Mumbai building collapse kills 14: Residents in maximum city prefer staying on in dilapidated buildings, here's why

The 16 July disaster in Mumbai's Dongri area that left 14 dead, came 709 days after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on 7 August 2017 identified the Kesarbai building as a “dangerous structure” that needed to be “vacated and demolished”. Last year, the BMC identified 619 buildings that are dangerous to live in. These buildings have been put under C1 category — most dangerous. The maximum number of dangerous buildings were identified in L ward that covers Kurla, Saki Naka and Powai and the L ward had 101 dangerous buildings.

In 2015, 1,830 "structural collapses" were reported all across India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. Up to 59 percent or 1,080 such collapses were of "dwelling-houses/residential buildings". That same year, 1,885 people — or five every day — died in “structural collapses”. Of these, 1,109 — or three every day — died in “dwelling houses/residential buildings” collapses.

 Mumbai building collapse kills 14: Residents in maximum city prefer staying on in dilapidated buildings, heres why

A woman is pulled out from debris amid rescue operations as a building collapsed in Mumbai's Dongri. PTI

Yet lakhs of families residing in these dangerous buildings are not willing to vacate the premises. Why? Given the slowdown in the real estate market, bureaucratic delays, and lack of affordable housing, residents are willing to risk their lives rather than shift to MHADA’s transit houses. Here are some of the factors which make it difficult for the BMC officials to vacate dilapidated buildings in Mumbai:

Lack of available housing

One of the problems residents face is the lack of available housing. Day after Tuesday's accident in Dongri, residents told NDTV  that most of the locals are aware of the risk they put themselves in by living there as most buildings are very old and worn-out and not properly maintained, yet continue to live there because they feel helpless. They do not have an option to go anywhere else as they are not allowed any transit houses under MHADA.

While some residents do tend to vacate their buildings before monsoon, fearing it may collapse, most people chose to stay on. According to reports, their fear of a redevelopment project going wrong is much greater. Most people tend to fear that they will not be allowed to go back home once they shift into these transit camps.

In several cases, residents shift to transit camps where they are forced to live for decades as redevelopment projects get delayed due to various issues such as bureaucratic delays in getting clearances for the project, fights between landlords and tenants or builders and tenants over terms and conditions of redevelopment and delay in projects due to need of funds.

Mumbai has one of the highest real estate rates in Asia. Citizens are forced to live in old, dilapidated properties in a land-scarce city where an estimated 60 percent of its 18 million people live in slums and shantytowns, according to a BBC reportMost of this slums or shantytowns are dilapidated buildings that the BMC has warned against.

'Unanimous consent'

To avoid long-drawn legal battles, members of cooperative housing societies attempt to come to a consensus about the appointment of a developer for their project beforehand. But very often, even the reluctance of one housing society member ends up stalling redevelopment projects for years, as it did in the case of Maitri Park Housing Society in Mumbai’s Chembur.

“In 2008, Maitri Park Colony went in for redevelopment. This was supposed to be developed in four phases but we are still stuck in the first phase. Buildings have been constructed but four families are not willing to move out despite being allotted flats already. About 150 other families are stuck because of this," the secretary of the Maitri Park Co-Op Housing Society told The Quint. The project, therefore, remains unfinished even after 11 years.

The Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government, however, in order to speed up the process of redevelopment, is planning to amend the Maharashtra Apartment Ownership Act and ensure only 51 percent tenants and owners need to give their consent for a project to take off for redevelopment.

The Maharashtra Apartment Ownership (Amendment) Bill will facilitate reconstruction of old and dilapidated buildings, especially in Mumbai, by allowing "majority consent of the owners instead of unanimous consent."

According to the new legislation, the consent of 51 percent of the residents will be required for reconstruction or repair of old and dilapidated buildings, the official said.

Slowdown in real estate market

According to a Hindustan Times report, redevelopment builders are also reluctant to take up projects as they are not feasible anymore due to huge premiums and taxes charged by the government. The recent non-banking financial companies (NBFC) crises have created problems where even sanctioned loans were curtailed considerably or cancelled, throwing the housing sector into a frenzy.

The Maharashtra government is also planning on termination the contracts with private builders if they don't complete the projects of MHADA in time which further builds reluctance from builders.

The Slum Rehabilitation Authority Act, under which private builders can construct houses for slum dwellers and get rights for commercial development in return, has a provision for termination of a contract for delays. But the Act governing the MHADA doesn't have any such provision.

The authority, whose mandate is to build affordable houses, has 104 colonies in Mumbai alone. It hires private builders for its projects, for constructing new buildings as well as for redevelopment of the old ones.

"To expedite pending projects, we are going to introduce a contract termination clause in MHADA Act on the lines of SRA Act," said Housing Minister Prakash Mehta.

"It will empower MHADA to select a new builder and complete the pending construction. There are hundreds of projects where private builders could not finish the construction because of various reasons," Mehta told PTI.

With inputs from various agencies

Updated Date: Jul 17, 2019 17:50:49 IST