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January 18, 2020

Housing law

Editorial

 
January 18, 2020

In a rare show of consensus, the Senate has unanimously passed a bill for the establishment of the Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority (NPHDA). With the passage of this bill and the establishment of the authority, work on the construction of affordable housing is expected to gain some momentum. The PTI had promised before the 2018 elections that it would build 50 million houses if it came to power, but progress in this regard has been slow and insignificant. Perhaps one reason for this lackluster performance was the absence of an authority that could take care of such a huge task. Last year, the government had promulgated an ordinance and then the bill was presented to the standing committee which had cleared it after some deliberations.

One important bone of contention between the government and the opposition was the inclusion of the interest that would be charged on the loan to be given to the applicants by the banks. The last date of registration for the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme has been extended multiple times. Registration first started in July 2019 for three months, and then it was extended twice – first to Nov 15 and then to December 15, 2019. With a registration fee of Rs250, over two million people have already applied for this scheme. To facilitate the process, Prime Minister Imran Khan also announced in December 2019 that the scheme would be exempt from taxes. The registration process was carried out by NADRA, and the final amount collected through the registration fee has not been announced as yet.

A high level of transparency is a must in the entire process as over 40 different types of industries are reported to be involved in the scheme from registration to land acquisition, development, construction, finishing, and handing over of the houses when completed. Since most of the proposed housing projects will be in and around cities, it is also important to take utmost care in developing or revising master plans of the cities, without which haphazard development is likely to take place. Similarly, for land acquisition and development there will multiple groups vying for their share of the pie. We have seen in the past that favouritism and nepotism in such government managed projects become rampant, moreover if the projects involve a certain involvement of a so-called‘public-private partnership’, which in many cases turns out to be a bonanza for private investors and robber barons. Keeping these factors in mind may ensure timely completion of this scheme, failing which we may end up with yet another unfulfilled promise.