A few years back, my business partner and I were on a fund raising trip in the US and decided to stay in a hotel on the outskirts of New York City. All dressed up in suits and our overcoats in the freezing cold, while we were waiting for the bus to take us to the train station, we were surprised and a tad bit anxious to find an unknown car stopping and offering us a lift to cross George Washington Bridge and drop us to the nearest train station. We thanked the driver after the ride. It was later that I understood that the driver was benefitting in the process, as this was a unique way of the government to promote car pooling. His toll card could qualify for the “Carpool Discount" if he had more passengers in his vehicle. While the issues related to such hitch hiking are debatable, the event remains etched in my memory as an innovative way to increase active participation of the general public to overcome infrastructure issues.

In the recently unveiled Mumbai Development Plan 2034, under the aegis of the Urban Design Research Institute, 250 NGOs, approximately 2,500 citizens and 24 resident associations have been actively involved in the review process initiated in January 2014. It’s the first development plan to be made available for such public scrutiny.

The development plan envisages the potential development of 3,700 hectares of land with approximately 65% allocated for affordable housing. The planned creation of 8 million jobs and 1 million affordable homes reaffirms the government’s commitment to the “Housing for all by 2022" objective and provides much-needed impetus to monetisation efforts of potential redevelopment parcels in the city.

The Master Plan is slated to act as a catalyst for improving the life of the common man by offering the following: Boost to mid-segment housing; converging housing projects with the advantage of extra floor space index (FSI), thus synchronizing with mass transit system; planned housing offering availability of large layouts of land parcels; mixed-use developments on the rise with a possibility of walk to work in future developments; creation of new nodes and decongesting existing choked infrastructure; foreign developers and FDI capital along with global best practices to bring in planned developments; additional 15% incentive area for redevelopment in housing societies older than 30 years. 

With a population of 21 million people, Mumbai is among the world’s most densely populated cities, at 31,700 people per sq.km. As planned urbanised area is projected to reach 1,300 sq.km by 2032, the success of urban land policy measures in global cities such as Seoul, Jakarta, Singapore, Hong Kong and San Francisco indicate that the right combination of land use implementation, clearly defined property rights and expansion of available area in the region are crucial in achieving sustainable development. FSIs in these cities range from 5.0 to 15.0, compared to the currently proposed permissible FSI of 2.0 for Island City and suburbs in Mumbai. Further, with the limit being set to 3.0 in Central and South Mumbai and 2.5 in residential suburbs, and special focus on areas around mass transit systems and the road width, the plan may achieve parity across different regions. Critical aspects of the plan include creation of parks, playgrounds and amenities to supplement residential projects, and the push towards affordable housing provides an alternative to the stagnant sales being witnessed in the luxury and high-end segment. 

Linkages to the mass transit system and road width will see higher impact in office space developments with the revised permissible FSI set at 5.0, up from 1.33 and 2.50 in the Island City and suburbs, respectively. The enhanced FSI will also need to create a business case due to premiums to be paid to the government. 

The plan also creates an opportunity for enhanced requirement of finance with a spate of new launches expected over a period of time. At present, considerable capital is being utilised in refinancing existing projects. The developments may also create a requirement for long-term patient capital, particularly in large residential schemes and office projects. 

I hope the implementation of the new development plan happens in the right spirit, acting as a catalyst to better lives for Mumbaikars. Hopefully, the infrastructure woes reduce and the lives of Mumbaikars improve with the Master Plan’s implementation.  

Puneet Bhatia, director and head-real estate, Mirae Asset Global Investments (India). The views expressed are personal