Large Developers Staying Away From Building Low-Cost Homes
Large developers are still staying away from building low-cost homes priced below Rs 25 lakh, prevented by low margins and infrastructure challenges. The government’s drive for Housing for All by 2022 has pushed several big real estate firms to venture into affordable housing. However, most remain reluctant to building low-cost homes for those who are classed as Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), the group with the highest demand for housing.
Under the affordable housing platform, most big developers are building homes with prices ranging between Rs 30-80 lakh. These are technically not low-cost housing homes catering to EWS for anywhere in Rs 3-25 lakh range.
We haven’t really gone into the depth where the real demand is. The real demand comes from people whose annual household income is sub-Rs 3 lakh. These are the people who can afford homes for Rs 7-8 lakh. Ninety-five percent of the demand is the Low-Income Group (LIG) and EWS, said national director, Knight Frank Ltd, a property consultant firm.
India’s current housing shortage in urban areas is estimated to be around 10 million units, said minister of state for housing and urban Affairs in January this year. Though substantially less than the earlier estimate of 18 million units (as per a 2012 government study), the supply of homes to low-income groups (LIG) and EWS is still a trickle. According to the study, over 96% of the total shortage falls under LIG and EWS category.
As per data compiled by realty research firm PropEquity, of the total housing supply that came in last year in the top 15 cities, around 28% were homes costing below Rs 25 lakh. In the first quarter of this year, only 5,313 homes below Rs 25 lakh were launched as against the total of 19,513 units that came into the market.
At present, only a few builders like Tata Housing Development Co., Mahindra Lifespaces Developers Ltd and Brick Eagle Group operate in the low-cost space. Others like Shapoorji Pallonji Real Estate, Puravankara Ltd, Hiranandani Communities and Brigade group have launched homes costing up to Rs 60 lakh under the affordable housing platform.
The biggest challenge is, there is slim bottom line play (in low-cost housing). The format is very difficult in metros because of high FSI (floor space index) cost apart from density and other issues said promoter of Noida-based ATS infrastructure that recently launched an affordable housing platform, ‘Home Craft’, to build homes priced between Rs 40 lakh and Rs 80 lakh.
CEO, Shapoorji Pallonji Real Estate, agrees low margins are a challenge even as the firm looks to build homes below Rs 25 lakh to take advantage of government incentives, particularly a one-year tax exemption to developers.
Margins are difficult to manage as we need to buy land also and infrastructure costs quite a bit as the parcels are far away from the city, he said. At present, the firm is developing two affordable housing projects under its Joyville brand.
Margins for low-cost homes range up to 20% while in mid-income and luxury housing, it can go up to 35%, according to developers.
Despite the government’s decision to raise the carpet area applicable for interest-linked subsidies under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban (PMAY-U), builders are hesitant about building low-cost homes because the buyer base is unorganized, coupled with funding and infrastructure challenges. Instead, mid-income projects, between Rs 25-50 lakh have emerged as the sweet spot.
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