Chetankumar Kandoliya, a civil engineer, was allotted a home by the Rajkot Urban Development Authority (RUDA) in August 2020 but he surrendered it days later as he lost his job and could do little private practice due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Altaf Jivarani, an autorickshaw driver, was overjoyed after proving lucky to land a one-bedroom-hall-kitchen (1BHK) flat being constructed by RUDA the same day but surrendered it later after he went without any earning for around three months and was left with no savings to pay for his dream home.
Dipak Modi, a stationery wholesaler, dreamt of having his own flat after getting married but he, too, surrendered his 3BHK flat, after his business took a hit due to Covid.
Kandoliya, Jivarani and Modi are among scores of home aspirants who surrendered their flats due to financial constraints after the lockdown, according to RUDA officials. As many as 304 beneficiaries surrendered their homes allotted by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on August 31, 2020, while 390 others remain unsold.
Among the 304 who surrendered their flats allotted to them under the affordable housing scheme of the government, a huge majority cited financial constraint as the reason, RUDA officers say. As a result, RUDA has 694 unsold flats and it has invited applications for the third time for these houses with the deposit down to a fourth of the earlier.
RUDA had started construction of 2,483 affordable houses in 2019 under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)-Urban at eight locations in the city at a cost of Rs 406 crore. They included 368 dwelling units (DUs) for EWS, 1150 for EWS-II, 728 for LIG and 192 for MIG.
After the government subsidy under the PMAY, 1BHK flat for EWS was priced at Rs 3 lakh, 2BHK flat for EWS-II was priced at Rs 5.5 lakh, LIG 2BHK flats at Rs12 lakh and 3BHK flats for MIG at Rs 24 lakh. Another 128 flats were also constructed on the posh 150-feet Ring Road.
RUDA started inviting applications for these flats in March but the process had to be suspended due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Application window was opened again in June-July. However, against the 2,438 flats on offer, RUDA got only 2,376 applications.
After scrutiny of applications, 2,176 flats were allotted, leaving 386 flats unsold, Chetan Ganatra, chief executive authority (CEA) of RUDA, said. Four flats in the scheme on 150-feet ring road also remained unsold, increasing the inventory to total 390, he added.
However, as RUDA started completing the formality of allotments, 304 beneficiaries surrendered their homes. “They said they were unable to make payment due to Covid-19 pandemic. Others surrendered their RUDA flats as the same day, on August 31, they landed flats in housing schemes of Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) and they preferred to retain the RMC flats. Thus, we are left with total 694 unsold flats,” Ganatra said.
Chetankumar Kandoliya, 46, who lost his job with a civil engineering consulting firm in the run up to the lockdown, said, “I tried to start independent practice as a consultant civil engineer but didn’t make a headway. With no income, I had no choice but to surrender my LIG flat and continue to live in a rented accommodation.” Kandoliya holds a diploma in civil engineering and has two school-going children.
Altaf Jivarani, too, had his dreams of owning a home dashed. “We have been applying for an affordable house for several years and we were lucky only in August… But unfortunately, we ran out of our savings due to lockdown. For about three months, we were dependent on family and friends to make the ends meet. We applied for bank loan but our application was rejected as we don’t file income tax returns. Therefore, we had no option but to surrender our flat,” said Farzana, Jivarani’s wife.
The Jivaranis are living in a home owned by Farzana’s mother near Saat Hanuman on Kuvadva Road. While Altaf drives an autorickshaw, Farzana works as a domestic help. Their daughter Fiza studies in Class 10 while son Ansheni Reza studies in class 4.
Pradip Modi’s wife Divya applied for an MIG flat a few months after their marriage and was allotted one. “But we had to surrender our flat due to uncertainties brought by Covid-19. As schools and colleges were closed, our stationery business was hit,” said Modi, who lives with his father in their family home on University Road.
“As the draw of lots for affordable housing schemes of Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) was also conducted the same day, there were some duplication among applicants. Therefore, we had to cancel allotment of 106 flats of MIG category as the beneficiary had already got a home in the RMC housing scheme,” said Ganatra.
RUDA started inviting applications for the unsold 694 houses from January 1 and the window will remain open till January 16.
The unsold houses now being offered by RUDA include 120 EWS flats, 303 EWS-II flats, 102 LIG flats and 161 MIG flats. Six other flats on 150 feet ring road are also on offer. This means, all the MIG houses being constructed by RUDA near Saritavihar Society on posh Kalavad Road are either unsold or surrendered.
Also, a majority of the 191 MIG flats being constructed near Decora West Hill on Kalavad Road are unsold. The EWS-II flats are being constructed on Avadh Club Road, behind ISKON temple, and behind Saynja Chulha restaurant, all on Kalavad Rod.
EWS flats are also under construction behind Sanjha Chulha restaurant and Avadh Club Road. The CEA says RUDA would start giving possession to beneficiaries from November this year and all the houses would be handed over by March 2022.
To attract more applications in the third attempt, RUDA has lowered the amount of deposit. The applicants will now have to pay Rs 2,500 for EWS, Rs 5,000 for EWS-II, Rs 10,000 for LIG and Rs20,000 for MIG as against Rs 10,000, Rs 20,000, Rs 40,000 and Rs 75,000 earlier.
“We are getting good response. In fact a number of previous beneficiaries are inquiring if they can apply again,” Ganatra added.
The CEA said that RUDA had refunded deposits to all the beneficiaries who surrendered their houses. “At the time of application, the condition was that if a beneficiary surrendered her flat after it was allotted through draw of lots, she would lose her deposit. But considering the Covid-19 pandemic, we took a lenient view and refunded despots minus Rs 1,000 administrative charge,” said Ganatra.