Govt to free up larg tracts along Eastern Exp h`way

In a major bonanza for developers, particularly in Mumbai, the state government is all set to free up surplus vacant land where development was till now restricted to build houses for the poor. Large tracts of land will be freed up along the Eastern Express highway and LBS Marg, said sources.

The urban development department has proposed to the state cabinet to free up the land for creating affordable housing as recommended by the two-member committee comprising Retd. Justice B N Srikrishna and retired bureaucrat B N Makhija. If approved, there will be a spurt in land supply in Mumbai which has a number of industries especially in suburbs such as Vikhroli, Mulund, Bhandup, Ghatkopar, Goregaon, Andheri and Powai.

In its note to the cabinet, the department has said the government can earn Rs 12,010 crore revenue through premium which can be used to create one lakh affordable tenements which will be sold at Mhada rates. These tenements will be in addition to those to be constructed by developers on the freed land, which will be sold at market rates.

The premium to be charged will vary from 5% to 100% of the Ready Reckoner Rate on the exempted land depending upon which category the land falls under. The Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulations) Act, 1976 allowed the government to acquire land in nine urban agglomerations in Maharashtra. The definition of surplus land varied from over 500 sq metres to over 2,000 sq metres depending upon which urban agglomeration the land was located in. For instance in Mumbai, land over 500 sq metres was classified as surplus land.

The surplus vacant land thus identified was meant to be used for building houses for the poor and middle class. The tenement size was prescribed as ranging from 431sq ft to 861sq ft.

The Act was made applicable to land on which buildings had already been constructed, agricultural land (gardens, playgrounds etc) and industrial land. Large tracts were exempted from the ceiling as owners claimed they were being used for purposes that were generating employment.

The Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act in its application to Maharashtra was repealed in 2007 after it was first repealed by the Centre in 1999. In 2010, the Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry approached the Bombay HC demanding that since the Act was repealed, section 20 of the Act that mandated the land be used for housing the poor be also repealed. However, the court upheld the scheme. The matter is now pending before the Supreme Court and is likely to come up for hearing on February 19.

In 2017, the state set up a twomember committee to recommend on what is to be done with the surplus land. The committee has recommended that buildings constructed on lands that were granted exemption must be allowed to redevelop after charging a 5% premium on the entire exempted land as per the Ready Reckoner Rate. In case of industrial land if the land is freed from the ULC Act, around 2,158 hectares (5,333 acres) will be available for construction. Mumbai (429 acres) and Thane (79 acres) that have several industries could see land becoming available for housing.

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