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Mumbai property woes and Ambani House

The huge 570 feet tower in upmarket Altamount Road looks no less than a palace. The boxlike apartment block with wrought-iron gates and high whitewashed walls reportedly boasts of a ballroom, a cinema, three helipads, swimming pools, three helipads and six floors of parking. It is soon to be the home of Mukesh Ambani, the wealthiest Indian and the fourth richest man in the world.

The luxurious residence starkly contrasts the housing problem in Mumbai. Half of about 18 million Mumbaikars live in sprawling slums, in unhygienic conditions and with little or no water supply and electricity.

Just a short distance away from Altamount Road, entire families can be found living beneath flyover and pavements.

The Mumbai Human Development Report 2009, endorsed by UN, has demanded an immediate approach to tackle the housing problem in the city, which serves as the financial capital of India. But rather than focusing on affordable housing, developers are concentrating more on building luxury properties for the elite. Shahid Balwa, head of top property developer DB Realty recently told AFP that up to 40,000 1 million dollar plus homes can be built in Mumbai every year.

This has only made the situation more difficult for middle class and poor families in Mumbai. In 2009, the local Maharashtra Housing and Development Authority (MHADA) advertised 3,000 affordable homes. It received a staggering 500,000 applications.

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Executive editor at Property World magazine Anil Nair said that the price of affordable housing in the city is somewhere around 8 million rupees or 180,000 dollars. According to the government, the average Indian per capita income was 44,345 rupees in 2009-10. Naturally, few people can buy property in Mumbai or afford housing loans.

According to Nair, the state government has recently asked developers to reserve a share of new flats for sections of society that are economically weaker. But this does little to solve the housing problem. Houses of poor people are being joined, remade into 2-bedroom flats and sold. They might be moved out if they are incapable of paying the maintenance costs.

Nair added that the state government has to do much to tackle the problem.

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