The following is the report by Ashwinder Raj Singh, CEO – Residential Services, JLL India
A haven of architectural excellence, Lutyens Bungalow Zone (LBZ) is an area which single-handedly gives Delhi distinct recognition as one of the best capital cities of the world. For as long as it could hold on to its air of timelessness, Lutyens’ Zone is about to undergo change. Designed and built by British architect Edwin Lutyens and his team in 1930’s, this part of Delhi has maintained its imperial character partly, thanks to the governments of the day preserving its soul. However, this soul is about to be redecorated.
· Current Scenario
As of today, LBZ covers approximately 3000 acres, or approximately 1.5 per cent of the landmass of Delhi. It has about 1000 bungalows, out of which only 65-70 are for private use – the rest are reserved for use by ministers and other government officials. It is home to various government offices, the Parliament, the Presidential residence, India Gate and different types of bungalows for government officials and ministers. Designed with aesthetics in mind, the zone was kept intact and devoid of any new development for several decades, even as the city around it grew in leaps and bounds.
To maintain the sanctity of this location, strict rules were implemented: no high rises, no basements and no change in the construction of the bungalows and buildings in the entire zone. The result was a massive inequality in the usage of land between LBZ and other parts of Delhi – and astronomically pricey real estate in LBZ even without the benefit of the latest facilities.
While areas like East Delhi have become densely populated and house as many as 1100-1600 people per acre of space, LBZ currently has only 14-15 people per acre. Lutyens’ Zone is in the heart of the city and has wide, green open spaces. Land here had always been in very high demand, despite the sky-high prices caused by the prevailing sale restrictions and limited availability of property for private use. In Lutyens’ Zone, properties being sold or purchased for more than Rs. 100 crore has been the norm over the past few years.
For example, the sale of a 2.4 acre plot in March 2015 was to the tune of Rs. 304 crore – one of the biggest ticket sizes for a residential plot in the country. About a year previously, the biggest sale recorded here was for a 2290 square yard plot at Rs. 220 crore.
However, this massive sale happened after a long gap of almost 2-3 years – during this period, such spectacular transactions were more or less put on hold. While there used to be 18-24 transactions every year three years ago, the past one year saw only 12. There have been various reasons behind this.
On the one hand, India faced a slump in the economy during the second term of the UPA, with GDP growth slowing to 4.7 per cent and the real estate sector seeing one of the worst downturns ever. On the other hand, the global economy (especially China’s and America’s) gave little reasons for billionaires to splurge on trophy properties. Also, the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 kicked induced a wait-and-watch stance as with regards to the new government’s policies pertaining to real estate sector and black money.
These were far from clear in the beginning of the new government’s term, and this caused a lot of reticence among those with the clout to engage in the kind of transactions which define property deals in Lutyens’ Zone. Thanks to the limited supply, prices here did not go south, but transactions were nevertheless held in abeyance as potential buyers waited for pricing to cool down.
This did have a negative impact on the market, and caused rentals to shooting through the roof. Many potential buyers became tenants instead, shelling out as much as Rs. 25-40 lakh per month for a bungalow. Today, however, Lutyens’ Zone’s property market is in for a major sea change.
· Proposed Plan
While it is important to keep heritage intact, it is equally important to address the needs of a contemporary population and help them to live a better life. Retaining the most important part of our heritage and keeping it untouched while developing the remaining part for future should be the mantra.
Keeping this in mind, Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC) gave its recommendations to the Urban Development (UD) ministry to shrink the total area of LBZ, and allow real estate development to take place in the space thus freed up. The UD has accepted this proposal, and will soon have further discussions with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
As per the recommendations, LBZ’s boundaries will be redrawn, and many surrounding areas of no particular architectural importance will be liberated for residential and commercial developments. In other words, areas like Bengali Market, Golf Links, Sardar Patel Marg, Panchsheel Marg, Jorbagh, part of Mandir Marg and Ashoka Road, Sundar Nagar and portions of Chanakyapuri will no longer be a part of LBZ, and will cater to the rising demand of residential buildings for ordinary citizens.
Simultaneously, the area around Supreme Court, parts of Atul Grover Road and Hailey Road, along with the north-west part of Feroze Shah Road, will be included in the LBZ.
· Potential Impact
Needless to say, this spontaneous freeing-up of the most coveted land in the heart of the city will have a massive impact on Delhi’s real estate market. Not only will the proposed rules allow new high rises with better facilities to come up, it will also provide value for money to buyers. As of now, despite high prices, the space is restricted for construction.
For example, prices in the extended LBZ zone are approximately Rs. 14-17 lakh per square yard. However, the restrictions result in very meager built-up area. With the proposed change in rules, the same amount of money will buy not only more built-up area but also more facilities. Also, property owners in these areas will be able to adapt their homes as per their individual needs, without needing to obtain approvals from government agencies. In short, land will be used more efficiently, and many more developers will get into the fray.
In a city that is spreading out accommodate more and more citizens, this potential freeing up of space in the heart of the city is obviously a welcome development. That said, such plans have been under discussion for many years, and successive governments have been visibly averse to taking concrete decisions despite knowing the benefits of such measures.
However, it is clear that the authorities must realize that change is inevitable at Lutyens’ Zone. While Delhi’s purists will not agree, its ‘commoners’ – and most especially the city’s real estate market – are looking at an unmitigated boon.
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