Containing encroachment and slums

Further to a recent post from Ravi (encroachments at your doorstep), our city needs to deal with the problem right now. Otherwise, before you know, we will have a handful of these and the slums, with numbers big enough to attract attention of the Gowda-clan. And these white-kurta folks can only think of short-term divisive tricks instead of solutions.

The solution is to encourage low cost housing. I am sure we have a law that forces builders to make a percent of residential property affordable to low income group. But the definition of “low cost” bothers me. Even a 500 sqft single bedroom flat could come to 5 – 10 lakhs. And even here, many builders cheat by showing these small units on paper, but later merging them with adjoining flats to ‘create’ and sell larger units.

One way would be to force builders to develop a fixed number of low cost units for each residential project they undertake in the city. They can choose the location of the low cost location. Inside their marquee projects – call them domestic help quarters or whatever. Outside their projects – they can buy land in a not-far-enough-suburb and build small units there.

To go hand in hand with this, there will be a need for usable and affordable transportation services to the city from nearby suburbs.

Last thing you want is government to grab land in the middle of the city and then sell or auction housing units at lower-than-market prices to low-income groups. That is just inviting corruption. We all know how government auctions work and the reality of government forced lower-than-market prices. It is just impractical to manage such a scheme.

The reality is, as the city grows, central area will become unaffordable to low-income groups. We got to encourage folks to live in the suburbs and commute to the city using public transport. Better plan for it now than later.

I can’t help but mention another point here. We, the middle and high-income group, help create the massive divide between the low-income group and us. How you may ask? We do this by paying our domestic helps so low that it can be termed as exploitation. We expect to get help at home for a few hundred rupees a month and at the same time, want these folks to find ‘legal’ housing within the city. How convenient of us to eat the cake, and then look at the government for cleaning up! Sounds a bit socialist, but tell me if there is no truth here.

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