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Half a million chasing 3,400 homes

Half a million chasing 3,400 homes

Bangalore: For Vishakha Patil, 52, who has lived in a one-room rented shanty in suburban Mumbai for most of her life, the sale of homes by Maharashtra’s housing authority is a rare chance to buy a property in the city, where at least 60% of the people live in makeshift residences.

The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) is selling 3,394 homes in central and suburban Mumbai in areas such as Sion and Malad. At least 70% of these are reserved for the poor.

Patil is among some 500,000 people who have bought application forms for Mhada’s sale, which comes a year after its previous such effort, although a chunk of that was for people with higher incomes. The sale of the forms ended Wednesday.

Many of the homes in this year’s sale are one- or two-bedroom apartments or just a room with a kitchen, priced up to Rs10 lakh. A small number of homes, set aside for higher-income buyers, are priced at Rs40-45 lakh each. The buyers are selected through a lottery.

Patil is eyeing a 180 sq. ft unit that will cost her around Rs3.6 lakh, or Rs2,000 per sq. ft, in Malad, a western suburb in Mumbai. That’s a bargain in an area where property prices hover at Rs7,000-8,000 a sq. ft. Of course, there are no private properties there in the size Patil is looking for.

A Mhada spokeswoman said the agency has received around 260,000 applications so far. With three more days to go, she expects the total number of people participating in the lottery to exceed 350,000.

“By the kind of reaction it has got, there would be about 80-100 families applying for each home on sale," said Gautam Chatterjee, vice-president of Mhada.

The sale is unlike the many new low-cost but distant housing projects developers are pushing to boost demand for homes. Tata Housing Development Co. Ltd, for example, recently launched its Shubh Griha brand of cheaper homes, priced at Rs3.9-6.7 lakh, around 60km away from central Mumbai.

Sion, on the other hand, is in central Mumbai and Malad around 15km from there. Both areas are?well networked by rail.

“Demand is back but at a certain price," said Chirag Negandhi, an analyst at Enam Securities Pvt. Ltd. “Such housing schemes would get a great response in cities such as Mumbai and Delhi because of their high property prices." He added that the onus of developing low-cost housing projects in the heart of the city lies with government agencies as they already have land in such places.

In mid-2008, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) sold around 5,000 flats in one of its housing schemes. About 860,000 people bought the application forms and another 400,000 downloaded the forms from the Internet. “We don’t have any immediate plan of a sale but we may think of one later in the year," said Neemo Dhar, a spokesman for DDA.

The City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco), a government agency that operates in Navi Mumbai, is planning to sell around 2,000 homes in March. The housing scheme is close to CBD Belapur, around 40km from central Mumbai, and the flats would be priced at Rs6-10 lakh, said a Cidco spokesperson who didn’t want to be identified.


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