Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Wanna buy a ready-made house?

Razen Manandhar

To dream of buying a house in the capital is perhaps "a duty" of all the citizens who come here at least for once on whatever purpose. In a country where decentralisation is only a minister’s pastime and all the decision-makers are stuck to it; it is not a crime either. When people realise that buying a house in the capital is not easy with regular income, some dig out "source-force" to get a job at the Department of Customs and others try their luck in Wai Wai Noodles.

While all sorts of industry are licking the ground, one unprecedented type of business is shining here. In a year, around two dozen companies have come up with dreamy schemes to sell ready-made houses and apartments in the suburbs of the valley. And, there is no government or municipality in the "urbanisation" campaign but private business houses.

According to available sources, there are at least 30 such companies who have already either taken their plans to the floor or table-working to face the market. That has become almost mushrooming in the periphery of the valley.

Ansal Chaudhary Developers, Sunrise Homes, CE Engineering, are some of major investors in this field and others are ICL property, Civil Co-operative, Oriental Housing, Sangril-la Villa, Comfort Housing, S Investment and so on. The Ansal Chaudhary Developers alone has planned to spread their merchandise in 85 ropanis of land. That means, in total, there will be more 1,200 families with permanent residences in the capital, either with independent houses or with apartments. In the history of housing, this is of course a groundbreaking event. They do deserve encouragement.

Still, there are things each citizen should think about before leaping. The business of real-estate itself has an infamous history. This type of business emerges when people can’t find any suitable place for investment. Buying a piece of land instead of investing the money in an industry or running an individual business has been our "culture". We don’t believe that investment pays. The housing companies or the banks supporting them have lots of money and they know that one after another industries are falling into the pit of bankruptcy. So they chose this "risk-free" business: They say, there may or may not be profit but there is little risk of losing your investment.

This is the reason real-estate business came on the rise after the 1990 democracy. People had money but they needed safe landing of the capital. The developers as well as the clients are in search of a glamorous means for financial mobility. Thus housing and land development is the apt business when nothing progresses or the state is in confusion.

Most of the developers has taken this new business as a part-time or supplementary to their major corporate organisations. Most are related with construction business. Some have industry of building materials or just imports them or own banks. And they admit that they are just experimenting on the business. They might have money enough to practice "learning by doing" but the clients may not and their life and money should not be guinea pigs to the big houses industrialists.

Despite the laws and regulations concerning building construction, what goes on at the Map Section of KMC is not a secret. The laws hardly reach implementation stage. Therefore KMC openly admits that one in three houses are built against the regulations, how can we be assured that all the built house have indeed followed the regulations inch by inch? KMC has just come up with a grand building by-laws and its implementation is still far way. In this situation, how can one expect that the houses in the showcases are really "legal (in practice too)"?

The ready-made houses are being built in the capital’s suburb or in the surrounding villages, where there is no system of map approval, quality inspection. Such areas are more or less virgin to urban development and need a long term vision to develop so that they may not be more "New Baneshwor" areas.

The developers will bring only physical facility but the quality of a building cannot be visible in Photoshop-aided diagrams and pictures. To make a "house", what is more important than washable distemper is the right place to dispose human waste. The main road, the drinking water, drainage, telephone, electricity etc are still the part of the state facilities and a house cannot be a piece of heaven but a inseparable part of the urban infrastructure.

This is a capital where a campus wall falls and a passerby dies on the spot but the builder or owner of the wall is not punished. In such condition, who will be responsible if the houses turn fake, low quality some half a decade later? Will the developers be present after one decade and be ready to respond the house/flat owners’ complains? Who will take the guarantee of future of the buildings? State?