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Property values in an unequal city

South Chennai is the favoured Cinderella while north Chennai is forgotten and overlooked, write Swahilya and A. SRIVATSAN

Photo: S_S_Kumar

Startling contrast: Property values between north Chennai.

If you can imagine land prices in Chennai in the form of peaks and pits, then south Chennai would appear as the peak and north Chennai the pit. South Chennai is the favoured Cinderella and the preferred destination of development while north Chennai is like the ugly sister, forgotten and overlooked. Properties and rentals in north Chennai have not grown as much as the south. If the lack of development and attention continues, north Chennai would slide even further. Many un derstand that the real estate market prefer only high profit yielding locations and overlooks north Chennai. But what disappoints and angers the residents is that the proposed draft second master plan too has nothing much to offer.

The land price at Royapuram is Rs. 25 lakhs per ground, at Kaladipet and Tiruvottriyur it is Rs. 20 lakhs per ground (2400 sq.ft). The rent for even the most sophisticated apartment or house of 1000 sq.ft is only Rs.3,500. In places like V.O.C. Nagar in Tondiarpet, there are many numbers of houses having just one room and kitchen, something that is not built anymore in south Chennai. There are many tenements as small as 400 sq.ft, which are rented for Rs. 500 to 600 per month. In contrast, the property values in Adyar, Thiruvanmiyur, Besant Nagar and along the ECR and OMR have hit the rooftop.

The lands in these areas are priced between Rs. 80 lakhs and one crore a ground. An apartment of about 1000 sq.ft fetches nothing less than Rs.10,000.

In the imagination of the planners and authorities North Chennai is an industrial and commercial hub. But it is seldom realised that it is a thickly populated area. In places like Tondiarpet and Basin Bridge there are about 7.8 lakh people living under a high density of about 280 persons per hectare. These areas are annually growing at a low rate of about 1.5 per cent, while south Chennai is growing at an average rate of 3 to 5 per cent. "In North Chennai, life continues despite problems because the people adjust themselves to their surroundings," Mr. Ernest Paul, acting president of the Royapuram Residents Welfare association, says. The upper and upper middle classes afford a rent of Rs. 10,000 but the numbers are very few. The majority that stays in North Chennai belongs to the middle and lower middle classes.” He thinks that the land value and rentals are lower in North Chennai, because of problems of pollution - automobile and industry, iron ore and coal dust from the harbour and garbage.

Economic hub

There are leading doctors and directors of big companies who reside in North Chennai, the reason is because they stay close to their industries or hospitals and not because they wish to stay there. However, they send their children to the more famous schools on Santhome, MRC Nagar and Egmore. There is a complaint from residents that there are no proper hotels, no premier shopping complexes or marriage halls with car park facilities. Besides the Sir Theagaraya College and Bharathi Womens’ College, there are no other colleges of arts and science and engineering for the residents of North Chennai.

For many years, North Chennai with Georgetown as its centre was the thriving residential and trading place. During the sixties and seventies, most of the industrial projects were located here and the place continued to serve as the economic hub of the city. The harbour, Central station and the road connection with the northern and western States made it a favourable location. This was reflected in the land prices and even as recent as 1980’s land prices were fairly high and almost even with the south. Since the beginning of the 1990’s the importance of north Chennai declined. In the new scheme of things South Chennai is the icon of the global city, while North Chennai is considered an industrial backyard.

Decongestion

Photo: S.S.Kumar

South Chennai leaves yawning gap.

As a part of the first Master plan for Chennai, proposals were made to decongest Georgetown by shifting the vegetable and fruit wholesale market to Koyambedu and the iron and steel market to Sathangadu.

A truck terminal was constructed at Madhavaram to relieve the roads from heavy lorry and bus traffic. The markets have been shifted, but the area has not been significantly improved. For instance, the demand of parking spaces is 1.5 to 2 times the supply. In place of markets, port activities have increased. About Rs 55,000 crores worth of trade is done through the port (2003-2004 figures).

The Chennai Port Trust has proposed to invest about Rs.418 crores over a period of 5 years (2004-09). In addition, Ennore port is to be expanded and Rs. 1026 crores is to be invested here. As a result, new tank terminals, LPG terminals and metallurgical coke and power plants will soon be built in and around Ennore.

Unlike the investments in South Chennai, the proposed developments do not push the property prices. This is because the investments are made only on industries that have high impact on the environment. The infrastructure is developed primarily to support the industrial activity. There are hardly any proposal to improve the housing conditions and supply. The proposed economic activities will employ more of blue-collar workers and the private market is not interested in providing housing for them.

The second master plan too is silent on housing and leaves the responsibility to TNHB. The plan is also silent on how it envisages reducing the density of north Chennai.

It appears that the city benefits from the polluting industries of North Chennai, but in return it has not offered much to the place.

In the recently held public discussion on Master plan, a north Chennai resident wanted to know why IT corridors are not planned in North Chennai. The authorities replied that the North Chennai lacked infrastructure and human resources.

That exactly is the complaint of the residents. What they seek is a comprehensive development proposal that would improve the quality of life.

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