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How Real Estate Regulatory Bill can help ailing Real Estate sector

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Real Estate
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Construction and Real Estate sectors have a bad name today, due to many unethical builders, brokers, extortionists, and land mafia, who have controlled the sector for a long time now.

NewsGram had previously covered one such instance of alleged extortion and unnecessary delay in handing over the flats to the customers in Mumbai by Runwal Greens.

The Real Estate Regulatory Bill, which has been pending for a long time, if passed, may go a long way in tackling various issues that ails this sector. Here is an article by Anil Pharande, Chairman of Pharande Spaces, a leading construction and development firm in Western Pune, explaining why the Bill is very crucial for cleaning up the Real Estate sector.

The Real Estate Regulatory Bill has been waiting for a long time to be passed as a law. Though several new recommendations by various bodies were incorporated into the draft Bill and approved by the cabinet, it has still not been passed as an enforceable law by the Parliament. It is now high time that this happens – for several reasons.

The changes which have been made in the original draft over time are quite progressive. For instance, a real estate developer must keep a minimum balance of 50% of the funds collected for his project in an escrow account. Before the Real Estate Regulatory Bill was drafted, the concept of creating an escrow account for a real estate project in which to hold funds for a project did not exist at all. In the absence of such a regulation, builders are at liberty to siphon off funds collected for their projects and use them to purchase more land or in the construction of other projects.

The Real Estate Regulatory Bill will make it compulsory for builders to ensure that at least 50% of such funds will remain reserved solely for the development of the project for which they were collected from buyers. To ensure that this actually happens, they will have to pay these funds into an escrow account within 15 days. While this is definitely a rule which will protect the interests of property buyers to some extent, it still means that builders can use half of the funds collected from buyers for other purposes.

This gives rise to a pertinent question – why would they want to do that? Isn’t it in the builder’s own interest to complete a project on time? Unfortunately, many developers don’t look at it that way at all. The reason why they divert funds from ongoing projects is so that they can purchase land to build land banks, which allows them to showcase more projects on their balance sheets. Doing so makes allows them to raise more capital from banks or private equity funds, and also to give an inflated image of the size of their business.

There have been several other changes to the draft Real Estate Regulatory Bill, as well – each giving a clear message that the era in which developers could do whatever they want is going to be history once it is implemented. Not least among these important changes is that developers will have to register all projects which they are constructing within 3 months once the Bill becomes a law. If they fail to do so, they will be penalized to the tune of 10% of the overall project cost, and will have to bear an additional penalty of 10% and even face a prison term for any further delay to register their project.

The Real Estate regulatory Bill will also bring an end to developers’ freedom to make changes in the original plans or structural designs of their projects once they have been registered. They will only be able to make any changes if they are able to get the signed approval of at least 2/3rds of those who have invested into the project. Projects which do not have completion certificates issued as yet are now also included, meaning that an even bigger segment of buyers will benefit from the protection of their interests.

The current version of the Real Estate Regulatory Bill also has another noteworthy amendment in the fact that it now includes commercial office projects. In other words, investors who have plugged their funds into commercial office properties will also be protected by the Bill. Of course, the fact is that 85% of the Indian real estate market consists of the residential sector. However, this amendment is important because it will help the sector become more transparent in every respect, and not just in some segments. Real estate brokers and agents are now also included in the latest draft of the Bill, which means that will also be liable for legal action if they engage in any practices which are not in line with the new law.

Finally, the latest draft of the Real Estate Regulatory Bill permits customers with grievances to move the consumer courts, and does not position itself as their only legal recourse.

With all these positive amendments now in place, the Real Estate regulatory Bill is indeed a powerful means to make the chronically opaque Indian real estate sector more transparent. Once it becomes a law, people will feel more confident in investing into real estate, and this will result in the revival which everyone has been waiting for. This confidence will take time to become evident, but it will definitely come – and when it does, we will see massive changes on the ground.

Also Read: Runwal Greens: Luxury builders or unethical extortionists?

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Premium Real Estate No longer Ruled By Location

Location no longer a key factor in choosing real estate

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Real estate in the face of pandemic doesn't get ruled by location. Pixabay

BY ADITI ROY

The perception of ‘premium’ means in real estate has moved from snob value to define family wellness and health.

As one deals with the global COVID-19 pandemic, developers and buyers are focusing on features in residences which enhance hygiene, wellness and sustainable living which need to be inherent in the design and makeup of housing projects.

“Wellness amenities such as yoga studios, meditation rooms, spas, gymnasiums, tennis courts and jogging tracks became the new rage among urban homebuyers. Such features eventually transcended luxury home projects and came to be expected in mid-range homes, as well. Wellness amenities now deliver a far more convincing ‘premium’ punch than architectural eye-candy. Branded developers were quick to sense the shift and began integrating such features into their projects,”says Prashant Thakur, Director & Head – Research, ANAROCK Property Consultants.

“The world we live in has suddenly been sharply redefined. In times of unprecedented job insecurity, rent is a burdening expense, property ownership is a vastly more attractive investment rationale than reposing faith in volatile financial markets, and the home is a focal point of an entirely new work ethos,” Thakur adds.

“Premium” beyond branding

The current lot of homebuyers are willing to pay extra for premium products and features. For most Indians’ homes are the single-largest lifetime investment they make so it makes sense to secure the best options available within one’s means. While branded builders deliver premium via superior properties and locations, the concept of premium in the backdrop of the severest healthcare crisis is wellness, says a survey by ANAROCK.

Real estate
Real estate doesn’t revolve around location anymore. Pixabay

Wellness as a Project Design Imperative

Real estate that encompasses wellness elements in a building’s design, materials and amenities is a major global trend. Wellness features in a residential (and also commercial) building enhance its desirability as it improves the overall environment and well-being. Among the most popular wellness amenities are gyms, yoga/meditation rooms, roof gardens and enhanced natural lighting and ventilation. As we edge more into the luxury domain, buyers also seek projects with art studios, hobby rooms and Zen gardens where they can unplug and rejuvenate.

The practice to get buildings certified for wellness is being followed by several international developers. This trend, which is being seen in residential, commercial and even avant-garde retail spaces, involves the building receiving a wellness certification based on its design and operational strategies. Similar to the LEED certification program by the U. S. Green Buildings Council, where a building’s ‘green’ features are evaluated and rated, wellness ratings assess the wellness features of a real estate development – how much they contribute to the health and wellbeing of occupiers.

Green Commercial Real Estate

While the residential real estate is gradually catching up to it, this trend is currently more visible in contemporary commercial spaces. Globally, owner-occupied commercial establishments are driving demand for green features and practices. Some of these features include active stairways, biophilia, enhanced air quality, natural sunlight, vertical gardens etc. Such amenities are seen as a way to attract and retain young employees who are highly focused on working in healthier environments.

Even Indian developers are savvy to the trend of tenants placing a high premium on wellness. An increasing number of Indian employees now look for workplaces which help them retain a certain level of fitness and wellness. India Inc is already replete with Grade A office spaces that feature gymnasiums, breakout areas, jogging strips and meditation corners. Coworking spaces, which millennial workers and start-ups favour, have been among the earlier adopters of this trend.

Real estate
Real estate customers and developers focused more on sustainable living. Pixabay

The ‘Premium’ Is High

There is a significant cost attached to incorporating wellness amenities into a building’s architecture, so properties in such buildings cost more than those without any features. The upkeep of such features also adds to the overall maintenance expenditure of the building. However, these features translate into benefits such as improved employee efficiency, performance and retention in office buildings, and a higher happiness and satisfaction quotient in housing projects.

Given that such amenities are in increasing demand, developers now look at including such features in their buildings’ design, over and above providing innovative health-centric amenities. Buildings in India which have wellness baked into their DNA are still a relative rarity, but even a lower saturation of wellness features can be a USP. Definitely, interest in such features in housing projects has never been higher than in COVID-19 era, which has brought the need for complete self-sufficiency in residential real estate front and centre.

Unfortunately, because of the high costs involved, we are unlikely to see this trend percolating down into affordable housing very soon. Such amenities come for a premium, and developers need to keep affordable housing… well, affordable. Nevertheless, some of the latest affordable projects being developed in the less expensive peripheral areas of our major cities do have a degree of basic wellness features.

Also Read: COVID-19 Poses Serious Complications, Even Death Risk for Children: Research

These projects are preferred because many buyers are willing to compromise on the conveniences of central locations – but not on the health of their families. Homebuyers with such an orientation can look for internationally recognised wellness ratings such as WELL Building Standard and Fitwel rating, which measure and certify wellness features positively impacting human health and wellbeing. (IANS)

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University Corruption EXPOSED: Retrenchment Was Like a COVID-19 Attack

For 69 lecturers of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), the door was shut against them since May 11, 2018 – two years ago.

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University of Trinidad and Tobago has declared that lecturers’ teaching load (as opposed to work-load, which would have included research and service) was the main criterion used to select teaching staff for retrenchment. (Representational Image). Flickr

By Dr Kumar Mahabir

University
Dr. Mahabir is a former Organization of American States (OAS) Fellow and the recipient of a Government National Award for Education.

Schools, colleges and universities worldwide have been closed since March 11, 2020 when COVID-19 was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global pandemic.

But for 69 lecturers of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), the door was shut against them since May 11, 2018 – two years ago. Like the outbreak of COVID-19, there was no warning. These lecturers were ambushed with retrenchment letters in the middle of the semester while teaching students in class.

The dismissal letters gave them seven days to take their personal property and vacant the premises. They were caught off-guard with mortgages, loans, rent and bills to pay as well as families to feed. They were suddenly without a job and medical insurance.

The stay-at-home retrenchment order was triggered to these “surplus” lecturers who had become “redundant” in the university’s “restructuring exercise.” Was their forced quarantine justified? Let’s look at the facts and revelations, using my situation as a case study.

University
Lecturers at University of Trinidad and Tobago were ambushed with retrenchment letters in the middle of the semester while teaching students in class. (Representational Image). Pixabay

My teaching load was higher

In all its internal and external releases, University of Trinidad and Tobago has declared that lecturers’ teaching load (as opposed to work-load, which would have included research and service) was the main criterion used to select teaching staff for retrenchment.

UTT’s disclosure to my Freedom of Information (FOIA) application after I was dismissed states that I was carrying a teaching load of 70.8%, excluding Practicum. However, there were other Assistant Professors who had considerably lower teaching load percentages, but were not selected for retrenchment. 

Some of them had scores as low as 15%, 28%, 35%, 38%, etc. In fact, of the 20 Assistant Professors who were retained, only two (2) or 10% had higher teaching load percentages than mine. 

Although my teaching load percentage (70.8%) was higher than most of my former colleagues, who were retained, I should have earned yet a higher teaching score had it not been for an error and contradiction on the part of UTT. 

University of Trinidad and Tobago’s disclosure to me after I was fired reveals that the PRACTICUM courses I taught were not counted as part of my teaching load. However, the same PRACTICUM Term 2 courses (PRAC 1002 and PRAC 2002) were counted for my colleagues, Additionally, a PRACTICUM Term 3 course (PRAC 2001) was counted for others but not for me.

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These errors and contradictions by UTT are important to note because the university has declared that lecturers’ teaching load was the main criterion used to select teaching staff for retrenchment.

These errors and contradictions in computing the teaching load scores for me constitute bias, inequality, unfairness and injustice in selecting me for retrenchment. These mistakes and paradoxes resulted in my dismissal which caused me grave humiliation, pain, suffering, stress, trauma and rejection as well as loss of income, status, dignity, pride and institutional affiliation.

Was this Programme really being phased out?

In many of its releases and correspondences, University of Trinidad and Tobago has stated that I and other lecturers were retrenched because the Secondary School Specialisation courses which they taught were being phased out as part of the university’s restructuring exercise. 

At the dismissal meeting at the Centre for Education Programmes (CEP) at UTT, administrator Dr Judy Rocke also told the assembled lecturers that all Secondary School Specialisation courses were being phased out, resulting in us being “redundant” in the university’s “restructuring exercise.” The following facts reveal that this statement is not true.

University
Lecturers at University of Trinidad and Tobago were suddenly without a job and medical insurance. (Representational Image). Pixabay

These same courses were timetabled for a NEW cohort of students during the new semester which began in September 3, 2018. These Secondary School Specialisation courses are taught from Year 2. One of these courses which was not phased out for the new Year 2 student-intake was ANTH 2001- Caribbean Cultural Anthropology, which I taught. After my retrenchment, I was replaced by a lecturer who was not qualified to teach ANTH 2001. 

Substitute lecturers not qualified

The Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) made the following written disclosures to me, dated August 23, 2019.  Its Executive Director, Dr Eduardo Ali, stated that my substitute lecturer was “not qualified to teach” ANTH 2001.  Additionally, Dr Ali stated that another substitute lecturer teaching the course TVOC 2003: Job Task Analysis in Semester 1 during the Academic Year 2018-2019 at CEP was also “not qualified to teach the said course”.

Also Read- E-Learning Takes Over in the Times of Coronavirus Pandemic

I began my tenure at UTT as an Assistant Professor in January 2007 – longer than most of my former colleagues, who held Ph.D. degrees in CEP. My latest Performance Management and Appraisal Process (PMAP) appraisal score dated October 3, 2017 was 95 out of 100. This score was given, approved and endorsed by my immediate supervisor, Dr Judy Rocke, who paradoxically selected me for dismissal. 

My skills and qualifications are more diverse than those of most of my former teaching colleagues. My M.Phil. degree is in the Humanities (Literatures in English) and my Ph.D. is in the Social Sciences (Anthropology). 

Dr. Mahabir is a former Organization of American States (OAS) Fellow and the recipient of a Government National Award for Education.

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Transparency Documentary Series Review: Unique and Talks About the Working of AAP

The impact of the film might have been much greater if writer-director Munish Raizada had shortened its length and focused on a single issue

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Transparency
One must congratulate Munish Raizada for making Transparency: Pardarshita. Twitter

By Suyog Zore

First of all, one must congratulate Munish Raizada for making Transparency: Pardarshita. Making a documentary film, let alone a six-part documentary series, on politics in India is not an easy task.

Raizada has made a documentary series on one of the biggest uprisings India has seen after the freedom movement and the Emergency, the Jan Lokpal andolan, also known as the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement. He tries to find answers to how the uprising was planned, how it gave rise to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and how the party that came to power in the national capital territory of Delhi with the promise of transparency slowly went off track.

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Transparency is a six-part documentary series written, directed and produced by Munish Raizada, who was himself a member of AAP at one time. In the documentary, he traces AAP’s journey from its inception to now. In this process, he meets old colleagues of party founder and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal as well as others who joined and then left the party.

The first episode, titled Dream Game, deals with how the Anna Hazare movement was organized by people like Kumar Vishwas, Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and some other activists. The episode is very informative and tells us how no movement takes place on the spur of the moment. It takes a lot of time, dedicated people and a lot of effort to create a successful movement like Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Andolan.

Transparency
Transparency is a six-part documentary series written, directed and produced by Munish Raizada, who was himself a member of AAP at one time. Twitter

The third episode focuses on how the IAC came to be formed and what it did. Both these episodes focus on how Arvind Kejriwal used the popularity of the movement as a launch pad for his own political career. Raizada interviews Kejriwal’s former friends and activists like Shazia Ilmi, Kapil Mishra and Kiran Bedi who testify that Kejriwal harboured political ambition from the start. It should be noted, however, that all of these former friends are now part of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the foremost rival of AAP in Delhi.

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Raizada uses real footage from the Jan Lokpal movement and from AAP’s formation and victory in the Delhi assembly election of 2015. He juxtaposes visuals of the euphoria among Delhi’s citizens when AAP came to power for the first time with the current situation and tries to find out where things went wrong.

The most important episode of this documentary is number 4, which is titled The Mask. The episode is split into two parts, 4A and 4B. In this two-part episode, Raizada meets many long-standing associates of Kejriwal and tries to dissect his personality. The documentary claims that Kejriwal, who has a proven track record as an activist in the public domain, has a different personality for insiders of the Anna agitation and the Aam Aadmi Party.

Raizada also tries to find answers to many questions like why did AAP stop showing its list of donors on its website and why the party never implemented an internal Lokpal. However, Raizada expects the viewer to be familiar with the Indian political scenario and how things were in those days and that’s why the episode may not interest those who have not kept themselves up-to-date with politics in India. But then, someone who isn’t familiar with Indian politics may not invest six hours of his life in this documentary either.

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The length of the series is the biggest problem with this documentary. Almost six hours long, it is stuffed with too much information to process. By the time you reach the final episode, you are likely to have forgotten some important information from earlier episodes. Maybe if Raizada had focused his effort more sharply on the issue of transparency in AAP and dug out more information, it might have made greater impact.

Also Read- Social Distancing and Lockdown are The Strongest Vaccine: Health Minister Harsh Vardhan

Another problem is Raizada’s fixation with dramatization. As he mentioned in an interview with Cinestaan.com, he had initially planned a feature film on the subject but later dropped the idea. Perhaps he could not completely let go of the thought, however, because he uses elements from the typical commercial template, like a melodramatic background score, to hammer his message home. All it does is dilute the authenticity of the documentary.

Despite these flaws, Transparency: Pardarshita is a brave and praiseworthy effort. 

You can watch Transparency series here: https://transparencywebseries.com/

Copyright: Cinestaan.com