BENGALURU: Which is the largest real estate brokerage in the city? Not one of the firms that has set up shop here, but a more familiar institution - the Bangalore Development Authority. The BDA's plans to 'develop' the 4,000-acre Kempegowda Layout is an opportunity to pause and think about what the agency does.
What does the BDA do, apart from building a few shabby flyovers at a snail's pace? By paying a small amount, it evicts farmers from their land, converts them into sites, and auctions them to middleclass investors. That is an arbitrage scheme, pure and simple. And it has nothing to do with the purpose for which new layouts are developed, on paper.
When a notification for land acquisition is issued, it claims that due to growing need for housing, it has to identify new land. On this basis, the BDA or Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Authority have issued preliminary notifications for acquisition covering vast tracts of land. But are we seeing the emergence of this urgently needed housing? The most recent layouts acquired by BDA, nearly 10 years ago, aren't even half-full of housing. Many private layouts that have been approved by the authority are also languishing, and speculators, who have bought those lands, show little interest in building houses.
It's not about housing at all. It's only about land, and the opportunity to buy low and sell high. Both the BDA and private investors to whom it auctions land are in the same business. The BDA is just a conveyance agency, using powers of acquisition to force owners to part with their lands at low prices that are attractive to speculators.
There is a much better way: Allow owners to develop their lands for new housing. BDA or any other planning agency can create zoning regulations and even layout plans for the new land. Instead of acquiring them, it could simply ensure that new layouts conform to regulations. There is much that BDA needs to do on the planning side. It should be encouraging development of group housing by developers; ensuring that in any layout, speculative holding of vacant lands is stopped, and inviting bids to set up schools and hospitals in new layouts before housing schemes are implemented.
Develop housing, not land. There is a deficit of affordable homes for majority of the population, either on sale or to rent. BDA should focus on closing this deficit.
Kempegowda Layout can wait. First, let's ensure city dwellers get affordable homes. That will do more justice to the city's original planner than running one more site auction scheme in his name.