THE government has taken various initiatives to boost real estate activities in order to revive the economy as over 40 industries are attached with this sector. However, the real estate sector itself has been plagued by lack of implementation of rules and regulations.

In the last few decades, people in the low-income category have been fleeced by new entrants and fraudulent developers due to non-implementation of real estate regulatory by-laws. For example, in the current scenario, many new housing societies have been launched without obtaining no-objection certificate (NOC) and layout plan. People have booked thousands of plots of land merely after watching attractive advertisements on TV channels or on social media. It seems like there are no rules and regulations for launching new housing schemes, and, if they really exist, they exist only on paper.

While boosting the real estate sector is encouraging, it may result in one of the biggest scams in the history of Pakistan in the absence of regulation of the industry. This is so because none of the previous governments ever encouraged the business community to invest in real estate the way the incumbent government is encouraging.

One can find several housing societies that exist on paper. They have lured unsuspecting lower and middle class people into buying thousands of low-priced plots of land. The government’s incentives to the people for having their own house may be encouraging, but it must save the poor from the exploitation at the hands of these real estate sharks.

Being a real estate adviser for more than 20 years, I would suggest to the government to have rules and regulations for housing schemes similar to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) or any European country. It will not only safeguard people’s money, but also protect developers’ interest.

No society should be allowed to market its land in print or social media without obtaining NOC from the government. All NOCs should be provided through one-window operation to save time of developers/society-owners.

All payments for the purchase of land should be made through a pay order or cheque in the name of the relevant society, which should be kept in an escrow account till the transfer of land in the society’s name.

All land payments should be made from the same society account to the land-owners to safeguard people’s money. Number of booking of plots should be connected with the transferred land in the name of the housing society. For example, if 1,000 kanal of land is transferred in the society’s name and layout plan is approved against that land, only that land should be allowed to put up for sale which is mentioned in the layout plan.

Every housing society should be given a specific time for handing over possession of the sold out land. Every society should be bound to submit quarterly progress report which should be published in mainstream media for public awareness.

The list of all registered societies and development progress on their projects should be published by the relevant department for helping people decide for themselves where they want to book their plot of land.

If these steps are not made part of the registration process for new societies, we may face one of the biggest scams in national history, as, according to rough estimates, more than 100 private societies are in the process of selling their land without NOCs, while people have invested billions in the hope to get their home against a reasonable price.

Aamir Shah

Islamabad

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2021

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