Building Living Communities
The term ‘affordable housing’ gets wielded so effortlessly, but it continues to be a misnomer. For a short spell of time real estate prices had corrected to realistic levels, giving many the hope of becoming homeowners. However, as soon as economic conditions improved, residential prices in many pockets of the country increased sharply once again. How can one envisage building globally competitive cities when progressively a larger segment of society keeps getting priced out of the housing market?
On a more positive note, certain recent initiatives by the government have been encouraging. The government, through the Rajiv Awas Yojana is allocating funds to encourage states to move towards slum free cities. This needs a long-term commitment of at least twenty years, but is a laudable initiative. Plans to establish a dedicated debt fund to provide long-term resources for infrastructure projects set up through public-private partnerships is another positive step. This year, Delhi is expected to be the first to put in place a real estate regulator which will protect homebuyers from fly-by-night developers and instances of fraud. Hopefully this should set a precedent for other states to follow suit.
Ultimately, the onus of building vibrant living communities rests not only with the government, but with all stakeholders. The challenges of urbanisation are overwhelming, but I am optimistic enough to believe that India’s cities will change – perhaps not at the desired pace, but nonetheless a change for the better. Though for this to happen, vision and will, in no small measure is required. The future will get here faster than we think.