Cluster redevelopment under Development Control Rules i.e. DCR - Sect. 33(9) is a form of land development where principal buildings and structures are clubbed together on a site for redevelopment and a major portion of the site is left open for recreation and infrastructural facilities.

The State Government has unveiled a new housing policy for Mumbai’s Suburban Regions which are now set for a massive makeover with paving the way for redevelopment of unsafe tenanted buildings, old colonies, transit camps and dilapidated MHADA colonies, with a slew of incentives with a permissible FSI of up to 4 under the Provisions of Sect.33(9) of DCR.

In a reprieve for the State Government, the Bombay High Court had vacated a stay in the year 2017 granted on allowing increase in Floor Space Index (FSI) for new buildings proposed to be constructed in Navi Mumbai under the State's Cluster Redevelopment Scheme.

The main catch is that while the minimum requirement to get a project under cluster redevelopment is 4,000 sq. mtrs in the Island city, the eligibility criteria for Mumbai Suburbs and extended Suburbs under the scheme has been enormously hiked to 10,000 sq. mtrs.

However, the said scheme of cluster redevelopment, framed in 2009 as an Urban Renewal Scheme, redrafted in 2014, does not have a single success story to its name. Its success remains in question since this scheme has been a slow starter with many hurdles in the Island City since the last decade. It seems that the simultaneous implementation under DCR 33(7) for a singular tenanted building and DCR 33(9) for a cluster redevelopment has clearly conflicted with each other.

The first project of cluster redevelopment covering 6.75 acres in Lalbaug area of Mumbai City Region to have taken off is still mired in red-tape and faces the threat of being abandoned.

Another example is of Saifee Burhani Upliftment Project which is undertaking over a massive area spread across 16.50 acres at Bhendi Bazaar. The said project is currently struggling to convince approximately 600-700 tenants out of 6,000 tenants to move out of the premise. These tenants now fear that their dream of living in a decent dwelling may turn into a nightmare as the structures they are living in are beyond their age to sustain any mishap and any further delay in redeveloping them could prove disastrous.

This kind of scheme requires lot of patience and finance as also a handful of tenants can derail the entire project. With the current market slump, it is very difficult for any Developer to undertake an area of 10,000 sq. mtrs for redevelopment and obtain the consent of hundreds of flat owners living there besides this; there are planning constraints, no proper approach road or no proper access to the plot. Under such a situation, it becomes critical that a cluster approach is adopted as it involves the amalgamation of plots for organised development. It may be noted here that the unauthorized constructions are not to be taken in account while computing FSI.

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The Police generally do not entertain complaints against Developers and directs the complainant to go to Court though this kind of cheating is a cognisable offence and the police are duty-bound to register an FIR against such criminal Developers. As for agreements signed with Developers in redeveloped buildings, buyers have little choice but to sign on the dotted line but not even one per cent of the agreements are drafted as per the Maharashtra Ownership of Flats Act.

However, the flat buyers can now file complaint against the Developer if he gets less carpet area than documented in the agreement. Deterrent penal provisions are prescribed for errant Developers under the Legal Metrology Act. Such offenders are brought to book and punished accordingly.

There is a provision in the Act to compound prosecution cases at the department level if the offender has committed an offence for the first time. Under such circumstances, the authorities impose compounding fees upon the offender and the matter is settled at the department level. However, if the option is not exercised by the offender to get it compounded at the department level, then the case is sent to the Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC) or a Metropolitan Court. In that case, it attracts the provision of Criminal Procedure Code as it is treated as criminal case.

If the State Legal Metrology Department that deals with weights and measurements lives up to its words though sounds pretty doubtful, harassed flat buyers see a rescuer to look into the flat area frauds. The department says it can take action against errant Developers on two counts.

First, Developers and their architects are legally bound to verify the instruments which they use for measuring the flats. However, this is rarely done. If the flat measured by two architects individually, both the measurements differ. The LMD says that they have issued notices to several errant Developers in Mumbai for selling flats smaller in size than what is mentioned in the agreements.

Secondly, it has been emphasized that the Developers have to sell the flats in square metre and not in square feet as is the practice. This is a violation of Sections 34 and 35 of the Metrology Act and for such infringement, the Developers can be fined up to Rs 5,000/- and imprisoned up to 3 to 5 years if the LMD keeps their words. This is an another example of illusory and deceitful pronouncement of our Govt. under the pretence of providing protection to the cheated buyers that the LMD has passionately announced to inflict fine including sending the criminal Developers to jail.

It is repulsive and undoubted fact that most of the archaic Statutes, Laws, Acts and Rules since having low impact despite the prima facie evidences against the criminal Developers, do not have the power of rigorous accountability requirements. This has resulted in to a massive ingress of corrupt Developers in the field of redevelopment of housing societies and tenanted buildings.

Though these rules are in existence, have been gathering dust and the LMD had not taken action against anyone so far. On the other hand, the Developers say that their plans are approved by the respective Building Proposal Departments of BMC and their engineers. So, there is no question of any parallel verification by the Metrology Department.

There is uproar and agony amongst the Developers that they do not fall under the Metrology Act. The officials of Metrology Department, however, are firm and say that they have sent notices to Developers and if they fail to reply, they will not be spared to face action as subsequent offenders. Numerous cases are on record that the Developers have even been reducing the ceiling heights of the flats while being constructed.

In many other cases of cheating by Developers, the ubiquitous fact is that the warm and silky relationships between the Developers and various departments of Government cannot be at stake at the cost of protecting the gullible and innocent flat buyers by imposing stringent and inflexible laws on an assembly of golden goose laying the golden eggs. The populace of our country had never attained the desired significance in the eyes of any ruling party. 
A ray of hope is that now, the cheated flat buyers of flat areas can approach the Legal Metrology Department which recently seized a flat after it was proved that the Developer had reneged on the floor space agreement. One of the resident members in Mulund (East) whose housing society was redeveloped, complained to the department that his Developer forced him to take possession of a flat that was 51sq. ft less than the area agreed upon. The Developer and the flat buyer had signed an agreement in which he promised an 896sq ft flat. But it is actually 845 sq. ft.

The said resident member’s housing society went for redevelopment in December 2005 and he signed an individual agreement with the redeveloper in October 2007. According to the agreement, the Developer had to give him 626 sq. ft of his original flat plus 35 sq. ft free of cost. For a purchase of an additional area of 235 sq. ft in the same flat, the said member paid him Rs 7.5 lakhs and later, learnt that he was cheated of short of 51 sq. ft less carpet area of his flat.

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Three cheers to the Government of Maharashtra who has opened yet another gate to lure the Developers undertaking the redevelopment projects of old and dilapidated buildings in the South Mumbai to avail of additional Floor Space Index (FSI) with a catch that the Developers may have to pay more for availing the said incentive FSI under the Public Parking Lot scheme in the city.

Motorists match brainpower with each other almost all hours of the day in trying to find a parking spot at a bustling neighbourhood of South Mumbai.  For the nearly 25 lakhs vehicles plying on the city's roads, there are less than 150 legal lots operated by Government agencies, Municipal Corporation, Railways, the MMRDA and the MSRDC all put together are not enough to solve the problem. Regional Transport Office statistics showed that the number of cars plying on city roads has more than doubled in the last seven years. 

While as per the recent amendment to DCR 33(7) an FSI of 3 is already permitted for redevelopment projects involving cessed buildings, the latest move could fetch FSI of 4 available to a Developer with a condition that he has to construct a Public Parking Lot on a plot measuring over 1000 sq. meters in city and over 2,000 sq metres in the suburbs and hand it over free of cost to the BMC.

In 2010, the State Urban Development (UDD) Department had issued a circular disallowing the FSI benefit against construction of Public Parking Lots in the case of cessed and cluster redevelopment projects.

As per the recent information, the Government of Maharashtra has decided withdrawal of this circular, thus allowing the FSI incentives against construction of Public Parking Lots to be applied in the case of cessed and cluster redevelopment projects too.

While Cluster Redevelopment Projects are already eligible for an FSI of 4, the move could bring cheer to Developers involved in redevelopment of cessed buildings benefitting one such construction project in Saat Raasta in South Mumbai and another one in Mahim in Western Suburb of Mumbai could be the immediate beneficiaries.

However, it is opined by experts that the BMC cannot make such a regulation through a circular and must amend the DC Regulation 33(24) which provides for granting incentive FSI to Developers who construct Public Parking Lots and hand them to the BMC free of cost as such move of mere withdrawal of the earlier circular is against the spirit of the policy to incentivise construction of Public Parking Lots and is discriminatory in its nature.

The Government of Maharashtra has approached the Union Environment Ministry allowing the Public Parking FSI Policy to be applied in the case of redevelopment projects in areas affected by Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ).

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