NEW bits of disturbing news from the real estate or housing sector are cause for a deeper look at the manner in which the city development authorities in Pakistan are performing their basic duties. Doubts have been cast at a deal between Islamabad’s CDA and DHA involving money from the EOBI, the fund for pensioners. There is an assertion the CDA ‘illegally’ transferred its own job of developing acquired land to the DHA. More questions arise and once again we see a formula where a city development authority ends up as a mere go-between, a commission agent: it obtains land from individual owners on the promise of paying them in the shape of developed plots; it then outsources development and gets a few developed plots of its own in the bargain. Through this ingenious partnership and using its official status a city development authority can earn without much effort and without even troubling itself with its original assignment ie development. The current status of development authorities in Pakistan does not conform to the nature of work that is expected of them.

In fact, the job of a city development authority is not to facilitate real estate business but to come up with projects to meet the growing housing and similar needs of the people. Any diversion will corrupt the system, and in many ways. One consequence of a city development authority not functioning properly is evident in the mushrooming of unapproved housing schemes. Take the case of the Lahore Development Authority which is now vowing to move against illegal schemes in its jurisdiction. There are at least 175 of these societies now accused of fleecing people by selling them often cheaper but always underdeveloped plots of land, said a recent report. Obviously such a huge pile-up could not have been possible had the LDA been more vigilant and more committed to its brief of ensuring standards in an area that is open to anyone who cares to have a look.

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