Home >Politics >Policy >Higher FSI will lead to reduced market distortion, property prices: Sitaram Kunte
Sitaram Kunte says the new draft development plan clearly mentions that FSI is not an entitlement and no concessions will be granted in setbacks for achieving the permissible FSI. Photo: Hindustan Times (Hindustan Times)
Sitaram Kunte says the new draft development plan clearly mentions that FSI is not an entitlement and no concessions will be granted in setbacks for achieving the permissible FSI. Photo: Hindustan Times

(Hindustan Times)

Higher FSI will lead to reduced market distortion, property prices: Sitaram Kunte

Mumbai municipal commissioner defends draft development plan in interview, says idea is to ease space constraints, remove price distortion

Mumbai: A draft development plan for 2034 released by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) a fortnight ago is at the centre of a debate over its suggestion to liberalize the floor space index (FSI) rules for the city.

FSI rules determine how much one can construct on a particular plot of land.

The draft development plan proposes a variable FSI of up to 8 in different parts of the city.

This would mean that in areas where an FSI of 8 is permitted, one can construct up to 8,000 sq. ft on a 1,000 sq.ft plot. The proposal has seen strong opposition from town planners, environmentalists and political parties, many of whom have termed the policy pro-builder. The basic FSI currently is 1.33 for island city and 1 for suburbs.

In an interview, municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte strongly defended the draft development plan, saying the idea is to ease space constraints in the city and help remove price distortion in the Mumbai property market, which is considered to be among the most expensive globally. Edited excerpts

How do you plan to implement the plan to increase FSI to 8?

DP (Development Plan) 2034 has proposed FSI of 8 only for a limited area. Area under FSI 8 is proposed to be less than 0.5% of developable area.

Proposed FSI profile in DP 2034 should be seen as an outer envelope, which will not be fully consumed in the next 20 years. This will ensure that there is no scarcity of development rights that would cause distortions (in the property market).

Moreover, the new draft DP clearly mentions that FSI is not an entitlement and no concessions will be granted in setbacks for achieving the permissible FSI. Under these circumstances small plots and relatively new development will not immediately go for redevelopment.

The plot size requirement to consume FSI will be much higher. The present plot sizes in areas near suburban railway station are varying from lesser than 500 sq. m to a maximum of 800-1,000 sq. m. Such small plots will not qualify to consume higher FSI at any station area or TOD Zones (transit oriented development—development around transit points such as suburban railway stations, metro stations among others). This will definitely promote amalgamation of plots.

Larger plots shall have mandatory requirements of energy conservation, gray water recycling, solid waste management system and rain water harvesting. Besides this, such higher FSI development areas shall have to contribute 10% land area for public purposes, affordable housing and hand it over to MCGM.

Do you think this FSI hike will impact the sky-high property prices in Mumbai?

Since Mumbai’s FSI was artificially held low, it appears that floor space on its own increases density. In Mumbai’s case, it seems increased FSI will increase floor space consumption and not necessarily the density.

As FSI was very low in Mumbai, supply was less than demand. These distortions in the market led to skyrocketing of property prices. Adequate supply in the market will definitely help to resolve the problems of a distorted market.

There is criticism that the new rules are pro-builder?

Before hastily drawing any conclusions, one should first consider the present day scenario. In the suburbs, the present development is happening at nearly 3.0/3.5 FSI. As part of the DP 2034, 58% of the developable land is proposed to have FSI of 3.5 with a new definition of FSI where all covered areas are counted in FSI (except parking). In the Island City, the consumed FSI in the southern part is nearly 4.

One of the major criticisms of higher FSI policy is that, it has not taken into consideration limitation of city’s infrastructure?

There are a lot of misconceptions about the higher FSI being given in the proposed DP and how it is being used currently. 58% of city’s developable land is proposed to have less than 3.5 FSI.

If the trend of population growth of Greater Mumbai is seen, the population has stabilized in the last two decades; in fact Census 2011 shows declining population in the island city area.

The population growth is not much, hence the infrastructure facilities planned by different departments will be adequate for projected population of 2034. Infrastructure Projects undertaken by respective departments will fulfil the need.

In fact, the principles of TOD zones will allow developments to be environment friendly, without putting much pressure on municipal services.

Another area of criticism has been opening of the Aarey Colony (Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon East) for institutional development. Activists claim this will take away already limited green areas in the city. Your comment?

The area of Aarey is 1,009 hectares. Historically, small portions from Aarey have been carved out for various purposes such as cremation grounds and cemeteries, petrol pumps, site for Force one (The state police’s quick response arm in case of a terror attack), bio-tech establishment and some private companies, in an ad hoc manner.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Nariman Point was developed and that provided for the new corporate offices. In the 1990s, BKC, in response to economic liberalization, provided (space) for the spurt in growth of financial services and banking. However, during this period some opportunities were lost such as the Indian School of Business that went to Hyderabad or Indian Institute of Human Settlement that went to Bengaluru. The DP has recognized that if and only if the city and the state government wish to seek similar opportunities in future, Aarey is the only option. Thus the DP looks at Aarey as a strategic resource and not for general housing and commercial development.

How do you plan to overcome political opposition to the DP 2034, especially when it is coming from parties such as Shiv Sena (which controls the MCGM with Bharatiya Janata Party) and are also part of the ruling alliance in state and at centre?

I would like to urge everyone, not just political parties, to go carefully through the 600 page document. There is a brief background about every proposal and also a detailed explanation on why the proposal was made and then form opinions.

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