Cities may grow taller as Plan panel seeks higher floor space index.

The skyline of Indian cities could soar as the government considers permitting vertical growth with the aim of checking runaway realty prices and generating resources to upgrade urban infrastructure for future growth. A Planning Commission steering committee, in its draft report, has recommended providing additional FSI (floor space index; the ratio between built-up area and plot size) as development rights, but said it should not come free of cost.

The panel said the charges for additional FSI and land-use conversions should be at least 50% of the circle rate in the area and should be determined professionally. It added that additional FSI should be permitted selectively.

The commission’s steering group on urbanization said the revenue from grant of additional FSI should be “suitably ring-fenced for funding infrastructure projects to sustain higher FSI”. “The proposals, if accepted, would substantially increase availability of housing stock and moderate realty prices,” said an urban development ministry official.

Calling the present density regulations in Indian cities “archaic”, the report noted that Indian cities had the lowest FSI in the world. “This (densification) should be part of a balanced strategy for expanding the effective supply of prime land and, in the process, raising funds to finance urban infrastructure improvements,” the committee noted.

The Centre should introduce incentives that encourage states and cities to pursue densification strategies for future urban development, it said. Many cities were already levying such charges for additional FSI in some form or the other, it noted. Hyderabad, for instance, has a ‘city level impact fee for high rise buildings’ and Ahmedabad has systematically been selling a limited amount of additional FSI.

The committee said higher FSI should go hand in hand with provisions such as amalgamation of plots to make housing more affordable. Rather than the current practice of having a blanket FSI across a city, the panel wanted mixed land use promoted through the concept of granular FSI. “Densification with mixed land use as a planning strategy needs to be followed by the authorities to accommodate future urbanization needs,” said a ministry official.

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