma said that there were five components of costs involved in the housing process. These are land cost, construction material cost, labour cost, cost of various approvals, and the burden of taxes.
�But, what is more alarming is that the burden of taxes in Assam is as high as a total of 35 per cent, which is the highest in the country. An example is the 8.5 per cent stamp duty as against 1 per cent in Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, and even lower lump sum rate in the NCR,� the AREIDA president said.
Urging the Government to bring down the combined impact of taxes to within 10 per cent in tune with the National Habitat Policy 2007, which emphasizes special fiscal concessions to the housing sector, Sharma said that the current system of various approvals � be it building permission, electric permission or sale deed permission � left immense scope of corrupt practices and loads up to 25 per cent to the cost of housing.
�We request for a single-window transparent system under e-governance, and reduction of human contact to whatever extent possible with specific time limits to officials to complete their work. This would reduce cost up to 25 per cent,� Sharma said.