Construction of residential houses, office and factory buildings, and shopping malls is almost a regular affair in a country. These days developer companies undertake the responsibility of construction the residential and commercial structures with their expertise. In Bangladesh, a number of developer companies have come up to provide many solutions to the clients who are looking for a residential flat or a multi-storied housing complex. With this comes the question of quality, safety, durability, eco-friendliness of the construction and standard of the construction companies. Along with this also comes the question of the role of Real Estate & Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB) in maintaining the standard and present and future prospect of the business etc. To discuss these issues Sohel Rana of The Daily Star met REHAB's Vice President recently.
While talking to him he was requested to talk on the state of the construction business at the moment. Mr. Milan replied that it is on a slide now. It is a business that cannot be run independently. Approximately 200 industries are connected with this business. For instance rod, cement, sand and brick industries can be mentioned. So this industry plays a pivotal role in our economy. In this regard, he said that the 9/11 incident in America can be mentioned here. When the collapse occurred, along with the real estate business, the economy of the world also collapsed. However, it was gradually recovered later. But it cannot turnabout suddenly. As various other businesses are directly or indirectly associated with it, it takes time to make a turnabout. But the most crucial issue is the Single Digit Loan (which is to be repaid in 40- 50 years duration) system which was given among the lower and middle income people for instance, school teachers. However this loan has been stopped from 2009/2010. Therefore, unless this loan system is restarted, it is almost impossible to turnabout, he observed.
We wanted to know whether the loan will be given only to clients. In response he said not exactly that it is given to clients only; it is also given to the developer companies as well. But now such types of loans are not available. Though it is given sometimes but heavy interest is charged against it. If the amount of interest is decreased, it would be better for the business.
What is role of REHAB in the context of such slide in this business? Liakat Ali Bhuiyan Milan said that REHAB is discretely trying its best to recover. It is known to all that REHAB traditionally arranges Fairs both at home and abroad. In addition, it along with the government is trying to arrange for housing for the lower and middle income people. Moreover it is also trying to create a satellite city outside of Dhaka. If this can be done, almost all expectations and aspirations of the common people will be fulfilled. We can give the example of Kolkata city where workers come from different areas for work and go back home after work. When such kinds of satellite cities will be built outside Dhaka city, the price of flats will become remarkably cheaper.
What do you mean exactly by satellite city?Mr. Milan said actually it stands for the city where all kinds of amenities like utility service, internet service, communication facilities, transportation facilities, schools and colleges etc. are available. In this perspective, the government can be given special thanks for emphasizing the development of the communication network which is the artery of any satellite city. The construction of flyovers, bridges and express roads are the glaring examples of it.
On the question of price structure he said that it is still affordable. But it is true that the price is becoming higher and higher and the possibility of price reduction is very unpredictable. If the building is constructed outside of the Dhaka city and communication system is better there, the price may come down. Again price varies from place to place. Yet, the average cost is four to fifteen thousand taka per square feet.
Do you visualize a better prospect in near future? In reply he said, “ Oh yes! Future is bright, because almost all people keep the target of three major fundamental rights like food, clothes and shelter. We are helping to materialize at least a portion of it. And I can say it boldly that investment in this sector is entirely riskless, especially for the banks, because they give loans in exchange of mortgage of the land. So I believe developer business has more future potential than all other businesses.
We asked him whether he thought there were challenges faced by this sector? In response to that he said that the main challenges are political instability, safety, scarcity of gas and electricity for the apartments etc.
On the question of the number of REHAB members and those out of REHAB, Mr. Milan said that there are 1222 regular members of REHAB and approximately 1700-2000 developers are out of REHAB membership. He said they were only responsible for taking action against those who are REHAB members. They try to help those people cheated by the corrupt developer companies.
We asked for his comment on how media can help REHAB. In reply he said that media can play an important role. “I believe media should convey both the negative and positive sides of this business. If they can make the people aware of it, it will result in a credible and inter dependable relationship among the client and the developers,” he said.
He further said, “I suggest when you want to purchase a flat go to our website for your queries whether the developer is a member of REHAB or not. You are requested to complain in the mediation centre which is open to all on every Saturday in our corporate office. I can assure you that we mitigate 95% of the complaints instantly without any service charge.”
At the end of his conversation with The Daily Star Mr. Milan expected from all media both print and electronic that they will assist with their constructive and innovative ideas and proposals for the development of this sector to meet one of the basic rights of the people. He also invited expert opinions on how they can build an eco-friendly and green home for the comfort of the coming generations. He believes that it is the responsibility of all to ensure a better, safer and lasting shelter for the future generation.