The Punjab government’s new policy for the establishment of residential colonies in the state has certainly not been received with accolades that had been expected.

While the policy has simplified a large number of counter-productive issues that were involved in setting up of residential colonies by private builders in the state, the policy is bound to hit the medium and small colonisers hard. From the buyers’ point of view, this could mean access to only high-priced housing facilities in the larger cities.

The state has been divided into three zones based on the growth potential of the area. The Greater Mohali area has been placed in the hyper zone while Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana have been placed in the high potential zones in the state.

All those areas, which are within 5-km along both sides of NH1 (Grand Trunk Road) have been placed in the medium potential zone. All other areas fall under the low-potential zone.

According to the new policy, a residential colony (plotted) will be of minimum 100 acres in the high potential zone, 50 acres in the medium potential and 25 acres in the low potential zone.

For a group housing scheme, the minimum area required for the coloniser in a high potential zone will have to be 10 acres independent and five acres as part of a plotted colony. The rule remains the same for the medium potential zone. In low potential zone, such a colony can be established in 5 acres.

A coloniser will now have to gather at least 100 acres of land in Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana to set up a residential colony. This leaves only big national players in the field. A local enterprising builder, who is ready to follow the rules but can afford only, let us say 20 to 30 acres to set up a colony, cannot dream of it. This, in turn, means an end to the availability of low-priced small colony houses for the middle-class. It is also bound to lead to mushrooming of illegal colonies in the state, say colonisers. The department has also laid down two acres as the minimum area requirement for the setting up of a “commercial colony” in the state. The minimum area of plotted development within the jurisdiction of urban local bodies has been fixed as 5 acres and would be 4,000 square meters in case of group housing and commercial use.

For a commercial activity, the minimum frontage is 30 meters and minimum road width is 100 feet. For group housing, the minimum frontage has been laid down as 20 meters and minimum road width 100 feet.

Not only has the government made the minimum area requirement too stringent, but has also sharply increased the external development and change of land use charges (see box). At some places these charges have been doubled. So even if a local coloniser manages to procure the land, it would be very difficult for him to dole out crores upfront as EDC and change of land use charges. Needless to say, in the end, the burden would have to be shouldered by the buyer.

The government’s logic is that the policy encourages only serious players in the field of private housing so that instances of colonisers taking buyers for a ride are reduced. Fair enough. But encouraging national players at the cost of a local enterprising builder is probably not the best way to do it.

Strengthening the regulatory mechanism of licensing authorities is where the key lies. In the last regime, more than 35 colonies were given a nod by one of the many licensing authorities within a record time of one month. Obviously field officers never visited these projects. So if a coloniser has not provided what he claimed to the resident, both the coloniser and the government’s licensing authority are to be blamed equally.

Source: The Tribune
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