How Illegal Construction Paralyzes Our Cities

Kishor Pate 2Kishor Pate, CMD – Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd.

Governments and municipalities across the world are waging a war against illegal constructions over a decade now. This has been a global phenomenon, crippling cities and compromising their logical growth.

Urban development is not just about high rise constructions but a painstaking planning. Open spaces and revised construction are a part of this planning and thus countries like India have been investing in demolitions as a planning tool.

However, illegal constructions continue to cripple roads, public spaces and other amenities. Successful urban planning in India will only have a future when it is complemented by efforts to educate the masses about its importance. Real estate buyers need to know how illegal constructions impact regional planning and development – and them personally.

More awareness would lead to greater due diligence at a consumer level. We have nation-wide campaigns about the evils of tobacco use – can such efforts not be put into creating greater awareness about this social evil?

It is tempting to say that education of developers is equally important; that if more real estate developers understood the deeper rationale of urban planning, they would be far less likely to violate municipal codes and standards. However, if we look at the problem of illegal construction in India, it is evident that the root cause is developers who just couldn’t care less.

Even where efforts are undertaken to publicly explain the desirability of planning, some developers will inevitably disregard the law purely for financial benefits. Illegal construction is done knowingly, simply to extract financial profits from the construction.

The main reason why illegal construction is so profitable to unscrupulous developers is that there is a population explosion which needs to be solved by housing. Where illegal constructions grow alongside legal constructions, urban areas soon become wastelands of mismanagement and pollution.

Source: http://realestateindia.anandmahal.com/illegal-buildings-razed/
Source: http://realestateindia.anandmahal.com/illegal-buildings-razed/

In fact, the rapid and uncontrolled growth of population has led million in this globe to opt for slums. In any developing city, it is not unusual to find anything between 30-60% of the population living in slums or otherwise unauthorized spaces. Since these constructions aren’t regularized, they don’t enjoy the amenities of piped water, storm drainage, sewers, roads, electricity, public transportation or healthcare.

Illegal constructions start with four walls and a ceiling, but soon take the form of high rise building, attracting more renters. They are often seen coming up in peripheral areas and even in premises of public utility like parks, near highways, streets, community centers, etc.

These buildings are constructed without the inputs of licensed engineers and architects. Failing any safety codes, these are also the first buildings to be affected by climatic upheavals. Also, legal constructions beside these buildings are at a risk, both physically and socially.

The Government of India has historically had a passive or even tolerant attitude towards such constructions. This has resulted in several problems in areas beset by illegal buildings, including:

• Absence of housing-related public services such as water and sanitation

• The haphazard distribution of such illegal structures makes it extremely costly for municipalities to provide water, sewage facilities and roads even if they are ‘regularized’

• The residents of such areas and buildings are not eligible for loans improve their homes or to expand business that they run from them, since banks will not accept illegal structures as collateral

• In the case of multi-level residential buildings, buyers can lose their entire investments – often their life savings -if the building is found to be illegal and demolished

It is only in the last decade or so that India’s state governments have been waking up to the hazards put forth by these illegal constructions. Some use demolition and others (unable to handle the pressure) regularize them in exchange of a fee.

Poverty certainly plays an undeniable role in illegal construction and accommodations. However, the more relevant cause is the profit motive of unscrupulous developers. Illegal buildings are already hijacking the future of our cities. It is high time that the state and central governments takes the strongest possible measures to curb this menace.

About The Author

Kishor Pate, Chairman & Managing Director of Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd. is the driving force behind one of the most successful real estate development firms in Pune and beyond. Apart from its signature luxury homes towers and premium gated townships, AEHL has also launched highly successful affordable housing projects like Astonia Classic and Colori in Undri and the Mediterrenean-style township Astonia Royale in Ambegaon.

Quality Construction: What Does It Really Mean?

Kishor PateKishor Pate, CMD – Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd.

Today, one of the factors one looks for while buying a home is quality construction. A home buyer wants to ensure that the home will:

• Be safe and sound for its inhabitants
• Usable for a maximum possible amount of years
• Will not develop problems over time
• Have good resale value if one decides to sell it

These are aspects which are next to impossible to judge when a residential project is new or only a couple of years old. Naturally, most property developers will ensure that everything looks ship-shape on the surface even if they do not necessarily follow quality construction norms.

Even on the resale market, we will find that the current owners of a resale flat will undertake cosmetic touch-ups to make their home look as new and unflawed as possible.

Banks do only a cursory check on a project’s overall construction quality while evaluating a home loan proposal. It has become a common marketing practice for developers to claim that their projects are of high-grade construction.

Those who do so without justification are aware that most home buyers are not equipped to make a value judgement on such claims.

Home buyers often select properties on the basis of location advantages such as availability of public transport, shopping and hospitals. In larger cities like Mumbai and Delhi NCR, plots in such locations are quickly snapped up by developers because they know that the location itself will sell their projects.

Because of this, they will often develop these projects at the lowest possible cost because their greatest expense lies in the purchase of the plot.

The situation is not as severe in smaller cities like Pune. Commuting distances are smaller, which means that home owners manage to reach workplaces, shopping outlets, healthcare facilities and places for family entertainment faster.

This is one of the primary reasons why land costs – and therefore finished property costs – in smaller cities are more rational. However, many developers try to cut costs wherever possible, so there is still a high incidence of inferior construction going on in cities like Pune.

How To Judge Construction Quality

To begin with, a developer’s brand is a fairly good indicator. Brand value has different meanings in different cities. For instance, the most reputed developer brands in a city like Mumbai also have the biggest price tags. Quality construction in their projects is assured, but so are ruinous property costs.

In Pune, a developer’s brand evolves more on a reputation for consistently high quality in offered amenities and construction. Such a reputation spreads quickly by word of mouth and becomes a benchmark for overall value and quality.

Because their reputation for quality construction is their primary ambassador in a very competitive market, branded builders employ only trusted contractors and ensure proper quality control throughout the construction process.

In other words, a builder’s brand status in a city like Pune is a reasonably good guideline to follow. This holds true in new constructions by such a builder as well as resale properties in his projects. The most important hallmark of quality construction is that it endures.

AEHL Project There are various ways in which a home buyer can check on the general quality of construction:

FOUNDATION

Patched cracks in a building’s exterior can be an indicator that the project has a faulty foundation. Other signs to look for are small cracks in walls of a flat, creaking or sticking doors and windows and improperly aligned or uneven floor, bathroom and kitchen tiles.

DESIGN

A quality construction project is designed in such a way that the weight of the overall structure is evenly and scientifically distributed. Also, a developer focused on quality will not spare costs when it comes to providing detailed finishing and intricate detailing, both in the building’s common areas and within the residential units themselves.

FIXTURES

Developers who pride themselves for quality construction do not allow their contractors to use cheap taps, window frames, door handles, electrical outlets and fittings. Likewise, common facilities such as lifts will be by established manufacturing brands and will be under a maintenance contract by a reputed facilities management agency. Any evidence of obscure, unfamiliar brands should be viewed with suspicion.

PAINT

Cheap paint on walls and doors is easy to detect. Good paint on walls and wooden surfaces not only enhances their visual appeal but also prolongs the life of these surfaces. If one finds that cheap paint has been used, this is evidence that the developer does not feel that investing in good paint makes sense because the surfaces themselves are not made to last.

CONCRETE QUALITY

The quality of the concrete used in a building depends on what grade of concrete has been used, what the concrete/sand ratio is and whether the concrete was allowed to cure for a sufficient amount of time. One rule of thumb is that it should not be too easy to drive a nail into the walls.

OPEN AREAS AND LANDSCAPING

Though it may not be immediately obvious, the presence of sufficient open areas and landscaping has a symbiotic significance with relation to construction quality.

The availability of open areas implies that the builder has not made filling every available square foot with sellable construction, and that he intends to provide a wholesome and pleasing experience to his customers.

Similarly, aesthetically done landscaping indicates that the buildings in a project are built to last and deliver value for the longest possible time.

The True Value Of Quality Construction

The average life-span of a project that has been built on quality construction parameters is around 80 years. After this period, a project will usually come up for reconstruction.

It should be remembered that the true investment value of a residential unit such as a flat does not actually lie in the flat itself, but in the flat owner’s share of the land that the building occupies.

In other words, it is the undivided land portion of the investment that one has made in a flat that amounts to the actual value of one’s investment. However, in real estate market terms, the longevity of a building is very much linked to how much it will fetch on the resale market, or how long an investor can derive rental income from it.

From the point of view of personal use of a flat for occupancy, quality construction ensures that the owner will incur much lower maintenance and repair costs and enjoy its security and comfort for much longer.

About The Author

Kishor Pate, Chairman & Managing Director of Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd. is the driving force behind one of the most successful real estate development firms in Pune and beyond. Apart from its signature luxury homes towers and premium gated townships, AEHL has also launched highly successful affordable housing projects like Astonia Classic and Colori in Undri and the Mediterrenean-style township Astonia Royale in Ambegaon.