Sushil Mohta, Credai-Bengal Pres and MD, Merlin Group
While land scarcity is limiting developers to develop Residential Township Projects in West Bengal, the recent ‘Township Policy’ by the State Govt is likely to benefit the developers, says Sushil Mohta, President Credai-Bengal and Managing Director, Merlin Group – a leading developer of West Bengal.
Excerpts of his Interview with Sandeep Pattnaik of Gharabari.com.
1. Of late, the State Govt seems to have a pragmatic approach towards the Real Estate sector in West Bengal, given it is taking into hand some pro-active measures. What is your view?
A. For the first time in history, Government of West Bengal has realized the importance of urban development and real estate industry and that is the reason a Township Policy has been introduced. The Township Policy is for land measuring 50 acres and above is meant for inclusive development i.e. there will be provision for EWS housing as well as job oriented activity in each township.
2. Which are the key issues before the sector those need quick policy action from the State Government?
A. Land is very scarce in West Bengal. Ownership of land parcel is fragmented. It is really difficult to accumulate a sizeable parcel of land holdings in a short time, Consolidation of a 50 Acre land parcel takes long time at least 3 to 5 years. As such, real estate industry is expecting a policy for developments on smaller land parcels. Besides, due to Urban Land Ceiling and other issues, it is really difficult to get approval of housing projects.
3. How Credai Bengal do seeing the recent policy announcement by the State Govt. to auction PSU lands to private real estate players for new township development?
A. The PSU land will fetch good price and we welcome the decision of Government for offering such land parcels to private developers. Credai members will definitely look for such opportunities to buy those PSU land for development of housing/ commercial complex and townships. Presently Calcutta Tramways Corporation is coming with offers for their land parcels which are remaining unutilized by company and there has been quite a good response to such offers
4. With the TMC Government virtually slammed the brakes on planned expenditure; the state-funded housing schemes is likely to be affected. What is your view?
A. All over the world, Government is gradually limiting its role in the matters related to administration, policy making and facilitation. All the business is left to the private sector. Even social housing or EWS housing can be created by private sector. For that new models can be involved. There can be cross-subsidised housing by creating suitable policies where shortage of housing for LIG and EWS can be fulfilled.
5. What are your expectations from Budget 2015 for the Housing sector in the Country?
A. We are expecting some friendly policy for budget housing. Some concessions of interest on Home Loans to the LIG and MIG home buyers are expected. Further, to bring down cost of affordable housing the Govt. should consider relief in service tax, VAT applicable in construction and sale of affordable housing projects.
6. Any big-ticket investment inflow do you expect into the Bengal realty sector in coming years? Do you think the Govt. policy supportive to attract such investments?
A. We are expecting at least half a dozen townships to come in next 2 years which can become a trend setter in Bengal in time to come. We are expecting the government will be quite supportive for such investments in realty sector.?