Winston Churchill said, “We make our buildings, and our buildings make us”. So what are we going to make?
India is gradually becoming the youngest nation on Earth, for a developing country where so much has to be done; a young nation is all we need. But have we done enough to produce revolutionaries?
Students/young singles have been always considered a nuisance to be offered to house. Youth-friendly accommodations have always been an issue for a very long time. Development authorities have seemed to ignore them very often. I am an Architect, City Planner and Real Estate Developer based in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh and considering
Lucknow, people have presumed students living as part of guest house business and have mentioned their development to be in accordance with rules laid down for guest houses. To build a guest house/hostel/paying-guest facility at-least 300 sq. mts of residential land is required on 12-24 meters wide road, PGs apart from these are overlooked by Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) and they work illegally because of high-demand. Most of the plots with this area on wide roads are being used for other activities.
Understanding the scenario in Lucknow
In Lucknow, because of the LDA norms, people are investing in independent hostels by creating residential plans and forcefully converting them into PGs or Hostels.
Poor planning and remodeling homes and residential buildings lead to a large number of student accommodation not conducive to their needs in terms of the atmosphere and environment required for them.
Such establishments don’t have basic light and ventilation provision, so recreational and other amenities would be too much to ask for. They don’t even have enough toilets, which is a primary need. Because their assumption is students just need a roof on their head/a temporary shelter just for their educational period in Universities or internships.
Hence, not only do students face problems but business owners and investors are also not getting enough returns for their money and the nation is losing the opportunity of betterment.
Importance of taking student convenience into account for a better tomorrow
Around the world, people have designed efficient Student living/Hostel buildings even on plots as small as 100 and even 50 sq. mts. There’s a need to ease down the strict norms and incentives should be given to promote student living. If we don’t raise our youth with passion and dignity, the good ones will leave the nation, bad ones will work against it, and India will again lose a golden opportunity, as we are the youngest nation of the world.
A decent student living will also accelerate educational and employment-related investments in the city, it will encourage young people to stay in various tier 2&3 cities in contrast to the present scenario which forces them to leave due to improper facilities.
The environment where students study, live, spend time is their home away from home during their most important educational/professional period – having well-designed buildings with proper atmosphere and homely atmosphere can enable students focus on their studies and passion rather than worrying about the place they are currently living in.
What is being done and what more can be done to address this dire state of affair
Many start-ups have emerged in this particular domain and a lot of work is being done, still I see these start-ups are from new entrepreneurs, whereas more established ones who can do it much more easily are investing more into Mid-income, Luxurious housing projects resulting in too much supply and less demand. The industry is behaving like the FMCG sector and investing in Real Estate that sells easily, just like the noodle business that was dominated by Nestle’s Maggie and suddenly out of the blue many brands alien to this business have started producing instant noodles. Developers have to understand that their business is more about building the nation and not simply building what sells easily. People with terrible investing skills who don’t want to risk their investment in unknown avenues usually buy these housing properties, and all the time in such housing societies you’ll find a board which says, “Students and Bachelors not allowed”. The ongoing real estate recession is mainly related to over-supply of Housing, and so be it, if you engage in Real estate like FMCG, you’ll also have to dispose of it like FMCG if you can’t sell.
I see India’s first chain of Backpackers hostel; Zostel solved the issue of decent accommodations for backpackers in India. The same organization is also getting into the co-living and student accommodation business by providing long-term stays in their properties in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, which plans to expand in other metros as well.
The much publicized NestAway is also a famous Start-Up trying to solve student living in India, they have also received funding from Mr. Ratan Tata. NestAway still is suffering from issues that OYO is suffering with, they expanded quickly without much planning, got into one-sided agreements with property owners and are not able to provide decent services to their customers as well, resulting in too many complaints from customers and property-owners. OYO too started their student-living segment but with the same issues like their hospitality business.
Another segment where the wealthy Indian community is putting money unnecessarily is premium hospitality. Too many hotels and 5-star properties are being built which only monetize during the wedding season in India and our Big-Fat wedding cultures. If some percentage of this wealth goes into Luxury Housing and Premium Hospitality is invested in building Youth-friendly Accommodations, then a more balanced Real Estate development can happen in the country.
Not only builders but also the government is not having enough policies to promote Youth-friendly Accommodations in India. Development control authorities are still not aware of this segment and often you’ll get an impression of this by looking at their City master plans.
Suggestions on policy making
As per my experience in Architecture, City Planning and Real Estate, having worked in Pune, NOIDA, Delhi and Lucknow on student living and co-living concepts, I have observed certain difficulties that are common to these cities and also to cities of Patna and Ranchi where I have not lived but I am designing two Co-living projects there. Making the following changes in policies can eliminate these obstructions, here I am considering the case of Lucknow and issues that exist in Bhavan Nirman Upvidhi 2008, a development control guideline drafted by Lucknow Development Authority:
- For establishment of PGs minimum plots must be reduced to 150 sq.m and above.
- Approach roads must be reduced to 9 m and above.
- Codes must ensure proper sound proofing of such buildings so that neighboring houses don’t face any disturbances.
- Stilt parking or Basement parking must be allowed for such establishments only which are being constructed on plot area less than 300 sq.m and on approach roads less than 9 m.
- 1 Two-wheeler parking for 4 persons.
- Limited PGs must be allowed on 9 m and 12 m approach roads. Eg: 1-3 Pgs on 9 m approach roads, 3-4 PGs on 12 m approach roads, roads having higher widths are also longer in length and can easily support 5-7 PGs or more.
- At-least one recreational space must be provided for such establishments, they can be Gym, Courtyards, and Common Rooms etc.
- Proper number of toilets must be ensured, 1 toilet having WC, bathing area and a WHB on 3 persons or separate units of 1 WC, 1 bathing area and 1 WHB on 6 persons.
- Permission to existing houses must be granted on fulfillment of these codes, also permissions must be granted to flatted properties if they satisfy these codes.
- Monopoly of maintenance agencies and business owners demanding eviction of singles and students & operation of illegal PGs and hostels must be monitored and culprits must be fined or given imprisonment or both.
- ‘Prabhav Shulk’ must not be applicable on those who are building PGs and Hostels on residential lands; in fact they must be given incentives as they are contributing towards nation building (LDA is not British!).
- Setbacks, ground coverage, building height must be exactly what is there for residential buildings.
- Necessary permissions from Fire Department, UP Police, DM Lucknow (Sarai Act), UP Tourism (if being used for tourism purposes), Trade and Commerce department must be mentioned by LDA on sanctioned layout of the building as important for commencement of PGs or Hostel.
- Proper Light and Ventilation must be ensured.
- Dormitory-type planning must be encouraged.
- If possible, codes must include the presence of security guards and CCTV cameras.
- Fire-fighting facilities must be provided.
- Apartment-owners who wish to convert their flats into PGs and Hostels, must employ architects, interior designers or planners with necessary qualifications and get their designs/plans approved by LDA, which will also help the owners to get registered under Sarai Act and will help all necessary bodies to have control over such establishments also.
- Solar water heaters must be used for such establishments; even those, which are below 300 sq.m also.
- Zoning Regulations for establishment of PGs and Hostels on residential land-use must be relaxed.
- Encouragement must be given to Indian startups in this segment, like Nestaway, Zostel, OxfordCaps, HelloWorld, Zolo, Tribe Stays etc.
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