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LAHORE: Participants came up with a barrage of complaints at a public hearing by the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) on Tuesday about the working of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and other public organisations.

Participants criticised the LDA for becoming a real estate developer rather than being a regulator.

“The (real estate) sector spends billions on marketing campaigns in the media,” CCP Chairperson Vadiyya Khalil told participants.

“The Commission has received numerous complaints that certain housing societies are deceiving the public through deceptive marketing practices. They advertise false facilities, hide development charges and mislead the people on facts like distance from key landmarks, and the status of approval of relevant authorities.”

Participants called for an effective monitoring of the real estate sector, particularly private housing societies.

“Most of the facilities offered (in ads) are not provided at sites. Allotment of plots is delayed in most of the cases while various private housing societies sell plots without obtaining approval of the authorities,” said Adil Sheikh, a member of the public.

Akbar Sheikh, a real estate developer, said the LDA was flouting its own housing society rules. He said a couple of years ago the LDA announced a 60,000-kanal scheme but its partners started marketing of the scheme and sale of plots even before the land acquisition.

“The LDA, however, is very strict on private developers regarding the enforcement of rules. It takes almost one and a half years to approve a residential scheme and reject the case if developers don’t prove the ownership of the entire land submitted for the scheme,” he went on, exposing the double standards of the LDA, and also questioning CCP’s role in such cases.

He also sought amendment to the land acquisition act, as its section-4 empowers the state to acquire land of anyone. He said the Association of Builders and Developers was ready to work with the CCP as well as the LDA on such issues.

Muhammad Najeeb, a teacher, complained that the LDA pressured the residents of G-1 block of Johar Town to pay the cost of three kanals.

“The plots we bought were earlier sold and transferred three times after issuance of NOCs. Why the LDA does not recover this cost from the land owners from whom the LDA had acquired the land about 35 years before?” he questioned.

Another participant Muhammad Ahmad Qayyum questioned the role of an LDA commission made for the rights of bonafide buyers.

“It is strange that the commission entertains only those applications received from the LDA—the authority against which the complaints are lodged. This commission must be made an independent authority,” he demanded.

Muhammad Wasif spoke about artificial price hike in the property prices, which he said, was the work of nexus of developers, investors and property dealers. “I believe that no one monitors such malpractices,” he added.

LDA Deputy Director Sania said they were trying to take action against illegal housing schemes. “We, through the print media, tell the public about such schemes. We have taken severe action against several schemes by demolishing their structures, roads, infrastructure etc,” she added.

She advised the participants to check the status of societies with the LDA before making any investment.

Ms Khalil said the CCP would issue its opinion on the real estate sector to address various competition concerns and to protect the consumers’ interests.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2018