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790 acres of acquired home land lying unused in Ahmedabad

For almost three decades, 790 acres of land acquired under Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act – ULCRA – for developing houses for the urban poor and middle class in Ahmedabad has been lying unutilized. Had these large parcels of land been used in phases, the cost of housing would have been regulated in the city.

Ahmedabad has the largest share of ULCRA land in the state. The land remains locked with the revenue department, as there has been no demand for housing projects. The state revenue department estimates that almost 60 per cent of ULCRA land can be made available for housing. The rest of the land parcels are embroiled in legal disputes, or have become the sites of encroachments by slum-dwellers, or are home to unauthorized constructions.

“The state government is in a dilemma over whether affordable houses on ULCRA land should be sold after incorporating jantri rates as the land was free for the government,” says a senior urban development department (UDD) official. “This can be challenged. Swaths of ULCRA land are also available in posh localities of the city in the western areas. With land prices skyrocketing in these areas, a poor neighborhood will cause the rates to crash. The government should have the will to take up schemes in these areas.”

There is no shortage of land for providing housing for the poor in Ahmedabad, says district collector Vijay Nehra. “A special committee comprising civic administration officials and government representatives can raise the demand for land for housing the poor,” Nehra says. “As and when it is done, we can begin the process.” Senior revenue officials in Gandhinagar say that the encroached land on free ULCA patches in Ahmedabad can alone provide housing for 40,000 people.

“We are already working on a housing scheme for ULCRA land,” the UDD official says. “Under this, we wish to rehabilitate slum-dwellers by making quality houses for them. We have seen that if the poor are given a decent place to live in, they maintain it well. Besides, we can also provide middle-class housing.”

Since the state UDD has allowed GHB to build 70 metre residential buildings with a floor space index of 3, affordable housing cannot be a pipedream for this city. With Sanand developing into an auto hub, satellite townships coming up in the periphery of Ahmedabad, and GIFT city developing rapidly, there will be a need for urban housing.