The legalisation of the transfer of leasehold plots has made the township a coveted address for residence. “We have received around 150 applications for transfer so far. Out of that, around 90 are being processed,” said an official of the urban development department which is handling the transfer.
To maintain transparency in the process, the department has recently mandated that residents who want to transfer their leasehold rights have to appear in person before an official not below the rank of joint secretary, prove his identity and submit a clearance certificate from the municipality for the transaction to take place. “We want both parties to come and declare their intention to sell and buy so there are no complications in future,” said principal secretary of the department Debashis Sen.
There has reportedly been a 15 per cent increase in plot prices after the government notification. The change in the law was effected in June 2012. “One ends up paying around Rs 6 lakh per cottah to the government itself,” said Arun Bhuwalka, a developer operating in Salt Lake since 2004. While the licence fee for plot transfer is Rs 5 lakh per cottah, the registration fee is also quite high. “It is charged on the basis of the valuation of the plot and of the building at the current market rate. Add to that the stamp duty,” he said.
The rising real estate rates are no deterrent for affluent residents staying in nearby localities or even afar. “It has always been my dream to stay in Salt Lake. Many of my acquaintances and relatives are also wanting to shift there as the process of transfer has now been made legal,” said Anand Kejriwal, an industrialist staying in Central Avenue. He is planning to shift to his Salt Lake residence in DA Block before Diwali. “My house is under construction. So it would take a few more months,” he said.
Bhuwalka, the developer, has himself shifted to Salt Lake. “I had an office in DB Block overlooking the green space close to City Centre. The afternoons, especially during summer, were so soothing. The residential sectors of Salt Lake will never turn into commercial hubs like in Lalbazar, Kankurgachhi or Burabazaar. Salt Lake is a planned city. So shifting here was the logical move,” said the former resident of Kankurgachhi who now stays in AJ Block.
Lack of pollution made Suresh Sureka of BH Block shift to Salt Lake. “I suffer from asthma so living in Howrah was tortuous. So when a relative suggested that I buy a house in Salt Lake I immediately started searching. I am in good health this winter. The greenery has worked wonders,” said Sureka, a businessman.
Kejriwal says Salt Lake is still far more affordable than Ballygunge or Alipore. “If you want to live in Alipore then you have no other choice but to live in an apartment. But you can live in a bungalow if you stay in Salt Lake. In Alipore, the price per square foot is around Rs 10,000 whereas it is Rs 8,000 in Salt Lake. So it is more affordable in comparison,” he says.
There are other factors working in favour of Salt Lake. “Development has come to a standstill in Alipore and Ballygunge whereas in Salt Lake there is room for development. Metro Rail will operate here soon and there are a number of shopping malls, schools and nursing homes coming up. As a result, prices of real estate would escalate in future,” said Kejriwal.
“Land may become costlier even now if the process of transfer is made simpler by the government,” Bhuwalka added.
No wonder that those who were tenants all this while are now pitching for ownership. The Agarwals stayed in a rented apartment in GD Block ever since they moved into the township in 1986. “But I had always dreamt of owning a house here,” says Dinesh Agarwal, a 70-year-old resident who is building a two-storeyed house in AH Block.
Houses in Sector III are the most in demand. “People are more interested in blocks that are close to Broadway like IA, IB, HA, HB, GC, GD, FD and FE,” said Pawan Bhuwania, another developer of Salt Lake, who has been in the business for 18 years. “In Sector II, blocks like CL, CK, DL and CJ are the most popular while in Sector I BF, CF, BD and BE blocks are in demand,” he added.
Those who made underhand deals earlier are queuing up to regularise the transfers. “At least 200 people have approached me in the past couple of months. The process is very complicated as in many cases, the former lease-holder demands a lot of money to be present before the authorities so that the registration can be done,” said Bhuwania.