Affordability in housing

DDA, being the primary avenue through which Delhi's citizens acquire property, should strive to provide quality housing at affordable prices; writes Ganapathi Nagarajan

Affordability in housing

The Delhi Development Authority's 2023 housing scheme emerges as a beacon of hope for many, unveiling around 5,000 flats, predominantly categorised as Low-Income Group (LIG) residences, with a limited selection of Middle-Income Group (MIG) and High-Income Group (HIG) units. These homes, anchored in the sprawling outskirts of Delhi in neighborhoods like Narela, Rohini, Loknayak Puram, and Siraspur, present an accessible dream, with LIG flats priced within the realms of possibility for the average citizen.

However, the plot thickens when we shift our gaze to the MIG and HIG flats. Situated in coveted areas like Dwarka and Jasola, their price tags, soaring up to and beyond the hefty sums of one to two crores, cast a shadow of exclusivity. The stark contrast in affordability raises a crucial question — should desirable locations be a privilege only the affluent can enjoy? This price disparity seems to erect barriers rather than bridges for the middle and upper-middle classes, arguably the backbone of any thriving urban tapestry.

Moreover, when one juxtaposes these DDA offerings with the modern, amenity-laden abodes provided by private entities within the National Capital Region, the DDA's antiquated structures appear out of step with contemporary demands. The private sector, with its eye for aesthetic finesse and modern comforts, offers not just a house but a lifestyle at prices that challenge the DDA's paradigm. The question lingers: Can the DDA align its vision with the pulse of its citizens, offering not just a roof, but a home that mirrors the spirit of New Delhi?

It is a widely held expectation that housing organizations, especially those affiliated with the government, should prioritize the delivery of superior quality housing at accessible price points. Unfortunately, it must be acknowledged that properties offered by entities such as the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) frequently lack the finesse, aesthetic appeal, and amenities that one might anticipate. These agencies ought to invest not just their resources, but also their creativity and dedication, ensuring that the developments reflect their reputational standing rather than merely capitalizing on it.

Historically, the DDA has been the primary avenue through which Delhi's citizens could acquire property. Yet, as prices escalated, many were compelled to look towards emerging localities like Dwarka, Rohini, and Narela, or even across the Yamuna to places that offer a more feasible lifestyle. Dwarka and Rohini have maintained their allure, but Narela struggles, predominantly due to its less-than-ideal location and connectivity issues. Conversely, Noida, Greater Noida, and the areas surrounding the Yamuna Expressway have gained popularity for their structured urban planning and improved living standards, despite the challenges of water quality.

In the past, housing cooperative societies formed by government employees and members of the working class have taken the initiative to construct housing solutions tailored to their needs. However, the landscape has evolved with the advent of private developers, who have demonstrated commendable efficiency in offering well-appointed housing with a plethora of amenities at competitive rates. The question then arises: if private entities can provide high-quality, feature-rich housing at reasonable costs, why shouldn't government agencies like the DDA and NOIDA aspire to the same standards? It is a call to action for these institutions to redefine the value they offer to citizens and to recommit to their foundational mandate of serving the public with excellence in housing.

As the Delhi and NCR area is categorized within Zone 4 for seismic activity, indicating a high vulnerability to earthquakes, the proliferation of multi-storied high-rises demands urgent attention. In light of disaster management protocols, there is a pressing need for regulatory bodies, including the Delhi Urban Arts Commission, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, and academic institutions like the IITs, to collaboratively formulate and revise guidelines governing the construction of such buildings. The establishment of stringent criteria for permitting high-rise constructions could significantly mitigate the risks associated with seismic events.

Moreover, given the escalating Air Quality Index (AQI) readings in the region, which pose severe health risks and threaten to deter tourism, there is an imperative to allocate more urban spaces for greenery to promote the circulation of cleaner air. Strategic interventions from think tanks like NITI Aayog and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in crafting relevant policy measures are vital.

In tandem, the inauguration of the Delhi Meerut Rapid Rail and the expansion of the metro network, coupled with an emphasis on public transportation usage, should contribute to a marked improvement in air quality. The NCR Planning Board should be proactive in integrating these developments into a comprehensive policy framework, aiming to elevate the standard of living for the community and ensuring a sustainable urban environment for future generations.

The writer is retired CSS Officer. Views expressed are personal

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