LAHORE: When Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme – a flagship project of his government to provide housing facility to the homeless population of the province – it served as a ray of hope for the masses. Despite the PM’s tall claims to build 2.5 million houses, however, development works on the project could not even begin despite a lapse of a year.
Sources say that the PC-I of the project has not been approved yet. And with the ongoing coronavirus crisis, construction of the houses does not seem to be viable in the current fiscal year.
Earlier, a group of builders had started building roughly 20 houses for the martyrs of the police and differently-abled people in Okara, but the work was left unfinished owing to a conflict of interest. The Punjab Housing and Town Planning Agency (PHATA) intervened but could not settle the matter with the building company.
Per sources, various changes were made to the project’s layout plan which continued to delay the scheme, a move that caused confusion among potential applicants. As a result, the project failed to attract serious buyers.
The government advertised the project thrice, each time adding new terms and conditions. Initially, the scheme required a 20 per cent down payment and a two-year instalment plan. There was no response and a very few applications were received. After the draw and during the down payment phase, the number of applications was further reduced.
Seeing the response, the government changed the 20 per cent down payment requirement to 10 per cent and the instalment period was increased to six years. However, three-and-four bedroom houses were removed from the project. Despite the new offer, the scheme still failed to attract potential buyers.
Sources say that only 385 applicants have made the down payments in Okara, meanwhile, more than 50 per cent of applicants decided to withdraw their application after learning that only single and two-bedroom houses were being offered. Consequently, the PHATA prepared a revised PC-I for the construction of 400 houses instead of 800.
Akin to that, 870 houses were planned to be constructed in Lodhran but only 623 applications were received for the housing schemes, out of which only 80 applicants made the down payment. Owing to that, the PC-I of the project was changed to construct only 200 houses as against the initial plan.
The same situation was witnessed in Chishtian, Quaidabad in Khushab and Bhakkar, while the government also failed to come up with a concrete plan for the provincial capital of Lahore over the past two years. Two projects of 500 and 150 acres were announced for affordable housing in Kala Shah Kaku but a notification for land acquisition under Section 4 could not been issued for either of the projects. Per sources, notifications for land acquisition could also not be issued in Gujranwala and Sialkot.
Apart from the construction of houses under the scheme, roads and sewerage work will also have to be initiated from scratch for which a new PC-1 is under revision. On the other hand, the PHATA has been burdened with the construction of 2.5 million houses in Punjab but no funds or staff have been provided to the department. The Punjab Cabinet approved Rs5 billion for the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme a year ago but PHATA has received only Rs500 million so far.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, the Director-General Punjab Housing and Town Planning Agency Nadem Sarwar said that PC-1 of the project in Renala Khurd, Okara, has been prepared and sent to the planning and development department for approval, adding that the tendering process will start after the approval of the PC-I.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2020.