Integrated Townships – Luxury or Necessity?

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By Anil Pharande, Chairman – Pharande Spaces & President – CREDAI Pune-Metro
According to the World  Bank  Group, India retains its place as the fastest-growing emerging  economies. While India already has the world’s biggest rural population at 857 million people, this is expected to reduce significantly. By 2050, almost 50% of India’s overall population will be living in urban areas. This is mainly due to the expansion of India’s services sector, causing more and more rural dwellers to seek out cities to live and work in.
Obviously, there are significant challenges and opportunities to such a high urbanization rate. The opportunities are largely related to real estate development, but India’s biggest cities have finite resources which come at a big cost. Our cities have limited land, water, and energy to dedicate to the rapidly expanding urban sprawl.
We have been seeing this challenge manifested in cities like Pune. Towards the end of 2020, the Maharashtra state government notified the absorption of another 23 adjoining villages into the municipal limits. With their inclusion into the city’s urban boundaries, the planning authorities have made a very ambitious commitment to provide enough resources there.
Whether or not these newly-merged areas will all get enough resources to grow and prosper is an important question for which there are no easy answers. Pune’s boundaries must certainly grow to accommodate the proliferating urban population, but without systematic city and regional planning, all we will have is more badly-planned suburbs.
The Integrated Approach
Merely snapping up agricultural areas and turning them into urban ones is not sensible. Without proper planning, this always results in severe imbalances.
However, there is a solution. Integrated townships are a sustainable model of urbanization that provides a superior urban lifestyle in previously rural areas and sufficient employment close to residential areas. They also provide guaranteed facilities and infrastructure like water, solar power and waste management systems which prevent most of the environmental issues created by non-integrated real estate developments.
Integrated townships are a progressive approach to urbanization that involves the best possible land use that integrates residential, commercial and recreational real estate spaces while ensuring urban mobility and the most efficient use of available resources.
An  integrated  township consists of well-planned clusters housing supported by commercial business centres to provide employment to residents and locals whose land was used to develop the township. Also, an integrated township includes healthcare, retail and recreational facilities, public transport, and access to educational institutions. All this is supported by adequate physical infrastructure such as water, energy, roads and scientific sewage systems.
Such a combination of benefits remains a distant dream even in India’s most developed cities, where property prices are dictated by how many basic facilities local residents can access. This is the result of unplanned development, which did not envisage the future needs of a rapidly growing urban population.
In a traditional Indian city, people living in some parts of the city have a much easier life than those living in other areas. In an integrated township, every resident has the same access to the township’s integrated facilities. Integrated townships are the only truly sustainable model of real estate development in India.
They are the only way to ensure that economic activity, infrastructure, and geographic imperatives work together in a cohesive system from which everyone benefits equally.
Integrated Townships – Worth the Extra Cost?
While nobody questions the advantages of living in an integrated township, many Indians hesitate to consider this option because they perceive integrated townships as a ‘luxury’ option beyond their budget.
This is a myth. True, integrated township properties come at a slightly higher cost – however, merely comparing rupee-to-rupee costs is not a sensible approach. Over the course of a single year, the cost of living in a regular project without adequate amenities and facilities is at least 30% higher than in an integrated township.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted that many facilities which we earlier thought of as optional are actually non-negotiable. Today, every Indian longs for open green spaces, quick access to hospitals, schools and shopping, and a reliable supply of utilities like water, power and waste disposal.
Over the last two years, there has been a full-fledged exodus from congested inner-city areas towards less crowded, healthier areas. Not surprisingly, integrated townships have been seeing the most demand from homebuyers who want to secure a healthy, wholesome lifestyle for their families.
West Pune, which is now the epicentre of integrated townships development in the city, has some of the most attractive options at affordable prices. In most parts of West Pune, property prices are at least 5-10% lower than in the central areas. One can buy a spacious 2 BHK flat in an integrated township in West Pune for the same price that a 1 BHK would cost in the congested central areas, which have none of the advantages.
Will Our Cities Become More Liveable?
Some of our cities’ obvious infrastructure challenges may actually improve over time. For example, in Pune the Metro and Ring Road will make commuting easier. In some areas, air quality may improve to a certain extent because of reduced road traffic. The planned 24-hours water supply can ensure that certain locations become more liveable than they are today.
However, some things will not change. Areas that have no open green spaces will not have them 10, 20 or 50 years from now. We cannot expect new hospitals and schools to come up in locations that no longer have enough space even for housing. To secure these benefits, homebuyers must make smart decisions now.
Because integrated townships are the only future-ready residential category, they are in increasing demand and the resale value of such home is 15-20% higher than in standard residential projects. Integrated township properties are lifetime investments into a lifestyle that is not possible anywhere else.