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Raze old, raise new buildings
- Proposed rule shift signals realty boom

A set of new building rules, to be tabled in the state Assembly in the winter session, promises to spark a realty boom in the heart of the city, replacing condemned buildings with new ones.

According to an estimate by the civic building department, more than 75,000 buildings can be declared unsafe in the city, demolished and built anew.

Most of these buildings are litigated properties, housing tenants for decades. Because of the low rent, the landlords have lost interest in maintaining the buildings.

The draft of the proposed bill is yet to be finalised. It is likely to offer incentives to both tenants and landlords to undertake reconstruction of condemned buildings.

The new rules will allow the civic authorities to raze unsafe buildings if developers come up with reconstruction proposals containing “acceptable schemes” for rehabilitation of the tenants or occupiers.

To make reconstruction commercially viable, developers might be allowed to add 25 per cent to the floor area. But the mandatory open space requirement will not be relaxed for the purpose, claimed the deputy secretary of the municipal affairs department. The floor area must then be increased vertically.

For example, a two-storeyed condemned building on a four-cottah plot can be rebuilt as a five-storeyed structure covering two cottahs.

“It is impossible to bring about all-round urban renewal in Calcutta by honouring all the provisions of the existing building rules,” said mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya. “Reconstruction under the current building rules can be viable only if landlords are allowed to throw out tenants, which cannot be permitted,” the mayor added.

“The city needs building rules with a pragmatic approach towards urban renewal,” observed municipal commissioner Alapan Bandyopadhyay.

The prospect of such a “pragmatic approach” would bring cheer to realtors but only if the “logistics” are properly worked out. “This is something we have been asking for, but the deal has to be made hassle-free and attractive for builders. If implemented properly this could be a model for other cities,” said Pradip Chopra, former secretary of Credai (Bengal), the nodal body of builders.

But house-owners are already drawing the battlelines. Amar Mitra of All Calcutta House Owners’ Association said: “Rehabilitation on ‘as-it-was’ basis is okay for residential tenants occupying less than 900 sq ft. There are tenants who pay a rent of Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 a month for 3,000 sq ft. Such tenants should be rehabilitated on 900 sq ft, plus say 10 or 20 per cent of the additional floor space.”

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