Cheap housing offers lifeline to Indian developers

NEW DELHI, July 15, 2009 (AFP) – “No frills, Simple homes” reads the banner hanging in the Delhi headquarters of Unitech, India’s leading property developer. It’s a mantra that has been taken up by realtors across the country with a new-found passion for affordable housing that owes little to their social conscience and everything to their bottom line.

The global economic downturn ended a four-year property boom in India that had largely been driven by the luxury housing segment and saw a near three-fold increase in residential prices in major cities.

Now developers are turning their attention to middle and lower income buyers and low-cost housing that offers lower profit margins but enjoys much greater demand.

“We made a mistake by only focusing on the top two-three percent of India’s population,” acknowledged Unitech vice president Vikram Datta.

“Now we have to reach the masses by entering into budget and affordable houses,” he said.

According to a May 2009 survey by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, there is a nationwide housing shortage among lower and mid-income families of around 20 million units