The amended Development Control Rules in Mumbai will put an end to ambiguities and discretionary powers, finds Shriyal SethumadhavanIt’s the beginning of a new game! The ball is no more in the builder’s court; he simply has to play by the rule. The amendment in the Development Control Rules (DCR) announced by Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan early last month has been accepted as a positive approach towards maintaining transparency and clarity in building activities. As Subodh Kumar, Mumbai’s Municipal Commissioner, has reportedly said, “Building permission rules in Mumbai gave huge discretionary powers to authorities, which were misused. The amended DCR will put an end to this.”Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry (MCHI) hails the new DC rules as it is in the interest of property buyers, as Paras Gundecha, President, MCHI, reiterates, “This is a step in the right direction. The notification will not only establish a level playing field for the developer community but will also reduce arbitrary decision making.” Pranab Dutta, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Knight Frank India, agrees, “It will bring about greater transparency and uniformity in the application of the rules to all categories of developers. It will further not create discrepancies between those who had access to the powers and those who did not.”The FSI gameThe DCR caters to a whole host of items, one of which is FSI. Earlier, a builder with FSI less than one would misuse spaces for car parks and flower beds. He could actually sell a much larger space at a higher price. But now, the DC rules take away the anomaly – the value of arbitrary – and add 35 per cent to the FSI to all, without exception. “So now, you would multiply 1.33 – in the island city – by 1.35,” Dutta informs. “And this is what is called the consumable FSI, which can be used to create flower beds, etc. Also, a developer can now create balconies or give larger floor areas to the consumer. Nothing is hidden.”Those who are involved in FSI rackets and malpractices will not like this change believes Atul Desai, Principal Architect, IAG Consultants. “But, those who are doing things straight and delivering buildings at a reasonable rate will not be affected.” However, Harresh N Mehta, Managing Director, Rohan Lifescapes, demands clarity. “The interpretations of what has been published are not yet clear. I think it would take a month or more to understand what is to be counted in the FSI, what will be free and how it is to be computed,” he says. Although Anita Arjundas, Managing Director & CEO, Mahindra Lifespace Developers, thinks it’s too early to comment, she believes that the DC rules mention all the areas that are part of the FSI very clearly, hence, giving more flexibility on what one can offer the customer. “Not all aspects of the DCR are very clear. But obviously, earlier, some assumed that they could get much more out in terms of FSI and hence quoted more aggressively for land. So, land valuations should be moderate, given that these rules have now been spelt clearly.”What goes wrong?The government is putting in efforts to bring about transparency in the system. So, what has been going wrong? As Arjundas simply states, “The issue is that earlier it was all very ambiguous. There was lack of clarity, and each person interpreted the English language differently. Therefore, while some people got more concessions, others got less depending on how they could influence the system.” This issue does not just lie between the builder and the system but also involves the planner – most often, the architect. “Some architects specialise in presenting to a client ways to cheat and make more money,” says the not-so-surprised Architect Rahul Kadri, Kadri Consultants. “So, here, it is not based on design but on the architect’s knowledge of, say, ten ways for a builder to cheat. However, now this is near impossible.The change follows...With the introduction of the DC rules, land valuations are expected to correct a little. Builders have to not only rework on various calculations but also on project designs that were already planned. “It hurts right now,” says Mehta, “because builders have calculated their profits and invested in plots accordingly. But, this is something we have to live with because going forward, it will benefit all.” Arjundas is confident; she doesn’t anticipate any change within the company’s processes, except for the benefit of transparency, clarity and faster approvals.Will the new rules of the game herald a new breed of building professionals? Time will tell. The premium awarded to transparency is already visible in the price of Godrej Properties stock, which is way ahead of the others. Hopefully, we will witness a time when following rules will build more value than twisting them.Share your views on this report. Write in at feedback@ASAPPmedia.com.