Take a hypothetical case: Nothing stops a developer from constructing tiny 300 square-foot apartments in tony Napean Sea Road in south Mumbai, selling them at, say, Rs 70,000 sq ft, and getting a total tax waiver on profits. Experts say no law prevents a builder from doing so, thereby making a mockery of the finance minister’s attempt to boost affordable homes in the country’s four metro cities. “Selling a 30-sq-m flat in Mumbai for Rs 2 crore under the guise of affordable housing defeats the entire purpose since there is no definition about how much such a house should cost,” said an industry source. The Budget offered a 100% tax sop for builders who build up to 322 sq ft in the four major metros (including Mumbai) and up to 645 sq ft.
“The person for whom it has to be affordable and his income bracket become most important indicators of his affordability . Moreover, this is not the first time that this trick of linking affordability to the size has been attempted,” said housing activist Chandrashekhar Prabhu.
He added, “There have been several instances where the government has not just given exemptions from different taxes, but also permitted preferential use of land in the name of affordability. The results are not difficult to predict. More than one small flat gets sold to members of the same family and they are amalgamated later.”
Architect Sanjay Devnani said, “Such tax benefits will allow unscrupulous builders to start making small flats and then selling combined flats in posh areas Misuse of rules and bending of rules has been the name of the game for some of the successful builders.”
Lawyer Anil Harish, who specialises in real estate regulations, said the law does not prevent builders from selling these small flats at any price. However, he added it would difficult for any builder to amalgamate the flats and sell it to one family.
“The rule is very specific. Multiple flats cannot be sold in such projects to one family. No second residential unit can be allotted in the entire project to a spouse or even a minor child,” he said.
But sources said despite these stringent laws, several builders have found ways to circumvent and amalgamate flats under the guise of providing affordable homes.
That brings us to the issue of affordability . The government has admitted that if the accommodation is available at a price equivalent to five years’ income, it can be considered affordable. By this standard, only a minuscule percentage of the population can afford the housing stock that is available in the market today .
A flat in the cheapest areas in Mumbai costs about one crore rupees. “Considering that only around 5% of the population pays income tax, we know that most people in Mumbai cannot think of buying a flat at one crore rupees. The person who can afford to buy it will have to have an annual income of Rs 20 lakhs so that he can afford to service the loans taken to buy the flat,” said an industry insider.
Credits ET Realty