Suburban allure

Print edition : August 12, 2011

Luxury residential apartment sunder construction in Mumbai. Spiralling land prices and non-availability of land within city limits have resulted in housing development happening in the suburbs. - PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP

Upcoming townships in the suburbs of Mumbai aim to provide world-class living.

OVER the past one year, the residential real estate market in Mumbai has seen significant changes. Spiralling prices and the non-availability of land within city limits have resulted in housing development happening in the suburbs and in the neighbouring districts of Raigad and Thane. Data obtained from the office of the Registrar of Properties indicate that this has brought some stability to real estate prices in the city in addition to slowing down construction activity.

The investment boom in the real estate market has also petered out, and prospects have improved for those seriously looking for homes to stay in as opposed to those who want to merely invest in real estate. Also, it is possible to negotiate prices, but many potential buyers anticipate a downward correction in valuation and are willing to wait.

Until as recently as 18 months ago, the situation was very different. It was common for builders to sell entire projects before construction was complete. Many of the buyers were short-term investors who bought at project-launch or pre-launch prices and sold after a few months at considerably higher rates.

This comfortable relationship between developer and investor has broken down as developers seek the attention of serious buyers. They are ready to provide attractive discounts to buyers who can pay 35 per cent of the price of the apartment.

Builders have also shifted their focus to affordable apartments for small families from the luxury apartments the wealthy purchased as investment. Corporate houses, too, bought the luxury apartments for use by their senior executives. The recession and subsequent downsizing resulted in many of them selling off these large flats. Needless to say, the income from the sale was welcome in many balance books. For potential home-owners, resale flats came in vogue again.

The trend to move away from the city limits is a direct outcome of the average middle-class citizen's search for better facilities, be it electricity, water supply, transport, or even green spaces for their children. Inevitably, developers also moved northwards, aided in no small measure by businesses also moving northwards to beat the high prices and rents for commercial property in the city.

Townships

Developers with a long-term view of the market have started building townships in the suburbs. They will be self-sufficient in all respects and people will have to move out only to go to their workplaces. Often a walk-to-work option exists, thanks to the burgeoning industrial parks and special economic zones (SEZ).

By and large, the townships offer uniform facilities across the board. The homes are usually designed by a well-known architect who ties up with the developer for a series of projects. The community aspect is emphasised, with townships promising offices, schools, health care, entertainment and leisure facilities apart from retail outlets, restaurants and green spaces.

Three major developers who have cashed in on these trends are Tata Housing, Indiabulls and the Hirco group.

Tata Housing, which is one of the large housing companies in the country, has many township projects in hand. Apart from integrated townships near Pune and Talegaon, both close to industrial and commercial centres, the company also has township projects near the industrial town of Boisar and in Vasind, 80 kilometres from Mumbai.

The Vasind project, called Shubh Griha, is a 51.57-acre integrated township. The Boisar project, also called Shubh Griha, is what Tata Housing calls its initiative to be sensitive to the needs of people at the bottom of the consumer pyramid. It has been conceptualised on the theme of neighbourhood and community development, and offers a range of amenities and experiences that create a positive ecosystem.

The company says, With this innovative approach it moves beyond providing a home by giving its customers a sense of ownership of place and community life. This is driven by a variety of factors, including the physical environment, the number of facilities attached and the opportunity for social interaction.

Panvel, on the outskirts of Mumbai, is an ideal location for real estate development. It lies along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the Mumbai-Goa highway and is near the Jawaharlal Nehru port. Luxury living has come to Panvel with Indiabulls Greens. The property is in the vicinity of a number of upcoming SEZs and the new Mumbai international airport. Like most townships across the country, this one too is close to existing transport infrastructure.

Hirco has launched a large township at Panvel called Hiranandani Palace Gardens. To date, it has built over 30 million square feet of mixed-use residential townships across Indian cities. More than 100 global businesses have established offices in the Hiranandani townships.

The Hirco approach is to locate its township developments on large, undeveloped parcels of land amounting to hundreds of acres each in well-connected suburbs near major cities. This approach retains the location advantages a major city offers such as access to an international airport, rail and road networks, talent pool, leisure facilities and commercial services. At the same time, the scale of the undeveloped site enables Hirco to develop local infrastructure and services from scratch with a single unified vision and to the highest world-class standards.

Billed as an integrated, multi-services SEZ township, Palace Gardens offers residences, shops, restaurants and interconnected green spaces. The project is coming up on 583 acres (1 acre = 0.4 hectare) and will have excellent connectivity to National Highway 4 and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. The development will be done in phases; Phase-1 has been launched now. Facilities for health care, education, recreation and community development, and shopping are provided for in the township. The township is designed by the renowned architect Hafeez Contractor and employs green building practices. Hirco says it is truly a live, work, play' environment.

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