It all began in the year 2010-11 with around two lac ordinary middle-class citizens, with a dream of securing a roof over their heads, invested their bread and butter in the then promising land of Noida, Greater Noida and Greater Noida West. Scores of builders lined up to offer affordable housing projects assuring the avid flat buyers of handing over their dream houses within a span of three to four years. As grim as it could be, however, those innocent buyers are still, even after more than ten years, waiting to see a glimpse of their finished property which they could call home, all due to the builders failing to uphold their commitment and the fact that half of the prospective projects in the area either got stalled or was left incomplete. Add to the buyers’ gloom, they also managed to tactfully seize ninety percent of the payment just by erecting merely the towers and abandoning them of completion which was made possible because of the alluring payment plans that essentially acted as a trap for the buyers.
The builders introduced several channel partners and brought in big names as brand ambassadors to lure thousands of unwary buyers into investing in their supposed luxurious and ‘highly in-demand’ projects and amassed millions overnight.
The plight of the buyers was amplified when it was beginning to circulate that the farmers were duped by the authority into believing that the land which was being acquired from them will be utilised for industrial purposes and not sold to the builders for residential development which naturally followed in the indignant farmers filing a lawsuit in the year 2010-11 on the grounds of illegal land acquisition forcing the Allahabad High Court to stay the construction of all the projects till NCRPB granted its approval. The apprehensive flat buyers fought for their rights until NCRPB finally gave approval in 2012.
The builders, in the meantime, began diverting the funds for a project collected from the flat buyers’ hard-earned money into other upcoming housing projects, hotels, airports or even for conducting personal events. The Noida/Greater Noida Authority failed to take its cognisance on time and the situation deteriorated gradually.
The buyers’ association finally had to resort to raising their voices through agitations and protests with one clear objective – the formation of RERA and ending the builders’ menace once and for all. They were successful, to some extent, as the RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Act) was passed in the Parliament in the year 2016. However, the buyers could not rejoice much as the powers given to RERA were limited and did not have any ability to exercise any legal action toward the builders.
The evident problems that the builders now complain of primarily boils down to this – lack of funds, which has made several absconding with the projects half-way constructed while the others are busy trying to explain their ‘funds problem’. The payoffs to various governing agencies involved in the process of giving clearances including the Noida Authority, NGT, Pollution Control Board, Fire Department etc. caused an ‘imbalance of funds’, as it is claimed by most of the builders. Whereas the buyers, on the other hand are firm on righteously demanding the completion of the projects on time failing which a complete refund of the amount along with interest to do the justice.
In addition to this, the Noida and Greater Noida Authority has its own dues to be recovered from the builders for land allotment. 2010-11 saw builders getting the relief of paying the land dues over an extended period of ten years which resulted in them handing over the possession even before they had their land dues cleared prompting the authority for refusing to carry out the registry once the owners got their flats, aggravating further the buyers’ hardships.
Not only the authority, but the banks also have their dues to be recovered from the builders for the loans sanctioned to them and the buyers equally blame them for not performing a proper verification of the projects before sanctioning loans. Add to that, the banks even came out with lucrative policies for the buyers such as the subvention plan which has made the plight of the flat buyers an unending one.
The buyers’ struggle has but unearthed the prevalent and a rather powerful nexus among the builders, the authority as well as the banks which is responsible for landing us, the woeful flat buyers into this wreck and the government do not seem eager to resolve the deadlock as well.
Notwithstanding the route that brought all of us into this situation, we understand that there is an acute lack of funds on part of the builders in almost all the stalled projects. The government must find a way to resolve this crisis by involving banks, private investors and other financial institutions. The seized property of the builders and the unsold inventory can be treated as the cash flow for the investment. RERA must be empowered to the point that the builders start reflecting on their activities and have better compliance between the builders and flat owners.
The events have led the flat buyers and investors into losing their confidence in the real estate sector of Noida-Greater Noida entirely, to say the least. The government, in all prospects, must take steps to restore that confidence.
Noida Extension Flat Owners Welfare Association (NEFOWA)