Diffusion #03: Don’t Be a Maybe

This post is for people who are interested in the real-estate industry and want to know what’s happening with the proposed development plan of the BMC for the city of Mumbai.

Video to watch before reading the post: BMC! You Screwed Me

Recent news of the BMC (The Civic-Body of Mumbai city) taking retardness to the next-level as far as development norms and regulations for construction go in the city of Mumbai, have literally been both surprising and extremely annoying to deal with.

FirstPost calls it: Good Morning Dear or Higher FSI will kill the already strained infra in Mumbai and won’t make property cheaper

Economic Times calls it with great detail for the first time: Higher FSI may not make Mumbai homes cheaper

The last couple of days for people like me who are “in the industry” have been rough because we have been bombarded by questions both by people who have absolutely no idea what the full form of BMC is and by people who don’t know if what is happening is a good thing or a bad thing.

Let’s start with the basics, FSI or Floor Space Index, essentially means how tall can you construct a building on a plot of ‘x’ size. The BMC has proposed to have a new standard for FSI, i.e - Make it variable ranging from 2.7 - 8.0, currently it’s at 1.33 for the island city (South Mumbai) and 1.0 for Greater Mumbai (Suburbs).

Pun Time: “Hansi toh FSI” - This Guy

That may not sound like a problem to most people, because for most people that just means more taller buildings and a better skyline. But if you really think about it with a bit more perspective on how the city currently is and just multiply everything presently by 8, that should give you a better idea how difficult this proposal would be to implement and how annoying will it be for the citizens of the city to live here after it has been implemented.

Look at the traffic at 10 a.m. on the highway, multiply that by 8. Look at the traffic while you’re going back home from work, multiply that by 8 too. Look at the number of people at your favourite coffee shop… You get the point.
The damaging part of the whole proposal is not just the increase in the population or the expected decline in the property prices (due to higher availability, chances of rates falling are also extremely high. duh?) but it is the lack of open-spaces and greenery which will be left in the city. I never thought, I’d be advocating about open-spaces and environment but seriously, Mumbai as a city already has so few of them, it’s actually a delight to spot one and it’ll only get worse as per the new proposal.

The proposal also talks about affordable housing reservations and other such farce socialist ideas, even though it was quite clear that an average price of an apartment in Mumbai as nearly as high as one in Manhattan and in some cases, it’s more expensive than Manhattan too. Affordable housing is probably the biggest lie to the people of this city and hopeful migrants, the civic body has ever been trumpeting about. It’s over, there is no such thing as affordable housing in Mumbai and if there is, the definition of affording has to be fixed in the dictionary.

The constant talk about how Mumbai lacks infrastructure and it’s a city which is sinking has never been more truer to me than now. When I read the proposal from the civic body for the first time, it just made me feel bad. Think about it, 8? With 1.33 we see towers coming up in South Mumbai already. (There are other things such as fungible FSI, TDR which is used to build these towers. Google those terms if you want to read up on it.) By infrastructure I don’t just mean roads and the issue with traffic jams, I am talking here about electricity, water, sanitation, garbage disposal and emergency infrastructure such as fire-fighting, policing and medical services. Mumbai is not a growing city or a developing city, it is a developed city. All the development on those fronts have been done and they haven’t been upto the mark, so far. Obviously things can change and I hope they do but looking at how the infrastructure is currently decayed and dying, adding more load and pressure to it doesn’t make sense in the long run.

Everybody I spoke to including architects, urban-planners and experienced folks in the real-estate industry in the last two days have said the same thing, “This is a great thing for people who own land in Mumbai and a bad thing for everybody who stays here.”

In context to the additional FSI which will be allowed by the civic-body and the fact that land prices of places where the FSI will be higher will infact increase, killing whatever the minuscule chance of prices of apartments dropping. If you pay more for land as a developer, you will sell the constructed apartments at a higher price to make your targeted percentage of profit. Along with he fact that the BMC in it’s 20-year development plan, the same one we have been referring to for so far, also includes the fact that there should be additional provisions to discourage people from buying a vehicle and more concentration on them using public transport which sounds great in theory but as my previous rants have proven, a stupid idea to even think about in the city.

See Diffusion #01

See Diffusion #02

All these points are obviously subject to the proposal of the civic-body being accepted without any issues, which is quite rare in this country and even though the more I think about it as someone from the “industry” it sounds like a good idea, if the BMC can help the developers pull it off and provide essential infrastructure at the lowest possible prices but as a citizen, this proposal worries me to a great extent and I think it should worry you too. I hope the BMC does infact look into a more better approach, taking into consideration the geography of Mumbai and opinions of urban-planners who are well-known for what they do instead of giddying up on Mumbai and trying to make profit. As a government body and as a civic-body incharge of the best city in the country, they should be a little more careful before taking drastic steps.

TL;DR: Don’t be a maybe, BMC.

If somebody you know argues, that the increased FSI will increase the availability and thus prices of the apartments would drop, point them to this article, k?


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