If real estate business in the capital and other cities are somewhat dull, one particular branch of it -- dormitory construction that is -- is quite bullish. According to a report carried in this newspaper on Sunday, non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) are now very keen on funding dormitories built in areas covering the industrial belts -particularly that of Gazipur-Ashulia. They consider investment in such accommodations now in high demand from low-income working groups, as against spacious apartments and condominiums, risk-free and highly rewarding. While buyers or tenants for large units of apartments are not always available in an adequate number, buildings containing small-size rooms or larger rooms to be used as mess for a number of tenants with common kitchens and toilets enjoy high demand from workers and employees of factories and industries. Owners of lands find the system quite profitable and they have no difficulty repaying loans. This explains why NBFIs are so interested in laying their money in this sector.
Banks, NBFIs and even individuals are eager to safeguard their investment in any project or financial venture. When people have money in their hands, usually their primary target is to invest in housing. Land and buildings in a growing and prosperous city mostly become pricier with time. Unless some urban centres like a few in the United States of America are abandoned en masse, the owners hardly run the risk of losing money on investment in both lands and buildings. But in and around the capital Dhaka, the sluggish demand for housing owes mostly to the forbidding prices and also a lack of high incomes for a large number of people. Even decent accommodation costs too much for city dwellers with limited income. So, large apartments remain vacant for months and even years. The problem has been further compounded by the fact that gas or other utility services are not available in many such accommodations. Thus the investment is not money's worth all the time.
A lesson has been learnt from this. Some of the leasing companies and financial institutions have come up with the idea of constructing small-size living accommodations for limited income people close to the city or within its periphery. People drawing a gross salary of Tk 50,000 on an average have been in their mind. They reckon that such people will be able to easily afford an 800-square feet apartment. This sounds rational. People with limited income will not indulge in luxurious living but they deserve to live in a decent accommodation.
It is in this context, the state of the capital's slums can be taken into consideration. Conditions there are not congenial to healthy living. With the introduction of improved and innovative construction technology, the living condition of the slum-dwellers can be greatly raised. Perhaps the private companies and investors will not be interested in investing their money there. If the government collaborates with some of them, such projects can be successfully accomplished. All that is required for the purpose is political will. Shelter for man is a human rights issue and it should be treated so.
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