Zero amenities, yet census towns hit the property jackpot

The land prices in Chandpur have risen 10-fold in the last decade

Census towns, with their low or non-existent rural property taxes and cheap land prices, are often attractive destinations for second home buyers, who are moving in and putting strain on land use and the village-level administration all over India.

Neral, in the Raigad district of Maharashtra, is another destination for second home buyers. The population of the hill station, which became a census town in 2001, has increased from 14,000 to more than 24,000 since then. Higher housing prices in Mumbai’s satellite towns of Kalyan, Ambernath and Panvel have pushed buyers further, according to Amita Bhide, associate professor of the urban planning centre at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Small- and medium-size industries, forced to move out of Mumbai due to stricter pollution controls, are swelling the population of sleepy villages on the periphery of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Bhide said.

Kishore Jain, a developer and builder in Neral, said that second home buyers and investors are not the only reason for this jump. “A few people are buying flats as second homes or for investment purposes, but the majority are buying with the intention to settle here, as property rates are within the budget of the common man,” Jain said.

However the population boom has put added strain on the water supply to the village, and the panchayat has had to ask for help from the state government to augment its resources.

Cordelia Jenkins, Anuja and Makarand Gadgil  for live mint – 04 Oct. 2012

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